In many ways, the uptake of customer experience solutions and the technology behind these solutions really came into their own in 2017. Enterprises finally woke up to the need to breakdown their data silos and integrate all of their data in real time to be able to mine it for game-changing insights that produce genuine results and build customer loyalty via omnichannel, customer-facing applications.
Between AI, chatbots, and experience trumping price, 2017 was unquestionably a huge year in using the latest and greatest technology for optimizing customer experience.
But rest assured, 2018 will be even bigger. Two and a half years ago, leading industry analyst Gartner predicted that by this year more than 50 percent of organizations will have made major business model changes to improve customer experience.
Most of them are still implementing these changes, which will be primarily in the following five areas:
1. Even more personalized, more immediate, and more real time
While there’s undoubtedly a creepiness factor to customer experience when it comes to personalization — not many people want a big corporation knowing what they’re having for lunch — the other side of the coin is customer knowledge and customer relationships that create meaningful, in-the-moment interactions that give customers exactly what they want, when and how they want it.
Primarily through nimbleness and scalability at the data layer, enterprises are just starting to be able to truly crunch their data in meaningful ways that incorporate every channel, every touchpoint, every click, every movement. Creep-factor acknowledged, this is powerful stuff that can make or break a company’s reputation in a buying environment where disruption is easy and customers are extremely fickle and impatient.
2. CEO involvement
In one study, 75% of companies listed “improve customer experience” as an innovation objective for the 2015/2016 year.
What many of these companies probably discovered in trying to improve their customer experience was that getting stakeholder buy-in is tough because it takes time for the actual tangible benefits of improved customer experience to manifest themselves.
It’s funny (or not) — customer experience, done right, is all about real-time, in-the-moment insight, decisions, transactions, and interactions, but customer experience as a bottom-line game-changer for a company’s direction and reputation is most definitely a long-term play and investment. This is oftentimes hard for a C-level executive to wrap his/her head around in terms of how he/she might sell a quarter, half-million, or million-dollar CX investment to the board.
Accordingly, given the now very clear importance of customer experience and it prioritization among enterprises, look for CEOs to get way more involved in the granular movements of improving their company customer experience so that they have a full understanding of its value and can communicate that value to the board.
3. Use of AI
By almost anyone’s metrics, 2017 was the year machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) officially rose to the forefront of most enterprise’s priorities and future growth strategies.
As we start 2018, it’s hard to find an industry that AI hasn’t already touched in a powerful way, and that includes the main customer experience-reliant behemoths, such as retail, finance, and healthcare.
These industries are just beginning to dip their toes into the giant warm ocean of artificial intelligence, and just this small taste has made them hungry for more.
AI-driven smart devices can seamlessly drive customers through the journeys their brands want them to take, and 2018 will see the beginning of the use of AI and machine learning to orchestrate, automate, and deliver highly personalized customer experiences at scale and in real time.
4. Use of the hybrid cloud and multi-cloud
Hybrid cloud is a de facto requirement for the enterprise. And increasingly, multi-cloud, or the use of multiple cloud services for different types of workloads, will be a key differentiator for enterprises looking to set themselves apart in customer experience in 2018.
Because a multi-cloud data management strategy gives you incredible freedom, flexibility, and adaptability at the data layer. Multi-cloud means not being locked down to any single cloud service provider, and hence having the ability to match the infrastructure with the need, thus giving enterprises the quick scalability and adaptability required to manage the powerful customer-facing cloud applications that make today’s customers experiences highly personal and real time.
This garble of letters will have a big impact on customer experience — or at least how enterprises approach customer experience — in 2018. GDPR, or General Data Protection Regulation, is the European Union’s replacement of its more than 20-year-old Data Protection Directive 95/46/EC, and it goes into effect on May 25 of this year.
The GDPR was written to align data privacy laws across Europe, protect and empower the data privacy of EU citizens, and change the way organizations approach data privacy.
It’s primarily this third part, changing the way organizations approach data privacy, that’s going to have the big impact on customer experience. Any organization that stores and/or uses the data of EU citizens is going to have to take a hard look at it, if not totally rethink, how it stores and protects this customer data, and will have to do this while keeping its very data-heavy and data-reliant customer-facing applications going 24/7/365. This means employing a multi-cloud strategy and having a nimble data layer that can allow them to deal with things like data audits while still allowing their customer experience engines to be fully functional. That’s a big change, and database designers and administrators are going to busy figuring out the best ways to do this in 2018.
2017 was no doubt a milestone year for customer experience initiatives and technology across the board, and 2018 is only going to bring more progress and also more challenges. With deeper and more meaningful real-time personalization, CEOs getting more involved, AI, multi-cloud, and the new GDPR, expect not just the face but the entire body of customer experience as we know it to transform this year. The best way to be ready is to make sure your data layer is robust, nimble, scalable, and flexible.