This time of year brings with it three certainties:
- the local electricity utility will need to bring in reinforcements for that one neighbour on your street who overdid it with the lights
- resolutions will be broken just as quickly as they’re made
- and even the most sensible of people are tempted to make predictions for the coming new year.
Rather than break tradition, I’ll stick my neck out and make six predictions of what will be the main themes of customer communication in 2019. Okay, here goes.
1. Omnichannel will be the new default
Let’s start with an easy one. In 2019, customers will begin to expect their service providers to give them omnichannel communication by default.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that customers will even hear the phrase “omnichannel communication,” let alone think about it, but they’ll come to see its benefits as a baseline for customer experience.
A customer who messages a company using WhatsApp will rightly expect that the agent who replies will have the context of their previous interactions, whatever the channel. Similarly, customers will be frustrated if told that certain queries are restricted to, say, a traditional phone call.
The change in expectations might not be universal but organizations that fumble their approach to omnichannel will appear outmoded.
2. “Owned and operated” will take priority
While omnichannel is partly about meeting customers where they are, there are downsides to delegating a part of your customer experience to third-party channels.
In 2019, brands will emphasise the channels they own and operate directly. In-app communication, web chat, and voice offer organizations opportunities to innovate and create unique experiences. Customer service is likely to remain a key differentiator, even for value brands, with owned channels offering the flexibility needed to build an edge over rivals.
The question of how organizations deliver their brand promise through channels they do not own—in particular, over-the-top messaging platforms—will not go away and their near-ubiquity may present a substantial threat to the viability of owned channels.
3. Voice and video will grow
As part of the emphasis that customers put on service, voice will grow as a channel. While standard telephone calling will be a part of the mix, it’s IP calling that will drive the growth and, in particular, in-app calling.
Similarly, live video will play a growing role in how companies interact with their customers and how customers interact with one another. However, this is less about customer service and more about product enhancement. For example, an auction app that lets the seller livestream a demonstration of the item to potential buyers using OpenTok.
4. The robots will not take over
Throughout 2018 artificial intelligence has been a prominent theme in the conversation around customer communication. However, 2019 will not be the year in which AI takes over from human operators.
Instead, experiments will continue. Chatbots will become smarter, sure, but more importantly AI will make its way under the surface of the contact center. AI is great at doing the repetitive tasks that are either too boring or too time-consuming for humans. So, AI will help us to understand and anticipate customer needs more thoroughly but chatbots will—for the most part—continue to play the role of IVR for chat.
5. Real-time speech analysis will prepare the way for virtual assistants in the contact center
One key way that artificial intelligence techniques will have an impact in 2019 is through real-time speech analysis.
We’re already used to sentiment analysis in social media, emails, and other written forms. However, advances in speech-to-text and natural language understanding will mean that software will be able to analyze voice conversations as they happen and, using machine learning, draw on previous conversations to help human agents deliver a good outcome. Nexmo APIs will divide a conversation into individual channels for each speaker, making it even easier for machine learning tools to analyze the conversation.
This will be highly useful in itself but it prepares the way for virtual assistants in the contact center. These assistants will be there to help human agents deliver a better service, by anticipating the customer’s needs and providing the human agent with the information they need before the customer even requests it.
6. Demand for GDPR-like legislation will grow in the US
The European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation has affected almost every business that has customers in the EU. While it has been painful for some businesses, it has put the data protection needs of EU citizens front and center.
In 2019, it’s likely that we’ll see more data breaches and perhaps one or two scandals concerning how some companies use personal data. One of the biggest customer communication challenges for 2019 will be to satisfy customer demand for greater transparency and security in how their data is managed
In some parts of US society, demand is growing for an American equivalent to the GDPR. While such legislation might not pass in 2019, it’s likely that conversation will evolve to the point where GDPR-like legislation in the US becomes a possibility.
All the Best for 2019
We here at Nexmo are excited for what 2019 brings. Not only do we have new products that we’ll share with you in the coming months but we’re also eager to see how brands grow to serve their customers’ evolving communications needs.
Wherever and however you celebrate, if at all, here’s to a restful holiday period and a prosperous 2019!