The business weather forecast for 2019 is likely to contain a big bout of VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity).
Although that particular abbreviation always puts me in mind of a nasty wart on my foot, it is highly likely that the coming 12 months will feature misty uncertainty and bouts of turbulence.
Customer experience isn’t going to be immune to this foray into the storm. Customer expectations of service have been rising for a number of years now but there is very little evidence that these high expectations are being met under “normal” circumstances. Could a shock to the system cause companies to step up to the plate? Or could a sudden rise in costs cause a race to the bottom?
Supply chains are most vulnerable to VUCA conditions. Unexpected or unanticipated delays can cause a high-pressure system over contact centres. There are two ways of responding to a blizzard of contact – use cloud (not the fluffy ones in the sky, the technological version) to increase the flexibility of your contact centre capacity, and/or inform customers what is going on over their preferred channel before they have to tell you (i.e. proactive contact).
Even if 2019 is more in the doldrums than forecasts suggest, there are three linked trends which have been gathering barometric pressure this year and are unlikely to blow themselves out.
- Personalisation – this relies on the “me”conomy, as customers share their data to get a more personalised experience. Since it is a value exchange, customers are likely to want to know what’s in it for me (the “WIFM”s). If sharing data doesn’t make things quicker, easier or cheaper, they aren’t likely to share it in the first place. Similarly, if they don’t think their personal data is secure, they won’t part with it.
Of course, personalisation is just the start of the “me”conomy continuum. Understanding who the customer is and what they are likely to want leads to better proactive contact. Then, as the algorithms really kick in, we can predict what customers want before they even know. This can get creepy – there is a fine line between a butler and a stalker. This is a particularly thorny issue for future of the Internet of Things. If I think all of my devices are talking about me behind my back, I am likely to switch them off.
- Chatbots – we are at peak hype-cycle with chatbots at the moment. Customer expectations are high (our ‘Chat, Tap, Talk’ research suggested that 73 per cent of customers expect ‘bots to improve the customer experience). The reality is far from the expectation in many cases. There are some good bots out there – typically those that don’t claim to do everything, work on a deep and narrow data set and connect customers to human contact channels seamlessly if they fail. There are also some spectacularly bad, or inappropriately deployed ones out there. Rather than deploying a chatbot because “everyone else is doing it”, consider the outcomes you want from them – better customer experience, easy interactions, freeing up human agent’s time for more complex contact.
- Data – which underlies all of these trends. Algorithms don’t work by magic, they work using data. The problem is that enterprise data are notoriously messy, inconsistent, volatile and, potentially, biased. Getting your data sorted out can be both hard work and extremely costly – but it is a precursor to making chatbots and the “me”conomy work.
So, pack the umbrellas and sun cream, 2019 may be a stormy ride! Find out how you can transform your customer experience.