2018 is going to be an interesting year for customer service operations. This neuralgic function, which can bear a direct impact to a business’ success and growth, has reached a certain level of maturity that demands for service delivery to be not just great, but also rich, exciting and memorable.
Like most predictions of things to come, it has to in part be based on things that have come before (unless you have a crystal ball or have access to insights beyond the realms of most predictors!). In 2017 we have become more and more aware and influenced by key topics, Security, GDPR, AI and Machine Learning and IoT (Internet of Things). But the trend that is going to affect customer service more than everything is the customer experience itself.
1. Customer Experience
Forming the umbrella under which I believe all other trends need to sit is the customer experience (or citizen experience, patient experience, student experience, consumer experience, etc. when it comes to specific verticals). Whatever we do as service management professionals to ensure the smooth running of our organisations, whether managing the IT infrastructure to enable our staff (our internal customers) to work at optimum levels, to ensuring we have enough coffee and biscuits when we have guests, it’s all about supporting a good, stress free customer experience. According to key industry analysts the importance of enriching the customer experience has rapidly risen in the ranks of primary objectives for many organisations worldwide. To me, customer experience and customer satisfaction have always been the overriding “raison d’ etre” of enterprise service management technology – with a support focus designed to ensure the customer’s needs are rapidly met, solving requests with minimum disruptions and in the shortest possible time.
Security and data privacy are paramount in a climate where data breaches have been rampant in all sectors over the past year. Nothing can ruin a customer’s experience as rapidly and heavily as their data being stolen while in the hands of a business. In customer service technology, built in security levels within software products will be required, to improve customers’ confidence that security risks are minimal and can be eliminated as quickly as possible. Security in customer service goes beyond product security, of course, to a holistic overview of operations; therefore, we should expect a rise in process adoption, following international standards and good practice frameworks, and audits.
In customer service we inevitably collect, store or process personal data on a daily basis. With the new EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) coming into force on 25 May 2018, enterprises need to provide a simple, stress free process for all individuals within the EU to get full control of their data held by organisations. Responsibility for GDPR can sit under various departments in an organisation from HR, Sales and Marketing, to the Service Desk who may have collated data over a period of time. We should expect new technological features to be developed, or software apps to be adjusted, to help in the adherence of the regulation. A smooth transition process is vital, and as a process it should easily be managed by Enterprise Service Management technology with embedded GDPR workflow.
4. Artificial Intelligence & Machine Learning
According to large analyst firms, enterprise machine learning deployments are poised to double within 2018, and software tools are going to play a pivotal role in this. The long-disputed existence of proactive problem management could be a thing of the past with pre-emptive problem solving that could be afforded by AI and machine learning. By taking out the human factor from the equation, indicators of underlying issues which have not yet been detected could be handed over to programmed algorithms and identifiers to predict potential future issues before they occur. The adoption of AI can only grow in 2018 in all aspects of our day to day lives, and as an enabler in business to save time and money, a concern for all business leaders.
With a connected network of “things” or “configuration items” becoming more and more diverse, the ability to monitor, record and determine the issues that affect each element individually and the impact they may have on others is paramount. Connectivity brings its own rewards and potential issues. By treating these items in the same way we treat IT infrastructure, we can use service management processes and software tools to ensure the Internet of Things continue to run smoothly in our day to day interactions.
A Disruptive Year
New developments continue to affect us all the time, and I look forward to seeing the next ‘must have’ technology enriching customer service and positively affecting the customer experience and satisfaction. It’s my belief that 2018 is going to be a disruptive and very stimulating year for customer service operations, with advanced technology helping build refined, personalised experiences for every customer and alleviate satisfaction and retention rates.