It is difficult to predict exactly what the future will hold, but there are several trends that are likely to shape customer experience in 2023 and beyond. It was supposed to be a year of growth and recovery, but 2022 has thrown unforeseen obstacles in our path and prompted us to once again find new ways to adapt and become more resilient. It’s in this environment that we look ahead to 2023, as we anticipate the continued evolution of customer experience supported by emerging technology and the changing business landscape.
As organisations look for quick wins and shorter ROI timescales, challenged by supply chain disruption and other geopolitical risks, utilising available assets more efficiently is a priority. Undoubtedly, data is rising as a crucial business asset. However, its reliability and value depend on adequately harnessing it to generate practical insights to assist strategic decision-making and better customer experiences. Where should they be devoting their energies when it comes to customer experience next year? Our analyst Laura Burton, looks at the trends we’re expecting to see:
1. Innovation driving efficiency
Market analysts warn us of majority 2023 to be spent in a deepening recession. According to the Bank of England, it will be the longest financial slump since records began. It’s inevitable that this will affect the way businesses plan for the year ahead. According to a survey of 42,000 businesses across Europe, confidence for 2023 is at a historic low, with nearly year long war in Ukraine, high energy costs, disruption in supply chains and the domino effect of the COVID-19 pandemic being felt in every area of our lives and business activities.
Organisations will be more cautious about how and where they invest in 2023. Many tech giants have already drastically slushed their workforce numbers, while others have frozen hiring plans almost completely. Yet, in order to stay alive, corporations won’t be canceling plans for innovation, particularly if they can introduce solutions that make them more efficient with the available resources. Next year, businesses will park speculative investments and focus on applying tools that will enable them to drive competitive edge in both the short- and long-term. In particular, they will look for tools that help them improve, automate workflows and outputs while unlocking new growth opportunities. From a customer-focused perspective, that could mean investing in workforce becoming more time-efficient, removing duplicated efforts and consolidating customer service tools to strategically position customer support and experience operations from being a cost generation to cash positive outputs.
2. A stronger push for AI adoption
A need for greater efficiency will drive businesses to look for smarter ways to operate. As companies balance the need to safeguard employees’ wellbeing with the need to improve outputs without increasing headcounts, we’ll see a growing move towards automation.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) of course isn’t perfect yet, but there has been a leaping progress over the past few years. E.g. assistive AI tools that automatically suggest solutions to complex customer queries based on related past queries, can save enormous amount of time for customer support representatives and increase customer satisfaction. They can also shorten onboarding process and empower junior team members to access and acquire expertise more intuitively and independently.
AI is gaining more approval among general public as well. You’ve likely seen the social media viral moments created by OpenAI’s generative AI chatbot ChatGPT, or image creator DALL-E and a beautifying selfies Lensa app. Or you even experimented with those yourself. But beyond writing biblical-style verses about how to remove a peanut butter sandwich from a VCR video player, AI is going to penetrate enterprise operations for customer value driving, rather than purely entertaining, general cases. It will become an essential part of the customer journey, providing a better experience for both customers and agents. AI is already great at being reactive, and providing recommendations and predictions. Its future strength will come in being proactive and preventative, and knowing what customers want even before they ask. Over the next year, we should expect to see even those more traditional organisations with complex products such as manufacturers, overcome the initial fears in their existing AI deployments and become more willing to test what AI offers, aiming for a better, more personalised service to customers and shorter FTR (First-Time-Resolution) times.
3. Insights not intuition – the move towards data-driven customer support
In the 2021 survey, Fortune 1000 companies reported a decline of successful adoption from AI investments. They were struggling to make progress — and in many cases even losing ground — on managing data as a business asset, forging a data culture, competing on data and analytics, and using data to drive innovation. 2022 was not much different. Yet, it’s undeniable fact that customer-focused organisations increasingly must put a better use of their available data to inform their business, products, and services. There is a huge, untapped value within organisation’s unstructured data, and that’s one that’s growing the fastest; that’s emails, support tickets, documents, websites, social media, images or video files. However, unstructured data has always been the hardest to harness.
Those organisations which manage to do so, are able to gain a competitive edge in an ever challenging economy. Next year we expect to see them bringing together more data points from more areas of the business, also unstructured data, to enable them to make better, more resource efficient decisions based on insights rather than intuition. By breaking down silos and coordinating sales, new business, R&D and marketing functions, businesses will realise they already have a lot more data available to them than they first thought. Businesses will win out because AI-powered insights will help them optimise service performance, assess and mitigate risks, and as a result – drive exceptional client experience.
As organizations look for quick wins and shorter return on investment (ROI) timescales, they will seek to roll out solutions and insights faster. They will likely look for a reduced developer burden rather than engaging in couple of years long waterfall-style digital transformation projects. Organisations have started realising that while the promise of a unified, standardised data set brings growth opportunities and better efficiency, in reality, undergoing a large digital transformation projects like datalakes or ERP, usually means limiting resources available to engage in other, equally promising projects. This have been causing large risks in maintaining customer operations at satisfactory level and putting efforts to personalise offering.
Such learnings will make organisations look for ready-to-run Software as a Service (SaaS) tools that still enable them to test and see the value based on customer data and roll out solutions that reflect the uniqueness of their business and their customer requirements. The most successful will be those that test and improve that offering more regularly by applying learnings from the data they have. Since AI provides recursive learning (meaning that it learns and re-learns as it collects more data and users interact with the systems), opting for AI-powered solutions will generate higher ROI than traditional tools utilising keywords and rule based engines.
4. Enhanced accessibility and seamless interaction with voice navigation
Voice assistants typically found on mobile devices like Siri and Google Assistant are examples of Voice User Interfaces (VUIs). Although VUIs have existed as early as the 1950s, greater technological challenges meant that modes of communication like typing took precedence in most business implementations. Voice offers vast possibilities not only for retail brands, but in finds strong applications also in those complex, data heavy B2B environments. Speech recognition becomes more sophisticated and technology gets better at natural language processing. By 2023, voice-based search is predicted to jump to $40 billion. Implementing voice technology into your operational tools can transform not only how accessible your data is, but also how much of it you can collect in the time-scarce situations.
According to Gartner, 50% of knowledge workers will use a virtual assistant every day by 2025, increasing from just 2% in 2019. These voice-activated assistants can be integrated into existing tools and software that businesses frequently use, allowing workers to issue a simple commands around scheduling meetings, sending emails, and more. In B2B environments with complex know-how and taxonomy such as engineering companies offering sophisticated machinery, voice-activated AI-powered tools can help with scheduling or delegating tasks e.g. “inspect machine xyz”, hands-free. This e.g. comes very handy where field workers inspect machinery, have greasy hands and need to report any issues on the go. In the past, in such situations time-pressured workers were prone to filling minimum information required on a tablet or paper, and then, at the end of the day compiling a report with scraps of information remembered. Implementing voice assistant tools will allow organisations to gather a more complete, detailed information, and as a result, manage maintenance operations more resourcefully and cost-efficient. Voice assistants improve productivity in and around the workplace, it can also improve safety. In many cases including machinery inspection, being able to communicate through voice instead of typing is both more practical and safer. Easy-of-use speaking is natural, more so than typing.
The year ahead isn’t going to be easy for B2B businesses looking to grow revenues and relationships with customers. However, if history taught us anything, it is that in the leanest times, we can still be abundant and more resourceful in applying innovative solutions. And innovation will be the doorway to new approaches and ideas. The encouraging thing is that the tools are evolving and in many ways are accessible to any business that wants to use them. Technologies powered by AI are helping us to be smarter. And at a time when organisations need to be really cautious with cash, smarter is the best thing to be.