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Cloud-led digital transformation offers the best approach to building engaging experiences for the next generation of customers.
For all the focus on emerging technologies, digital transformation (DX) is really a customer-driven phenomenon. In a PWC1 report on businesses’ decision to implement a DX strategy, nearly half of all organizations cited customer experience (CX) and customer satisfaction as their leading influences.
According to consulting firm Walker2, customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator by 2020. In other words, regardless of how competitively priced your product is or how fantastic its features are, it will not win any fans if the customer experience is bad.
Customer experience therefore, must be at the front and center of any DX strategy.
Today’s always-connected customers expect brands to reach out to them in a timely manner, regardless of where they are, or what device they are using. And, as digital marketer Steven Macdonald points out, “It is their journey that dictates the digital transformation strategy.” 3
Over the next three to five years, the top demands of customers will include 24/7 customer service on any platform (44 percent), secure and trusted relationships (42 percent), and highly personalized experiences (40 percent), said an Oracle report on CX Excellence.
Emerging and infrastructure technologies, delivered through the cloud, will enable businesses to address these demands.
Start with the cloud
The cloud is the starting point for enterprises’ DX journeys, underpinned by always-responsive connectivity, and it offers the best platform to build engaging experiences.
From an infrastructure perspective, it gives enterprises access to a flexible and agile IT environment for powering up their digital strategies, without having to set aside IT manpower resources to take care of maintenance tasks such as updating software stacks, installing patches and fixing platform bugs. Instead, developers can focus on building solutions that elevate the customer experience.
The cloud itself provides a great starting point for creating great customer experiences. By providing a platform for connecting customer data, big data analytics, web and mobile apps, businesses have a clearer picture of who their customers are, and how, when and why they are using the company’s products. This 360-degree view of the customer4 will help businesses make better decisions on enhancing CX.
Opportunities for CX innovations
The cloud also creates opportunities for businesses to leverage emerging technologies to innovate and redefine customer relationships.
For example, cloud-based automated chatbots can help address the demand for round-the-clock, real-time customer service.
The new generation of intelligent chatbots offers customers the experience of talking with a “live operator” using natural language processing (NLP). Some examples of this application include phone recordings taken “for quality and training purposes”, to the text logs of online support chat bots to reveal operational insights and trends, discover faster product and service solutions, and help maximize business performance. A trained NLP solution, for example, could offer customers better quality merchandise at lower costs via a chatbot by linking product databases directly to the NLP engine to suggest customer options. This would have been challenging for a human operator.
A chatbot may also pull up other relevant information for the customer, such as recommending products and suggesting purchase and shipment options. And it learns from every interaction, so it is able to further refine its responses for future customer engagements.
The Internet of Things (IoT) is another set of emerging technologies with the potential to redefine the customer experience by providing accurate real-time information when it is needed. For example, transport vehicles embedded with sensors can send data to a cloud-based IoT platform to enable customers to track the delivery of their purchases, regardless of their location.
Product telemetry data can also be sent to the cloud IoT platform where product health and performance can be monitored round the clock. This enables the business to identify any issue that may arise and reach out to inform the customer even before the customer knows that there is a problem.
At the same time, the insights derived from the telemetry data can be applied to strengthen the customer relationship. For example, IoT sensors may be able to provide data on a customer’s usage of a product. Based on this, the business can send out personalized communications to the customer, for example, to highlight certain product features that may be of interest to him or her, or to provide some tips on product care based on the customer’s usage patterns.
AI for personalization
Such personalization will be an important trend in the delivery of CX in the digital era.
Data from IoT, chatbot engagements, mobile devices, location trackers, and other sources will be used by artificial intelligence engines to model and personalize customer preferences and services. And studies indicate that this is exactly what customers want.
According to research from Accenture, today’s buyers want organizations to treat them as unique individuals, and know their personal preferences and purchase history. In the study, 91 percent of customers said they were more likely to buy from a company that recognizes them by their name, knows their purchase history, and recommends products based on their past purchases.
It is important to note, however, that this level of intimacy can only exist if there is trust. Trust is integral to bolstering consumer confidence and underpins the customer experience, especially in the digital age.
According to a study by data integration company Talend, 53 percent of customers said they would no longer want to have anything to do with a brand if its data is breached.
Customers are loyal to brands that demonstrate their seriousness about safeguarding and protecting the privacy of personal information.
The technologies that businesses deploy to try to meet the expectations of today’s customers must therefore be intuitive and trusted by users. Only then will they be able to deliver the customer experience demanded by the next generation of customers.
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