Trends to Watch in 2015: Digital is the New Black

PV Kannan | December 22, 2014

I speak with clients, executives, and technologists from many different industries all the time with the goal of distilling and interpreting what the future of customer experience will mean for enterprises. It is clear that customers are increasingly in charge of the conversation and that those conversations are moving to a digital world…and that’s good. In a digital world, enterprises have access to a wealth of data and the ability to predict the customer’s needs and intent as they travel along their digital highway. Over the next year I fully expect that the term “digital” will have more meaning with enterprises as they begin connecting and blending customer experiences across channels and devices successfully.

• Customer Engagement Goes All-In on Digital

According to Ovum there will be 45 billion calls made for customer service in 2015. Yes, people still call 800 numbers, but, as the world moves to digitizing everything, enterprises know that those calls must be woven into a digital infrastructure. Customer experience is the new battleground, and the battle will be for technologies that make all interactions digital. Customer channels have proliferated out of the control of the enterprise. Those consumers that demanded those channels now expect enterprises to maintain context across the channels, anticipate their needs, and service them the way they want it, when they want it. In 2015 we will see vast strides made in the unification of channels focused on the digital experience. Those efforts will make complicated customer journeys easier.

• Data and Design Go Past the Dating Phase

Never before has human interaction with technology been so important. Today people have high expectations for the experience that they have with their smart phones, mobile apps, and even their service provider’s IVR (interactive voice response). The increasing use of “data” has the potential to change the game in delivering customer experience, but only when coupled with “design.” Customer experiences must be designed with the user in mind from the ground up. The customer’s experience must be intuitive and seamless across channels and devices. Enterprises are starting to understand that design is driven by data and that data-driven design, combined with the cloud, are the key ingredients to make experiences easy and simple.

• Apps that Are Not Deemed as "Smart" Will Get Left Behind

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. Pervasive and invisible analytics based on advanced algorithms will become the backbone that drives the experience of every important app. By the end of 2015, any app not imbued with deep analytics will be considered an antiquated, dumb app.

• Smart Machines Emerge

Envision a world of machines that understand their surroundings, know where to go and how to respond, and learn for themselves – think autonomous vehicles and robots. Machines will be made smarter through deep analytics that use advanced algorithms. They will get help from virtual agents and smart advisors. As consumers interact with these smart machines, the customer experience will become critical to their adoption.

• Technology Learns to have a Human Touch

Technology will provide better service than humans only when it learns to have a human touch. Think of Pixar's robot Wall-E and his capacity for human characteristics such as curiosity and emotional attachment to EVE. As an initial step, smart apps will know when I need to leave for the airport, that my preferred routine is to go directly to the gate, and that my next appointment needs to be contacted when the flight is delayed. When technology can be personalized to my preferences and the way I want to engage, it starts to have a human quality. In 2015 as technologies deliver "personal concierge" capabilities, they begin to show a human touch.

2015 will be the defining year for digital customer engagement. The pace of change that we have seen evidenced through the transition of analog to digital experiences, the growth of smartphones, and the preference for mobile-first have paved the way to make 2015 the year we can deliver “one digital channel” – an experience where enterprises enable their customers to engage with us the way they want to and businesses respond by maintaining context of the customer’s journey and anticipate the customer’s needs. Getting this right creates competitive advantage now and in the future.