“In the new world, it is not the big fish which eats the small fish, it’s the fast fish which eats the slow fish.” This quote from Klaus Schwab, economist and founder of the World Economic Forum, sums up a challenge businesses currently face across every industry. Technology and innovation are advancing at such a lightning fast pace, it’s daunting keeping up with them.

Ground zero for this evolution is the contact center, where customers drive the need to stay current with the latest and greatest digital technologies. Businesses that aren’t keeping up with customer expectations, regardless of their size or past glories, are discovering they can no longer stay competitive by maintaining the status quo.
It truly has become a digital world. The majority of online activities now take place on tablets or smartphones, and the number of digital channels continue to grow. Customers expect to have the flexibility to interact with businesses on the channel of their choice, whether it’s an app, video chat, text messaging or good old-fashioned voice. In other words, it’s no longer just a good idea to add new communication channels to support the customer experience, it has become imperative.

Successful businesses know that a “go digital or die” mindset is necessary for keeping up with customer expectations. However, many are currently struggling with Avaya or other voice-centric systems that were never intended to support the complexity of digital engagement that is now required to be successful.

Why Expectations Are Changing
It wasn’t long ago when customer journeys were simple and primarily centered around voice interactions. Today, customers are likely to begin journeys online, often interacting with multiple communication channels at once. Voice is increasingly becoming the channel for interactions that can’t be handled through other means.

Because of this trend, customers not only want access via the digital channels they commonly use, but also need a seamless way to shift to voice when they want to escalate an issue. As new channels are introduced and gain popularity, customer preferences and expectations continue to evolve.

According to the 2017 Global Customer Experience Benchmarking Report from Dimension Data, customers have an average of 11 channels to engage with organizations. And, there continues to be a significant shift toward digital channels.

Yet, not every business requires the latest and greatest channels. The most successful service organizations carefully identify and support the channels their customers prefer using. Currently, the top five customer service channels are:
• Phone
• Email
• Chat
• Self-service
• Search

Gartner Research predicts that 85% of all interactions will take place without the assistance of a live agent by 2020. Thus, it is increasingly important to support digital channels targeting specific customer needs, whether that’s video chat or a speech-enabled IVR.

The instantaneous delivery of information via the Internet has led to customers having substantially lower thresholds for waiting and being transferred. According to a recent study from Microsoft, only 39% of Americans are willing to wait on hold for more than five minutes and 33% of callers who hang up due to an extended hold time will never call back.

Why Innovation is Key
With customer expectations evolving at such a rapid pace, many businesses have identified the need to innovate. This starts with evaluating current systems to determine if they can support the omnichannel level of service customers now expect. While digital channels can be added to existing infrastructure, integration is lengthy and complex, and they are typically siloed, hindering seamless customer journeys.

Businesses need technology that does more than just support multiple channels and single customer interactions. They require a platform providing an omnichannel customer experience identifying and tracking customers across every channel and touchpoint. With the right infrastructure in place, systems are bridged, and silos are broken down between channels to support seamless, data-driven journeys and a personalized experience that builds brand loyalty. Solutions can then be added to further keep up with customer expectations across all channels, including workforce optimization, analytics and desktop collaboration.

The Future of Customer Experience
The future of customer experience is greater personalization – whether that’s on a self-service or assisted-service channel. By combining innovations like artificial intelligence, bots, machine learning and micro-apps, businesses are already engaging in automated conversations on voice and digital channels. Self-service can be personalized using customer data, context and artificial intelligence. Using the same technologies, agents can also respond to customers more effectively with better insights, based on both previous interaction history and sentiment analysis. With guidance on what to do next, agents who gain confidence have the support to drive smarter, more successful interactions.

Keeping up with customer expectations has always been a fundamental business challenge. However, it has never been more challenging than in the present, as customer expectations are evolving faster than the technologies developed to support them. Every business needs to stay closely attuned to its customers and make decisions based specifically on their wants and needs. Is your business prepared to handle the changing needs of its customers?


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