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11 Tech Trends You Can Bet Your Customer Experience Budget On

Today, nearly every customer experience in nearly every industry is driven or supported by ever more quickly evolving digital technology. The landscape is changing so rapidly that customer experiences are already being radically reshaped by technologies that are cutting edge today–but will be mainstream tomorrow.

In our work as a customer experience and digital experience strategy firm, we’ve long enjoyed a multi-industry, cross-border view of the issues executives are fascinated with or scared by—and we have a front-row seat to where they are placing technology bets in 2017 and beyond.

And while there are hundreds of technology solutions clamoring for executive attention (and investment dollars), only some will dominate the budget cycles between now and 2020. Curious? Here’s a peek–our summary of the top 11 technologies customer experience leaders are considering or deploying now to deliver (in some cases radical) competitive advantage tomorrow.

Their goals? They are likely similar to yours: to help drive delivery of the “digital-first but not digital-only” multichannel experiences their (and your) customers are demanding.

1. Mobile is becoming (already is?) the primary channel for customer engagement: According to a recent Adobe report, 92% of respondents said the smartphone is their primary device. They’ve also overtaken computers as the top e-commerce source. The reality is, if you’re not considering your ability to deliver great mobile experiences at least equal to (but better yet, ahead of) all other digital devices, then you’re already in trouble.

2. Goodbye content management platforms; hello digital experience management platforms: The content management systems of today are light years ahead of early efforts. But they’re falling behind already, as experience leaders look to next-gen “DX platforms” that manage, deliver, and optimize experiences consistently across all digital touch points. Among other things, they coordinate content, customer data, and core services, and unify marketing, commerce, and service processes.

3. Descriptive, predictive, and prescriptive analytics drive better customer experience design and delivery: All that “big data” hype? Here’s where it’s heading. Emerging analytics tools make it easier than ever to mine the flood of available data to provide customer experience leaders insights into the past to learn “what happened?” as well as a look into the future to understand “what could happen?” and link these and other data sources together to help understand and prioritize “what should we do?”

4. Say hello to multichannel, multiparty, continuous improvement VoC programs: Voice-of-the-customer (VoC) programs have long been the critical “listening” component of CX management. But as CX matures, so, too, does the need to understand (not just listen to) customers and their actions, spanning channels (call center, physical, digital, social, etc.), data sources (reactive, proactive, operational, and more), and audiences (workforce, partners, distributors, etc.)

5. “AI” is already both more intelligent and less artificial than you may think: Thankfully, there is no match for the human brain—yet. But AI will continue to accelerate, as its already impressive ability to do things like access and apply data, streamline processes, focus actions, and model future scenarios gets ever better. A “CX enabler,” AI increases the ability to personalize and customize interactions by making them more “human”–in many cases, without humans at all.

6. It’s time for companies to learn to talk—and listen: Yup. Very soon, a digital, computerized persona will speak on behalf of your firm. It will take orders, provide support, and answer questions. It will upsell and issue refunds. All of this, and more, is in response to verbal requests by customers and employees. But the toughest part isn’t technical. (Siri, Alexa, Cortana, etc. aren’t perfect, but they’re continuously learning and getting better by the day.) It’s operational and political.

7. Customer-centric virtual and augmented reality add yet another channel: With AR/VR revenue set to top $160 billion by 2020, the rich, immersive, and deeply personalized experiences they unlock moves the technology well beyond gaming, reimagining things like e-commerce (think high-end retail or auto buying), education (from higher education to workplace safety and employee training), and health care (physical therapy and surgical simulation), among others.

8. It’s time to understand the impact of IoT on customer experience: Made up of billions of smart, connected devices, the IoT gives any “thing” a voice through the data it gathers, produces, and distributes. With around 26 “smart objects” for every human being on Earth predicted by 2020, the ability to leverage connected products and other sensor-generated data to enhance the customer experience is unprecedented and is a growing opportunity no CXO can ignore.

9. Cybersecurity now impacts customer loyalty: Fraud is a top customer and executive concern for e-commerce, banking, and other online activities. Adding this to customers’ digital-first preferences and the real threat of fraud (nearly 40% of consumers have fallen victim), cybersecurity is critical—in no small part because breaches cause customers to run and brand loyalty and confidence to erode.

10. Why you must understand—and embrace—the API economy: APIs can give your organization the ability to respond more profitably and intelligently to customer interactions by becoming more responsive, flexible, and efficient. They can create new, more personalized, and richer experiences, for example, sending one customer to video or text chat and another to a special offer or “help” article—in part by making it easier to integrate and connect people, places, data, and more, delivering agile, reactive content from legacy and cloud systems.

11. The robots are coming, and they’re here to help: In 2014, Starwood introduced their newest staff member at an Aloft hotel in Cupertino—a robot named “Botlr” who checks in guests and delivers amenities. Banks are adding “robot bank tellers” and Pepper the Android is selling Nespresso at retail for Nestlé. A gimmick? Maybe. Unless you’re a customer wanting an answer or a delivery—and “real” people are too busy or scarce to help. Or you’re an executive looking for a way to scale and reliably deliver low-cost, consistent service.

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