Well, if you wanted answers to questions like these, you really needed to hear Arnaud de Lacoste’s keynote speech at the 2017 Customer Strategy Fair. The Founding Partner and CMO in charge of Ventures, Marketing, and Innovation at Sitel, highlighted three trends in the Customer Experience of the Future. He was ably assisted in this task by Julien Nicolas, Head of E-commerce, Digital and Customer Relations for France and COO France, Voyages-sncf.com.
So, back to the future of Customer Experience.
The average French person touches their smartphone 226 times a day, but only nine times for phoning. As Arnaud de Lacoste puts it, “mobile phones have killed the telephone! We use them to surf the web or consult an app and increasingly to chat on messaging platforms.” For messaging, the figures speak for themselves: WhatsApp and Messenger have 1 billion and 1.2 billion users, respectively.
This has led brands to rethink how they interact with their customers. Before, there was a beginning and an end to exchanges. But now messaging has ushered in never-ending dialogue: customers can go into their conversation history and resume whatever contact they wish. It’s a natural progression: consumers use the same codes and channels for communicating with brands as they do for friends and family.
Arnaud de Lacoste explains, “when I look at this trend, I tend to think that in the future, our home or start screen won’t necessarily feature apps, but rather conversation threads with our friends or favorite brands”.
“I tend to think that in the future, our home or start screen won’t necessarily feature apps, but rather conversation threads with our friends or favorite brands”
Julien Nicolas adds, “Voyages-sncf.com provides a perfect example of such customer-brand dialogue. 15,000 users have already booked their tickets with the help of a bot and 100,000 have requested confirmation via Messenger. This success earned us a mention – the only French brand to be name-checked! – at F8, Facebook’s annual developer conference.”
So, messaging and chatbots have a natural fit with our mobile phones.
But voice search apps are starting to challenge the relationship we have with our screens – will they still have the same importance in the future?
“For search and navigation purposes, the voice could replace fingers…and then screens”
Siri for Apple and Cortana on Microsoft, for example, are getting better and better at understanding natural language. In the US, the Amazon “Echo” and Google “Home” intelligent assistants are also beginning to handle specific individual requests – without a screen interface. Arnaud de Lacoste believes that “for search and navigation purposes, the voice could replace fingers…and then screens”.
“We talk a lot about bots, robotisation, and automation of various jobs, but I firmly believe that this is a fantastic opportunity! Technology has the potential to enhance the human experience”, predicts Arnaud de Lacoste. This sort of “enhanced human” mindset will herald an era of smooth cooperation between humans and robots. For customers, the chain of interaction will be different, but much more rewarding and richer in terms of value added. ”
As Julien Nicolas explains, “the Voyages-sncf chatbot is a collaborative tool. When a user question cannot be handled by the call script, the bot switches to an Acticall customer advisor”.
“I believe that we are now entering an era of context and proactive relations” declares Arnaud de Lacoste. “Customers will consume services based on lifestyle and consumption patterns. As they are becoming more and more familiar with their customers, brands are going to be able to share information at the right time, in the right place, using the right channel. These new “conversational sales”-type exchanges are rich in opportunities in terms of converting inbound calls into sales, upscaling and service quality.”
Service quality will more than ever be reliant on the human factor: only men and women can provide customers with the empathy and care that make all the difference. What was true in the past will be even more so as we move forward: emotion is what drives successful Customer Relations and the quality of this relationship is absolutely vital because it is the last line of defense against all of the challenges inherent in disintermediation.
If customers are able to trust a brand and count on its support, they are not going to want to change. Even so, disintermediation is not the only challenge with which brands have to contend. They are also going to be facing more and more “moment-of-truth”-type situations that can make or break the customer-brand relationship. To take just one example, the manner in which your insurer handles your claim is one such moment of truth.
Regardless of what business they are in, brands are going to have to transform these moments into opportunities and to do this, they can now tap into the wealth of a multi-faceted customer journey. Instead of a “stop-start” relationship, brands will have to adopt an unbroken “lifeline”-type approach for more solid, uninterrupted, durable and ultimately more human customer relationships.