With respect to digital self-service, if last year is any indication of what to expect in 2015, then we’re in for some exciting times ahead. If we look all the way back to 2014, Michele Masterson of Speech Technology Media captured many important drivers of the digital self service space in her article, Intelligent Virtual Assistant Market Poised to Hit $2.1 Billion in 2019. “Whether on the web or mobile devices, intelligent virtual agent (IVA) use is seeing rapid adoption. The IVA market, valued at $352 million in 2012, is projected to climb to more than $2.1 billion by 2019, increasing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 30.6 percent from 2013, said analysts in a July report from Transparency Market Research1,” Michele explains.
Digital Self-Service Surpasses Voice Channel
So if that’s where Intelligent Virtual Assistants (the foundational technology behind digital self-service) are heading, how are we going to get there? Michele offers some great insight in her article from several leading authorities on the topic, as does Kate Leggett in her blog Forrester’s Top Trends For Customer Service In 2015. Kate informs us that “web self service [a.k.a digital self-service] was the most widely used communication channel for customer service, surpassing use of the voice channel for the first time.2” Kate goes on to predict that such demand over web and mobile self service channels will increase in 2015.
It’s Not Just About Cost Reduction Anymore
While we definitely agree that there’s great momentum in the digital self-service space right now, what’s truly interesting is the shift in “why” organizations are pursuing digital self-service initiatives (i.e. the new drivers behind this growth). Traditionally, digital self-service implementations have been largely an operational mechanism focused on efficiency metrics (i.e. reducing call and email volume), but the main drivers today are more and more about providing customers with a great experience.
Laptops, smartphones, tablets and even wearables have become the new pathways to the customer, and today’s customers want their questions answered and problems solved in a fast and efficient manner, using the same technologies and methods they use each and every day to communicate with one another. This is why digital self-service has become (and will continue to) be an important gateway to achieve true digital customer engagement.
And with this refocused mindset in 2015, organizations keen to leverage digital self-service as a key competitive differentiator will be asking one question: “How do we make the customer experience even better?” One answer: Deep Analytics.
Whatever you want to call it, an organization’s ability to leverage powerful analytics tools to not only sift through and understand big customer data, but be able to predict customer intent and anticipate the customer’s next move will become powerful differentiators, separating great customer service providers from those organizations who can provide a truly exceptional and unmatched customer experience. PV Kannan, Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of 7.ai elaborates on this topic in his thought leadership piece: Trends to Watch in 2015: Digital Is the New Black. “Big data and little data are only as important as the analytics that are utilized to predict what consumers want, adapt to the appropriate context, and take action in real time,” explains PV. “Pervasive and invisible analytics based on advanced algorithms will become the backbone that drives the experience of every important app.3”
This viewpoint is shared by Gartner in their article, titled: “Gartner IDs Top 10 Strategic Tech Trends for 2015” – a summary of the top 10 technology trends that will be strategic for most organizations in 2015. “Advanced, pervasive and invisible analytics” technologies made this year’s list, as did the idea of “Smart Machines.” Gartner elaborates on the idea of smart machines: “Deep analytics applied to an understanding of context provide the preconditions for a world of smart machines. This foundation combines with advanced algorithms that allow systems to understand their environment, learn for themselves, and act autonomously.4”
But getting back to customer service and more specifically, digital self-service, deep analytics goes far beyond simply making customer insights available to customer experience, marketing and other users. In 2015, the real winners will be those organizations that are able to leverage deep analytic technologies to quickly understand customer data and act on it, or be the first to spot emerging trends or themes. Deep analytics enables organizations to anticipate the customers’ intent in real-time and engage with the customer when, where, and how they want, as well as tackle challenges like next issue avoidance. On this last point, imagine having visual maps of all the questions your customers are asking, and all the ‘next questions’ that can ensue, in any number of pathways or customer journeys. Imagine knowing how many questions it takes for a customer to complete a specific task and anticipating your customer’s next questions before they even asked it. This would allow customer service departments to make huge improvements in next issue avoidance. The possibilities are endless.
2015 will be a year full of exciting advancements. We’ll see deep analytics becoming an increasingly critical component of an organization’s customer service strategy and digital self-service will continue to be a foundational component in any organization’s digital customer engagement strategy. Hold on tight, and be sure you (and your customers) don’t get left behind.