- A new era of customer experience is emerging, powered by technologies such as artificial intelligence, voice assistants and social messaging.
- The intelligent experience economy will revolutionise how customers and organisations interact.
- Customer engagement is set to become more conversational, rather than transactional.
“Let us make a special effort to stop communicating with each other, so we can have some conversation.” – Mark Twain
Many organisations are good at communicating with customers. Very few, however, have mastered the art of conversation. The term ‘customer engagement’ is in some ways just business-speak for having a conversation. How do organisations converse with their customers, where do they do it and where does it lead? Just like chatting with a friend, speaking with an organisation should be intuitive, responsive and meaningful.
We’re on the verge of a new era of customer experience. The impact of technological developments such as AI, cloud computing and digital mobility are converging to create what I call the intelligent experience economy. In such an economy, organisations will be forced to start conversing with customers instead of communicating at them.
What will customer engagement look like in this new era? There are three trends emerging that will redefine how organisations and customers interact with each other:
Organisations will engage customers where they spend time
In early 2016, something amazing occurred in social media. For the first time, the number of people using the top four messaging apps overtook the number of people using the top four social media channels in monthly active users.
Social media is giving way to messaging at a startling rate. We spend more time than ever on messaging apps: there are 10.5 million messaging app users in Australia, with 3.4 million of those using them as their primary form of contact¹. People obviously love the convenience of messaging apps, so why can’t you message a business just the way you would message a friend?
In China, you can. WeChat is the nation’s most widely used social media platform, with over 938 million monthly active users². WeChat is distinguished from other social media apps in the way it facilitates access to, and interaction with, brands. Businesses can set up their own official channels and develop in-app stores which go beyond simple transactional offerings.
Take the official McDonalds WeChat account. You can send a voice message to request a Happy Meal (with pre-selected options based on your preferences) and get your food without ever providing a card or password. In fact, you can do pretty much anything without ever leaving the app, such as book a taxi, split a restaurant bill or transfer funds. The WeChat model is coming our way and the potential for organisations to acquire and use the data it generates is immense.
Artificial intelligence will be embedded in the customer experience
AI will be the dominant capability that enables companies to reimagine the customer experience (CX) in the intelligent experience economy. It’s the technology behind the rise of digital assistants, chatbots, which are increasingly becoming the eyes, ears and voices of brands everywhere. In fact, a community of chatbot assistants is already thriving. Bank of America has Erika, Mastercard has Kai, and insurer Lemonade has Maya to sign you up and Jim to process your claims.
In conversation with Lemonade’s Jim, you are able to send a photo of your insurance claim (e.g. a broken window) and ‘he’ can both approve it and instantly transfer a payment to your bank account. The claims process takes a few minutes (rather than the weeks it may take with a traditional insurer). In fact, Jim recently broke a world record, completing a claim from notification to approval of payment in under three seconds.
Embedding artificial intelligence in the customer experience is an incredible opportunity for organisations. It can enable easier communication with customers, speed up transaction times, personalise customer experiences and dramatically reduce customer service costs. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
As data becomes the new source of competitive advantage in the intelligent experience economy, organisations that have embedded AI will have the ability to gain uniquely in-depth insights from their customer data. Add machine learning into the mix and organisations can quickly and continually refine and personalise customer experiences as consumers interact with them.
Conversational experiences will change everything
It won’t just be your fingers that control the journey of tomorrow, but your voice. Conversational experiences are the new CX frontier, offering the possibility of interactions that are radically more valuable, simple and intuitive.
The recent rise of home voice-assistants is an example of conversational experience. The attractiveness of voice-controlled interactions in which a customer can control household functions like lighting or heating, or order shopping or a taxi simply by asking the question out loud, is driving competition between a number of large corporations hoping to corner the home voice-assistant market.
Expect microphones to become ubiquitous as voice control becomes the primary channel between customers and businesses. Eventually, microphones will do much more than receive requests for new products. They will enable relationships between brands and consumers that are deeper and more personalised than anything we have seen to date. Imagine your house listening to the rhythms of your day, generating rich insights into how you live your life.
The companies that produce these technologies will be able to listen to your conversations and act on that information. Don’t be surprised to get a recommendation for a book on puppy training after the words ‘sit’ and ‘stay’ echo around the living room, or a subscription to an online cooking course when you can’t quite perfect your favourite meal.
We need to talk
Conversational experiences in the future will allow organisations to know their customer, anticipate their needs and provide them with the solution to satisfy them.
The growth of AI chatbots, voice-activated assistants and messaging apps are just three of the trends driving the future of good customer experience, a future that’s much closer than you think. Are you ready for the conversation?
With thanks to Will Kingston, Customer Strategy Consultant at PwC Australia.
In August 2017, PwC is releasing Changing the game: The new rules of Customer Experience in the Intelligent Experience Economy, which contains insights on executing customer strategy. Click here to pre-register for your copy.