By Wynand Smit, CEO of INOVO
In many ways, 2017 has guided what we’ll see in business in 2018: we’ve seen emerging technology being tested and explored, now it’s time to see innovative solutions being released into the marketplace that make interactions slicker and more rewarding.
By far the greatest trend that will dominate is that of companies releasing applications and solutions that enable customers to do business via their mobile devices. While this is already the case, Artificial Intelligence-driven technology is allowing for even more enhanced channel integration, improved process management and better service delivery as a result.
What we’re seeing are AI-driven chatbots, virtual assistants, Instant Messaging and mobile apps being added to the traditional channel portfolios of voice, email and SMS in ways that deliver speedy service in a more personalised fashion. When these are designed and implemented well, they give the customer a sense that they’re engaging with your company directly from the comfort of their own devices.
This device-oriented business will gradually see the possibilities forecast by Internet of Things (IOT) thought leaders coming to life, since a connected market and connected business and products will find more ways of using this connectivity to achieve results.
Business units are becoming more aligned, meaning that with the access to information provided by channel integration, it’s easier to monitor and measure what’s going on in business, and to tackle areas of inefficiency and capitalize on opportunities. This shift towards the goal of a seamless, omnichannel form of communication is accelerated with channel integration, leading to improved customer experience.
While omni-channel remains essentially an aspiration, channel integration is tearing down the silos that can slow down interactions with customers. Access to updated and accurate information empowers contact centre agents to deliver the kind of service customers expect.
Customer Experience Management is dominating change in the business environment – it has become an integral part of doing business rather than an option, and the companies working towards improving CX have a head start on their competitors. More than simply enhancing processes or training teams, it’s a strategy that encompasses the whole company. We’re likely to see many companies creating positions in CX to see this becoming a reality.
Hacking, data breaches: two of the most-discussed occurrences of 2017 – this is driving a shift in the way companies obtain, handle and secure data, since both they and their customers can ill-afford to have their security and privacy compromised.
We’ll see more watertight means of security being implemented: one example would be in making use of voice authentication in contact centres. This carries the benefits of more accurate identification and in cutting down the need for extensive verification questions, so customers spend less time on calls, as do agents. Besides the opportunity for more secure business practices, voice authentication can also save on costs, improve efficiency and enhance CX – a win-win for customers and businesses alike.
Blockchain and the trust economy
Blockchain is fascinating - it has yet to gain a widespread foothold in South Africa, but it’s particularly attractive to certain industries. In the financial services sector, for example, so many processes from sales to signing of contracts must all be done in a secure environment with identity confirmed; Blockchain can allow people secure access to documents and proof of ID such as digital versions of passports and drivers’ licenses, so entire processes can be done more seamlessly. This is likely to be the future for us, but it will take time for companies to make the shift. Conceptualising will take place in 2018, setting the scene for implementations that will only take place years from now.
The upcoming year will see improved versions of what we’ve already seen – this is not merely 2017 on repeat, but an evolution of today’s innovation. We will see a fresh take on some fantastic opportunities for better interactions with customers.