I have been in the contact center, customer service and customer experience industry a long time. I started as a fresh-faced kid of 16 as an agent in an outbound call center. It feels that every year since, someone has suggested that this year was going to be the year of the customer. So as I sit here, I am not sure whether 2016 will be the "Year of The Customer" or whether it is just the 40th anniversary of us wishing this was the year of the customer.
Regardless of whether or not this is THE year, there are a number of trends that I'm keeping an eye on as I feel they can affect us all in the coming year.
- The Employee Experience is as important as the Customer Experience. Strategic planning tells us that only one group can come first; employee, clients or shareholders. We have seen business visionaries such as Herb Kelleher and Richard Branson who have stated that their employees come first, as a happy employee will create happy clients. Yet in the Customer experience space, we have focused exclusively or nearly exclusively on the customer experience. Perhaps 2016 will be the year we focus on the employee experience and take a long hard look at what the employee experience is of serving the customers. Are we equipping our front line staff for success or does our training, knowledge management, systems and policies handicap their abilities to deliver the desire customer experience?
- Focusing on the Employee Experience to a similar degree to our focus on the customer experience will pay dividends. This will result in increased empowerment to our employees and front line staff to solve and resolve customer issues and inquiries. This shift will occur as organizations increasingly empowering customers by offering not only streamlined processes and time saving services, think ‘front of the line', but also choices of who they wish to interact with, based on history, experience or preferences. As we empower both the customer and the agent we will create an environment where better service and customer experiences occur faster and easier than was previously possible, as long as the business doesn’t get in the way.
- Mobile will continue to re-frame our view of the Customer Experience ecosystem. Mobile first and mobile only are the two development choices that most organizations look at. Mobile is ubiquitous. It is the computer in your pocket. It is the communications most likely used by millennials. Mobile and mobile apps are driving change in the contact center from chat applications to visual IVR. But the rate of change is just beginning. Mobile is often managed elsewhere in the organization often the mobile apps are initially guided by sales or marketing, as is social media marketing and pro-active messaging. However as customers are demanding increased and/or improved access to services and support, both mobile and social have become contact center channels. In 2016, Mobile and Social will take down silo walls as the contact center, marketing and sales all have their fingers in the pie. This evolution will lead to more customer centric and homogenous customer support infrastructure.
- In 2016, we will finally start to harvest insights through Speech and Text Analytics. These technologies have been around for a number of years and have yet to go mainstream. The increased profile of Customer Experience will lead to increased pressure from the ‘C’ suite to leverage all data available to gain insight into the customer and their interactions experience.
- Journey mapping has been around for many years in a number of forms. Recent popularity is due in no small part to the connection and role of journey mapping within the Customer Experience design process. In 2016 I foresee another existing process; that of mapping ‘moments of truth’ gain in popularity. This surge in use and adoption will similarly be tied to Customer Experience as people will realize that this process can be employed to better map interaction level (call/contacts).
So hopefully when this time rolls around we can look back and discuss the life, or at least service changes that the Year of Customer had brought to us in 2016. If not we can celebrate the 41st anniversary of the Year of The Customer.
This article was written by Colin Taylor, CEO of the Taylor Reach Group Inc.
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