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In a webinar titled 2019 Trends and Predictions for Customer Experience, Genesys, a telecommunications company focused on customer experience, discusses eight customer experience trends and predictions that are most likely to happen in the Asia Pacific region. The highlighted points were:

  1. Outcomes Matter
  2. Convergence and Amplification
  3. Trust Me
  4. Instant Gratification Frustration
  5. Edging Forward with Hypercloud
  6. We’re Human After All
  7. Affective Computing
  8. Hyper Reality

The speakers were Mr. Christopher Connolly, VP of Product Marketing at Genesys and Jean-Marc Provost, Principal Strategic Consultant.

1.) Outcomes Matter

The webinar predicts that vendors and customers now expect providers to deliver based on outcome and not just from contracts. What this means is that people now expect tangible results that boost business KPIs. They want high-quality products that provide added value to the business. It is now about delivering results that exceed expectations.

To take a page from advertising, an example is a pay-per-click campaign. Businesses pay every time an individual click on an ad. To that end, the campaign is more cost-effective because advertisers are charged per result.

For sales and marketing departments making technology purchases, there are three important things to keep in mind:

  • Real-time communication across multiple channels
  • Predictive Intelligence and Assistance
  • Personalized Human Service

These factors greatly enhance the customer experience when going through the purchase process. As users are getting more dependent on online transactions, they expect a seamless experience and reliable customer support for assistance.

2.) Convergence and Amplification

The second prediction is about data and information. The webinar describes the current data model as almost like a tapestry of sorts. Multiple sources all converge into one parent storage.  Now, data is not confined to one primary source anymore. According to the webinar, users now prefer their data to be more accessible and readily available. They also want this information to be linkable across other systems.

Examples are Microsoft’s Common Data Innovation and Adobe’s XTM. Technologies like these are inter-operable which means they can freely exchange and use information. Sharing data across systems amplifies hard to detect signals. Multiple sources cover several customer behavioral signals better, identifying key areas for improvement through machine learning. It leads to more accurate predictions and patterns for market research. In the Asia-Pacific region, this convergence and amplification is now a requirement for companies. Thus, companies that specialize in analyzing patterns could arise to meet this trend.

For sales and marketing teams using customer data, there are two main takeaways to be derived from this second trend:

  • Smart business leaders will demand that their Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Customer Experience (CX) solutions work together to eliminate the cost and complexity of data models.
  • Reading prospect’s behavioral cues or sales signals can be improved with technology. However, amplified sales signals are only viable if sales, marketing, and service sectors combine their data models in a way that is accessible to machine learning.

3. Trust Me

Data becomes the primary source of value, but the monetization of data must respect privacy. This is the cornerstone of the third talking point. Previous models opted for convenience over privacy; storing sensitive information without effective security measures in place. Breaches such as those that occurred during the past year have led to a backlash towards this model. These negative sentiments clearly showed this model is no longer viable in this hyper-aware environment.

Simply put, customers want transparency in how big businesses use their data. For example, a lot of messaging apps have popped up in recent years but the only ones that survived are those that encrypt their data. If customers do not trust business in the digital world, they will go elsewhere.

This also brings to light ethical questions regarding AI and machine learning. To stay ahead, it is advisable that there is a code of ethics regarding the use of AI to track data that holds them transparent and accountable.

4. Instant Gratification Frustration

Ease of use has become a big consideration when it comes to designing products. Think about the first time iPhones and Androids hit the market. Push notifications were popular and convenient at the time. Nowadays, we have reached a point where that moment of instant gratification has started to become a nuisance. Gratification can easily turn to frustration when a business tries to engage with their customer at the wrong time.

The Asia-Pacific region, in general, is very aware of this trend in app development. After all, the Asia-Pacific region is mobile first with many businesses reaching out to customers using mobile apps. It is not advisable for businesses to just inject themselves anytime and anywhere they want. To this end, there is a need to reinvent the rules of messaging so customers will be engaged on their own terms. This is possible with better technology.

There was an interesting anecdote by Connolly about a time when they were going through the review of a new phone. After listing all the other technologies and features of the device, the speaker on the other end said: “Hey, it’s also a phone.”

Connolly admits to it being a light bulb moment as the realization sinks in: Who calls in 2018? The devices in people’s pockets are used for nearly everything but for calls. To apply this moment back to customer service, almost only telemarketers call nowadays. Thus, businesses must now find other means of communicating with customers on a different channel on their terms.

With this in mind, the webinar foresees that AI and predictive technology will reduce the reliance on traditional cold calling. Businesses can now come up with lists of potential leads before they even start calling.

5. Edging Forward with Hypercloud

The fifth prediction is the move away from the cloud and into the edge. Previously popular in something cloud computing means that all the processes are done and saved on the ‘cloud’ or the internet. On the other hand, edge computing means that all processes occur on the user end or within their actual devices. Think about applications that tap into a device’s microphone or camera for faster processing, apps that require you to take a photo of your credit card rather than typing in the actual information. These apps are often connected to a larger cloud owned by the business but all the data processing is done on the user’s side.

Browser apps are getting smarter after all. Next generation of business apps may now run on the consumer’s end rather than the business’ cloud. Touching back on the third point regarding trust, apps designed this way provide another layer of encryption for the user. Thus, any conversations they have are now processed at the edge instead of the middle, making it less susceptible to risks.

6. We’re Human After All

Beyond all the AI and automation, at the end of the day, we are all humans. Automation is used to provide a smooth customer experience without having to call actual individuals every time. But in the event that they do, businesses must still ensure that there is still a representative at the other end of the line for faster and easier assistance.

This, of course, starts with employees. In today’s fast-paced work environment, AI is not necessarily an enemy of human labor. Instead, the webinar proposes that in order to advance an employee from novice to expert level, it might be beneficial for them to have an AI to assist them in providing the best customer experience.

In the Asia-Pacific region, when businesses talk of digital transformations, the workforce is often ignored. This is very apparent within BPO organizations where frontline employee turnovers are at a high eighty percent each year. By the time traditional training is complete, the employee may already be gone. AI enhanced training can help with this problem, especially with a dominantly millennial workforce.

Millennials, according to the webinar, are very comfortable with using modern technology — meaning, adopting AI technology within a young workforce might be ideal. This, in turn, helps raise the competency of frontline employees. After all, millennials are not the type who just want to do their jobs. Instead, they want to make an impact on the places they work. This line of thinking greatly helps improve customer service.

Developing human talent alongside technology solutions will be very advantageous in the long run. Because, when the automatic and computer-assisted customer experiences fail, sometimes customers just want to hear a human voice.

7. Affective Computing

An interesting topic for R&D organizations is  Affective Computing, a development in AI which seeks the emulation of the human experience. This serves as the seventh talking point.

In the webinar, a question was raised about how to maximize the use of traditional channels when it comes to dealing with tech-savvy consumers. These are traditional methods such as inbound and outbound calls or communicating through chat and email. According to Connolly, Affective Computing plays nicely into these channels, with innovations like smart voice bots are able to capture nuances of human speech like pauses and emphasis.

A good example is the Google Duplex technology revealed last year. Designed to help accomplish real-world tasks like scheduling reservations, the technology allows consumers to converse with it in a casual way without relying on technical terms as seen on the demo here:

With this, Google Duplex can be tied-in with AI micro-applications. The goal here is that not every experience on a digital medium should be a conversational dialogue. Other ways to communicate are through interactive images, carousels, and forms. It’s an exciting and pragmatic approach to customer service, which leads to the next point.

8. Hyper Reality

2016 saw the release of Pokemon Go, an augmented reality (AR) mobile game centered around the popular franchise through a partnership between Niantic and Nintendo. It used mobile GPS to locate and capture the titular Pokemon as if they actually appeared in the user’s real-life location. Then just last year, Netflix released Black Mirror: Bandersnatch; an interactive science fiction anthology series. While watching the episode Bandersnatch, viewers can actually influence the story by making decisions for the main character reminiscent of the old choose-your-adventure books.

Pokemon Go and Black Mirror: Bandersnatch is just two examples of the potential AR brings. Interactive content like these is just the beginning of integrated hyper-reality.

And it is easy to see how this hyper-reality can be used in the industry. Customer service can use interactive content as a tool which guides the user in troubleshooting a device. Employees can also use the tool as a training module. The module can present different scenarios the employee may encounter at work in order to test their judgment. Lastly, interactive content can help train end-users during the setup process.

Conclusion

The webinar concluded with a survey asking the audience to guess the top three trends from the given predictions to manifest this year. The results revealed the following:

  • Edging Forward with Hypercloud received the most votes in the poll.
  • Personalized Human Service, Affective Computing, Hyper-Reality and ‘all of the above’ tied at second place.
  • Outcome-based transactions, Trust, and Gratification-Frustration were tied for third place.
  • Convergence and Amplification received no votes.

The team plans to compare the top three guesses from different regions around the world. Since this survey conducted in Asia-Pacific is the first of the surveys, the comparison with other regions is yet to come. According to the speakers, this showed the level of awareness of the audience. After all, none of these trends are mutually exclusive. They are interconnected, with one trend related to another. All of these are just a sneak peek at their potential within the customer experience industry. Only time will tell what more can arise from their development.

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