Despite the fact that we are in an age where everything seems to be computerized and automated, this is the year that businesses will start to feel more human. Customers will feel more and more like businesses are listening to their individual wants and needs.
With that mega-trend in mind, let’s dive into three specific predictions around the changing customer experience in 2015.
1. Businesses focus on emotional intelligence to better understand and respond to customers
Emotional Intelligence isn't a new concept. The business world widely adopted Daniel Goleman’s 1995 book "Emotional Intelligence," and Goleman’s principles are still the cornerstone of leadership courses around the world. Very simply, EQ is the ability to relate and empathize with others, ultimately enabling positive interactions.
Twenty years later, businesses as a whole (not just the leaders within them) are finally embracing EQ as a way to win new customers, increase loyalty and gain market share. The emergence of new technologies has driven this shift as businesses can interpret customer needs and wants in meaningful, actionable ways.
What does it take to be an emotionally intelligent business? Empathy. An accurate, complete view of the customer experience from start to finish, and all of the emotions customers associate with that experience is the foundation of a high EQ.
An emotionally intelligent business will collect customer feedback at all stages of this journey, and not just in the form of structured surveys. Call center recordings, online reviews, open-ended surveys and social media provide businesses with a complete view of customer sentiment at every stage of the journey.
2. Predictive analytics will drive one-to-one responses
Analyzing all sources of customer feedback data in one place will allow systems to respond intelligently to individuals in real time. Predictive analytics is already gaining traction at the one-to-many level. Many people voice similar concerns, the business detects a common issue and implements one solution to address the problem for everyone.
The one-to-one interaction requires more sophisticated analytics. These interactions involve a single customer with an issue that may be unique to him or her. Historically, businesses have managed one-to-one interactions via call centers and email. In 2015, businesses will begin to automate the resolution for the individual and will rely more heavily on social customer care.
For example, if a customer has a complaint about a defective product she ordered online, an intelligent system will be able to automate a personalized email about that specific complaint and automatically ship a new product.
Customers will have the ability to self-service their own customer care without having to wait for a human response. While the absence of human interaction may seem contradictory to the empathetic business prediction, it actually compliments it by creating a personalized experience that responds based on customer sentiment.
This one-to-one model will also help marketers more accurately target promotions and dynamic online content. By combining demographic data with purchase history, search history and unstructured feedback, marketers can predict the products or services a customer will most likely be interested in purchasing.
3. Interactions between businesses and customers will become less structured
Mark Zuckerberg recently said that Facebook will be mostly video in five years. Whether or not the social media giant will be dominated by video is yet to be seen, but Zuckerberg is certainly on to the trend of online interactions becoming less and less structured.
In the online world, visual experiences are more personal and meaningful than text interactions. Businesses seeking to raise their EQ will need to interpret multimedia feedback and respond in ways that take sentiment into account. Image and video recognition technologies will become more mainstream as businesses strive to understand the true voice of the customer from all feedback channels.
Successful businesses will use multimedia to drive the online experience. The ability to identify and curate images that resonate with customer sentiment will be extremely powerful.
One of the main drivers of Zuckerberg’s prediction is likely the sheer volume of available content, and the need to consume it quickly. If a picture is worth a thousand words, then Instagram and Pinterest are the most efficient social channels. When it comes to sharing content in social media, images and video are already trumping text.
In five years, customer support and customer experience will move away from keyboards. The way that consumers interact with computers is evolving and customer-centric companies will need to be increasingly savvy about collecting and analyzing feedback.
These three predictions scratch the surface of where customer experience is headed. As the underlying analytics that power emotional intelligence become more mainstream, businesses that don’t mature in this area will lose market share.