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The future of

Author: Gordon Littley

You've probably read a lot about how artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, chatbots, the Internet of Things (IoT), personalization and other technologies are essential to the future of customer experience innovation. With so many new and emerging tools ready to revolutionize the customer experience (CX), it's easy to get caught up in the whirlwind of excitement around new technologies, but that shouldn't distract you from what really matters: the customer insights that inform a great customer experience.

Making sense of all the data

You're collecting more data on your customers than ever before. You can track their shopping habits online. You can analyze their conversations with your call center representatives to increase your chances of achieving CX chatbot success. And you can use IoT devices to monitor in-store behavior.

Innovative companies are already leveraging the combined insights from these and many other data sources to understand and ultimately drive customer behavior. According to Gartner,1 “the collection and use of such data to drive behaviors is called the Internet of Behavior (IoB).” It is one of “nine strategic technology trends that will enable the plasticity or flexibility that resilient businesses require in the significant upheaval driven by COVID-19 and the current economic state of the world.”

Businesses hoping to drive customer experience innovation face risks as well as rewards. Leveraging customer data to improve CX is a balancing act, particularly when it comes to personalization. While customers do share a universal desire to connect with companies using the channels of their choice, they also expect honesty and transparency when it comes to how their data is being used. And although one customer might find a particular experience personally relevant, another might consider the exact same experience creepy or even invasive. As businesses prioritize customer experience innovation, they should make sure they are providing a customer experience that is actually responsive to their customers' wants and needs.

Tech can show you patterns and even context

How can you harness all the data to drive a better customer experience? And, importantly, how can you make sure you don't jump to the wrong conclusions? Technologies, such as AI and machine learning, are providing a means to that end. And these tools are becoming ever-more sophisticated. They can handle more data, do it faster and find correlations. They can help you wade through all the data—and the most advanced might even suggest actions you can take to improve CX.

According to a recent report from CapGemini, The Art of Customer-Centric Artificial Intelligence, 80% of organizations now say that 30%-50% of their customer engagements are AI-enabled. These AI-facilitated interactions are evolving to become more context-aware. For example, insurance companies are using AI to process claims arising from car accidents in mere minutes using contextual data such as vehicle pictures uploaded by the user, driver facial recognition and details of the damage to the car. According to CapGemini, these kinds of customer experiences are successful when customers find them personally relevant, empowering and effortless.

Human intuition is still critical to the future of customer experience innovation

The big question: Can a machine truly see the whole picture? AI might show you the correlation between the amount of time customers spend waiting in line and their levels of customer satisfaction. And it might then suggest ways you can optimize shift patterns to reduce waiting times. But it can't currently come up with nuanced solutions to problems—like providing entertainment or keeping customers informed so that they don't become frustrated by a long wait. When it comes to the future of customer experience innovation, human intuition hasn't been replaced—yet. If you really want to understand your customers, there's still a strong argument for getting on the front line and talking to them.

AI, machine learning, chatbots and the rest are helping turn today's big data into customer insights. But if you are going to turn those insights into a great customer experience, you need to act on them and drive changes across all your channels. That means—wherever you're getting your insights—they need to be shared, understood and acted upon by employees with input into delivering CX—and that's every one of them.

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Gordon Littley is Managing Director, Domain and Vertical Business Development for Verizon.

1Smarter with Gartner, Gartner Top Strategic Technology Trends for 2021, Kasey Panetta, October, 2020, https://www.gartner.com/smarterwithgartner/gartner-top-strategic-technology-trends-for-2021