Customer experience is a leading competitive differentiator and can be the gateway to customer retention, so keeping up with the trends and technologies that enhance and evolve your CX is essential.
So what’s next for CX?
In January, we gave our predictions for this year’s CX trends. Now we’re looking a little further ahead, and examining the future CX trends and technologies that made a buzz at South by South West, along with those that Gartner believes will change the world we live in.
CX Trends at SXSW
South by South West is one of the most important events for technology professionals and brings brilliant minds from a vast array of industries together. Here’s some of the trends discussed this year and how they may influence tomorrow’s CX:
Real Virtual Reality
Virtual reality is nothing new, but it’s finally beginning to become a genuinely viable tool and toy, rather than just almost unusable novelty.
At SXSW, NASA exhibited a use that was both practical and fantastic. At the Trade Show, they showed the use of VR in astronaut training – mitigating the impossibility of offering hands-on practice of driving the lunar Rover. Audiences had a chance to virtually try the unique experience of traversing the moon’s surface.
Of course, your average customer is highly unlikely to be an astronaut, so how can virtual reality be used for real CX?
VR Ideas discussed at SXSW included:
- Give customers “all-access passes” – this is particularly useful for the likes of big shows such as fashion events, or film sets, but could also be used by those brands powerful enough to have customers that consider themselves “fans”, or even a smaller business with behind-the-scenes action that is exciting enough to share.
- Let customers experience their seats before they buy them – for airlines or event ticket vendors, this could be a differentiating factor, allowing the customer to know exactly what view and experience they will have with a given spot.
- Let donors travel with their contributions – charities could use VR to very powerful effect, letting their supporters experience the issues at hand and the impact of intervention themselves.
Microsoft is already making AR a reality with its HoloLens, and there’s much fevered discussion as to where its top competition may come from.
AR could potentially have even more CX impact for the average consumer – allowing businesses to “show don’t tell” is an idea with great power. Customers could get real 3D views of products that they are considering online for instance. A neat example shared at SXSW was a flat pack furniture vendor combining their instructions with AR, allowing you to see the exact process you need to undertake, step by step.
Like virtual reality, artificial intelligence is a commonly understood phenomenon, but still mostly understood through sci-fi films rather than everyday life. And when attempts have been made to introduce “true AI” results have often run from annoying to disasterous. Take for example Microsoft’s recent “teen girl” AI Tay that was created to improve customer service interactions but when introduced to Twitter famously and surprisingly rapidly became a “Hitler loving sex robot”.
However more innocuous chat-bots, free from the influences of Twitter, are now a commonplace customer service feature. As the technology increases in sophistication, we should see AI become a truly influential and important CX consideration.
The hot topic around AI at SXSW was “what will our society and businesses look like when we have robots and machines that can add better value than humans?”
Customisation to Go Further
Customisation and personalisation remains a super-hot topic in CX. At SXSW there was much speculation as how this will continue to develop and how brands can offer experiences that are “personal but not creepy”.
Oreo spoke about what they see as the new phase for customisation in their talk, discussing how they intend to move on from things like their “Colourfilled” campaign – in which they allowed their customers to personalise their Oreo packaging with special, custom messages and artwork – to fully adapting their biscuits around the specific dietary and health requirements of their customers.
Upcoming CX Trends from Gartner’s Hype Cycle
Gartner’s hype cycle highlights emerging technologies and “computing innovations that organizations should monitor”. The 2015 cycle identified a number of developing technologies that may affect future CX.
Internet of Things Platforms
The Internet of Things (IoT) is increasingly becoming our reality, and as such must begin to factor in to many business decisions, CX one of the chief among them.
Smart beacon technology allows businesses to personalise their interactions not just to their customers but to their location at any given time. Other IoT applications might include the ability to monitor things such as when the toner in a printer needs replacing and then send the customer timely offers for the product that they are just about to need.
Real time feedback in "things" will also aid CX in helping to speed improvement and innovation, as well as allowing businesses to know when a product malfunctions or breaks and thus be ready to support the customer.
Machine learning and Smart Advisors
Machine learning will give rise to smart machines, capable of learning and developing without specific programming dictating them to do so. These will include autonomous vehicles, virtual personal assistants, and, of course, robots.
Smart advisors will be one result of machine learning. IBM’s Watson, who analyses unstructured data to “answer your customers' most pressing questions…quickly extract key information from all documents … reveal insights, patterns and relationships across data”, is the closest we currently have to Gartner’s smart advisors, which they expect will start to appear in earnest in around 2020.
Gartner believes the era of smart machines will be the most disruptive in IT history.
The idea of computers controlled purely by thoughts is one that has excited scientists and creatives for decades – Gartner predicts it will emerge as a working technology within the next ten years. In fact we have already seen amazing results from the merging of brain and machine, in the case of Ian Burkhart who regained some use of his paralysed hand as a result of a "neural bypass", in which a computer chip was implanted into his brain's motor cortex.
The implications and applications are huge and the main focus will remain on its medical uses, but the ability to download thoughts could also have a monumental effect on the way we understand our customers.
The future of CX is bound to be exciting and full of technology and change that no one was able to predict. But there's plenty that you can do to improve the experience you offer your customers right now. For a look at the entire CX landscape, at a glance, download our periodic table of CX.