Top Customer Experience Trends 2019, HGS Roundtable: Your Questions, Answered

Each year, HGS presents our trends forecast, comprising customer experience (CX) disrupter predictions, supported by practical strategies clients can use to succeed in the changing marketplace. This HGS trends report covers 11 trends, from those in self-service, mobile service, messaging, and social media, to artificial intelligence, robotic process automation and analytics. This year we frame change with the perspectives of an elite group of industry thought leaders. Our January 22 webinar featured commentary by our special guest Annette Franz, founder and CEO of CX Journey. Our expert panel also included HGS’s own Mandeep Singh Kwatra, VP, Solutions and Capabilities; Graham Brown, Chief Sales and Marketing Officer, Europe; and Moderator Lauren Kindzierski, Vice President, Product Marketing.

At our most popular webinar of the year, our team of CX MVPs started 2019 predictions with some front-line webinar research. Our Poll One took a pulse on our attendees’ own personal adoption of CX technology by asking how they use their  a virtual assistant, such as Alexa or Google Home. In response, the majority—58% of our guests responded that they use this technology to “Place an order,” with “Access customer support” at 23%, “Lodge a complaint or compliment” at 4%, and “Access technical support” and “All of the Above,” tied for last place with 8%, each.

Next up on our webinar were predictions from our attendees. Per Poll Two, we asked, “Of the trends we have discussed on this webinar, which ones will be most disruptive in 2019?” The response was “Artificial intelligence” for the majority of our attendees, at 42%. “Personalization” came in second place at 21%, with 9% responding “Analytics,” and a tie at 14% for “Automation” and “Social Media.”

We closed our webinar with questions from our attendees for Annette, Mandeep, and Graham.

Q1: In the age of digital, does answering the phone mean a great customer experience?

Mandeep A: If that’s how your customers are reaching out to you,  then yes. It’s not about whether you are answering the phone or whether you are responding to a chat or a Facebook post. It’s about understanding the customer journey and resolving the customer query and actually working for the customer irrespective of the channel.

Annette A: I agree. While this is the digital age, that doesn’t mean that we discount every other method of communication. Great point. Understand your customers’ preferences and be wherever they want you to be to communicate with you.

Q2: Can you share a B2B example of the best CX companies? The examples shared are great, but this webinar’s attendees are more B2B. Are there any B2B examples you can think of?

Annette A: I think that Barry-Wehmiller Companies is a great B2B example. For the lack of a better way of putting it, they are the company that makes the machines that make things. I know it’s harder, and it seems like its fewer and further in between, because we as consumers focus on our personal customer experiences rather than out professional customer experiences.

Mandeep A: Uber is one example that I would add to the list. Uber supports their drivers who are the service providers for the Uber customer base. Look at how they reach out to the drivers and resolve their queries in real time. They’re there for their customers when they get stuck or stranded somewhere, and they ensure they receive prompt roadside assistance.

Q3: I think when we talk about AI, it’s mainly external facing. Any thoughts on internal AI usage in 2019, for things like quality auditing or assisting web-based suggestions based on verbatim notes or real time transcription? Any examples on AI used for more process or internal operations?

Mandeep A: More and more companies are using AI internally. When we talk about contact center or customer service agents, many of today’s companies are using chatbots to augment agent support. In these cases, the agent can be provided with the answers that the customer is asking for and can actually provide a match of what percentage of the answer is used to resolve the customer’s query. This actually reduces the handle time and increases the customer satisfaction and response rate, as well as the resolution rate for the customer service team. From the quality point of view, look at Nice or different platform companies, which are using the data from speech and text analytics to understand customer sentiment and try to match up the resolution that has been provided by the agent to the customer. This is a step toward quality management and helps augment the entire support structure, for an efficient customer service team.

Q4: If agents personalize and answer more complex issues, do you see that agents’ market rates increase in relation to salary?

Graham A: Yes, I think it has to be this way. It takes it away from what some would deem minimum wage type work and moves it into the next sphere of employment. I think that has to be reflected in the salary, and I think it’s great for all of the people that are in the industry today. What it does mean; however, is that there are some organizations that will need to look at their advisor/agent base and actually see whether they can make that journey to the next level.

Q5: What approaches are helping to evolve the skillset of customer service reps to address the new expectations of less transaction and more value?

Graham A: There are a million ways we could answer that question. For me actually, in terms of what organizations are doing and brands are using, it’s actually about the way that we train and develop these individuals. You know it’s not about putting them through a rigorous process. It’s about making them comfortable in an environment where they feel empowered to do things. So I think that’s changing. If I compare today’s induction training to that of five years ago—currently a lot of the scripting, and system process-driven type outcomes aren’t the focus anymore. It’s really more about the soft skills.