Ashley Burton, Head of Product at Eckoh identifies the underlying trends that will keep contact centres one step ahead.
Customer experience is an ever changing landscape where it's hard for companies to predict what will happen next. But if you identify the big underlying trends, then it's possible for contact centres to stay one step ahead. Over coming months, the phrase 'Continuous Customer Service' will gain increasing traction. But what is it exactly and why should companies be striving for it?
Why all the change?
Significant changes in the kinds of customer experience offered today have been driven by a range of factors. We see pressures on the contact centre industry coming from rising customer expectations, disruptive technological changes that have opened up new contact channels, and an increasing public appetite for on-demand services. Over the last few decades we've also seen the transition from single-channel to multi-channel and then on to omni-channel communication.
Rather than the marketplace telling consumers what they want and shaping their behaviour, it's been the other way around.
In the 90s, customers started to use the web for shopping and entertainment. Expectations soon grew, with people wanting to pay bills and get help via the web. The same pattern held for the smartphone revolution with apps becoming all the rage and, more recently, we've seen the same with social media and messaging channels such as Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp.
So, what's next?
Right now, three key trends are shaping our future in profound ways: Artificial Intelligence, the Internet of Things and their more subtle cousin, the Continuous Client.
Artificial Intelligence is everywhere right now, from virtual assistants on your phone to smart speakers in your living room and bots on websites, in apps and on social media sites.
The Internet of Things extends the reach of AI assistants into the physical world letting you boost the heating, turn off the lights or answer the door from anywhere.
The last of these three, Continuous Client, unites the others simply by remembering your context and passing it on. You'll be familiar with this technique if you've paused Netflix on your TV then carried on seamlessly from where you left off on your phone. Alternatively, maybe you logged into Facebook on the web to then see your message history from the app; or perhaps you paid on eBay on a PC only to receive a PayPal receipt notification on your phone.
Rolled together, these three technologies are behind the concept of 'Ambient Computing' where you have the ability to ask for whatever you need, wherever you are and with whatever device you're near, whether it happens to be via Google, Alexa or something else.
This is all happening right now in the world of consumer technology and as we know from history what consumers start using today will impact customer service tomorrow.
So, what will this mean for the contact centre?
We are entering the era of Continuous Customer Service, where customers will expect to have support on hand whenever and wherever they are.
Research shows that 60% of customers change their contact channel depending on where they are and what they’re doing.  For example, consumers may flit between contact channels in the brief moments they have available that whether that's while they are watching TV, making a train journey to work, or cooking dinner.
They will expect each and every channel not only to know their history, but to use it intelligently and proactively. Bots will reach out to customers before they're aware of an issue, offering resolution, sending out consumables and booking engineer visits.
There will be no delays and no 'lead time'. Your balance won't be updated within 72 hours, it will be updated immediately and notify you when it happens. Customer questions must be asked and answered immediately, with no queues and no "all our agents are busy" or "please try again later" messages.
Consumers don't shut down for 12 hours a day, so they don't see why organisations should either. Research shows that 70% of consumers need more 'convenience' from customer service and 74% found it annoying that customer service is only available during their standard working hours. 
Much of the need for a formal identification process will dissolve away too, with strong authentication being near automatic based on device and cloud biometrics coupled with location, contextual and behavioural signals.
The lines between humans and automation will become blurred, with bots seamlessly taking over mundane tasks like taking customers through terms and conditions or applying for finance. This will all happen within a single continuous conversation with customers no longer knowing or caring whether they are taking to a human or a bot as long as their query is resolved.
In short, customer service will be seamless and it will be everywhere. And it's the ability to deliver Continuous Customer Service that will start to mark out leading companies from those playing catch-up.
So, what can we do about it?
Customer experience is today's most intense battlefront. In fact, a Gartner survey found that 81% of marketers expect their companies to be competing mostly on the basis on customer experience in 2019. Omnipresence is now among the features that customers are craving.
This all may sound like a lot of work and expensive to keep up with, but don't forget that technology is doing the heavy lifting here. At Eckoh, we believe that technology should be used to empower people, whether that be your customers or your agents. Being able to offer Continuous Customer Service can be easier, faster and more affordable than many realise.
The Eckoh Experience Portal will provide you with an evolving platform that will meet the challenging expectations of consumers. At the same time, you can take advantage of AI and automation to ensure you get the best use out of your agents and that they have a fulfilling work life, free from the grind of answering basic queries.
So how close are you to be able to offer Continuous Customer Service? Are you looking forward to the possibilities for you and your customers? It's an exciting future, and we'd love to help you get there so get in touch and we'll help you figure out how.
Watch this video about the Eckoh Experience Portal
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