Ventana Research recently announced its 2021 market agenda in the expertise area of Customer Experience. Most organizations have some degree of focus on managing how they interact with their customers, but it is often a disjointed and constrained process. Developing an effective customer experience has become an investment priority in recent years as organizations increasingly recognize the importance of good experiences to profitability, customer longevity and advocacy on behalf of brands.
CX is a practice that begins with an organization’s service department or contact center, where most interactions take place. There are many stakeholders in a CX program outside of service, including marketers, sales teams, ecommerce teams, back-office workers and IT departments. Aligning all of those professionals towards common organizational goals is what enables CX planning and technology development.
As we begin 2021, we are encouraging organizations to invest in the experiences of customers. It is important to view CX broadly, with emphasis on the agent experience and the development of analytic best practices that guide workers across teams. Everyone who is responsible for influencing customer behavior contributes to CX.
Customer experiences can be enriched through deployment of applications that provide a unified view of all interactions, supporting a well-defined and visualized customer journey and enabling more efficient operations. We believe that the best CX is derived from a combination of data collection and analysis, open communications across multiple contact channels, and a workforce that is engaged at all levels in guiding customers to their desired outcomes.
Our CX research agenda is guided by our firm’s expertise in business requirements and our knowledge of technology vendors and products. Through our ongoing market research, we are able to offer insights and best practices to help both the lines of business and IT as well as organizations across industry verticals reach their maximum potential.
Our Customer Experience expertise area includes six topic areas: Agent Management, Contact Center, Customer Service and Support, Field Service, Customer Experience Management, and Voice of the Customer.
This year we are introducing a new focus on modern CX suites that provide both applications and platforms to deliver an automated, continuous and unified set of processes and workflows to help organizations manage customer interactions and experiences across any channel or system. We assert that through 2024, the establishment of CX application suites on a common platform will become the focal point of the drive to optimize customer and organization engagement. We will conduct new Benchmark and Value Index research on this topic to identify best practices and assess technology vendors’ potential to help meet organizations’ CX needs.
Agent management includes the processes and applications that enable agents to engage customers and deliver the best possible experience through intelligent and automated interactions. Technology is now available to enable efficient and effective collaboration among agents and managers, with tools that range from coaching and learning to the optimal scheduling and performance of work. These applications increasingly make use of conversational and mobile computing technology to automate and simplify tasks. Artificial intelligence and machine learning are providing agents with qualitatively better interaction support. It’s essential that organizations provide agents the best possible operational environment to improve customer experiences. We will conduct new Benchmark Research and Value Index research on this topic in 2021 to identify best practices and assess technology vendors’ potential to help meet evolving agent management needs.
The contact center is the locus of engagement with customers, regardless of the customer’s channel or device preference. It is essential for the contact center to provide a satisfactory conclusion to interactions and ensure the best possible customer experience. Effective contact centers unify all channels of interaction through common data and consistent guidance. Effectiveness also increasingly requires the use of conversational computing, virtual assistants and digital self-service capabilities. Organizations must embrace cloud computing to provide agile interactions across channels of engagement. Our research plans for this year include Benchmark and Value Index studies to identify best practices and assess technology vendors’ potential to help meet evolving contact center needs.
Customer Service and Support
Customer service and support is the traditional starting point for CX. It requires contact centers to open cases and track them, issuing trouble tickets and determining the appropriate level of support each customer is entitled to receive. In 2021, we will explore how new technologies like AI are infusing a mature segment with new capabilities, particularly when it comes to advising agents on the best possible solutions to customer problems. We assert that by 2024, 7 in 10 customer interactions will occur with a combination of automated conversational self-service and live agents, reducing costs, time and enabling agents to focus on high-value interactions.
When a customer service call leads to an onsite visit from a technician, delivery of good experiences becomes more complicated and expensive. Transmitting information from one party to another - from a retailer to an installer to a technician - can be error-prone, especially when the handoff is from one company to another. Field service tools manage the process of dispatching technicians, tracking them and ensuring that, when they arrive at the customer site, they have the appropriate data and equipment they need to complete the service call. Field service has attracted considerable attention from vendors in recent years, as many try to integrate this aspect of the service process into their communications and analytic infrastructures. We will be looking at the trends and the best practices surrounding field service during 2021.
Customer Experience Management
One recent trend in CX has been the gradual switch from point solutions addressing narrow aspects of the process to a broader, suite approach that knits together multiple, siloed applications affecting different departments. Voice and digital interactions have spawned their own slightly different market segments, with the ultimate goal to produce a single family of applications within an organization that can slice data into different views depending on the role of the user. CEM tools sometimes originate from contact center vendors, with a focus on interaction handling, and sometimes from the marketing side, where they focus on audience creation, personalization and behavioral analytics. In 2021 we expect to perform Benchmark Research and Value Index comparisons of software suites in this category.
Voice of the Customer
Voice of the customer programs are sets of processes and technology that use customer feedback and sentiment along with analytics and AI to develop a unified view of the customer. VoC processes and applications provide organizations with insight into customer experiences so they can focus improvement efforts. Organizations should prioritize investments that will yield continuous insights on customer sentiment. We are conducting ongoing Benchmark Research on customer analytics, and our findings identify a number of challenges and opportunities that organizations face. It is clear that an effective VoC program requires a solid foundation of data and analytics.
Every organization, no matter the number of employees or size of revenue, has an opportunity to significantly improve the customer experience. We assert that by 2024, one-half of organizations will mine customer data with Voice of the Customer tools to understand customer behavior and sentiment. Optimizing underlying processes and technology can have an immediate impact on top- and bottom-line results. Once an organization has a framework that can consistently deliver an effective customer experience, it can take it to market as a differentiator. Determining your path forward for 2021 requires an effective strategy and knowledge of the technology you need to improve or add to your existing portfolio of investments.
Subscribe to our Ventana Research community to stay up-to-date on our 2021 research efforts. Explore our customer experience expertise and topic areas for a detailed research agenda and continuously updated 90-day calendar as well as more research facts and best practices.