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Guest Blogger

By Tiffany Carpenter, Head of Customer Intelligence, SAS UK & Ireland

 

The proliferation of new technologies stands to accelerate outcomes in all manner of industries, streamlining operations in both front and back-end processes. The customer experience has emerged as one of the key beneficiaries of these new technologies, providing businesses with the necessary insights to anticipate consumer behaviour and make better, faster decisions.

 

Looking at how the CX landscape stands to change over the next decade, our Experience 2030 research revealed trust as a key driving factor in whether a consumer engages with a brand. Today’s consumers want to know how their data is collected and what it’s used for – understandable given that 2019 was the worst year for data breaches resulting in exposed records.

 

So in the context of ever-increasing technologies, how can organisations gain the trust of an increasingly sceptical consumer?

 

Customers will embrace innovation

Today’s consumers are living in a world where the physical and digital worlds are connected by emerging technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), the Internet of Things (IoT), and mixed reality. This empowered ‘new consumer’ is capitalising on these new technologies, constantly seeking new ways to enhance their experience through faster, more convenient and personalised services.

 

This means many technologies considered fringe now will be mainstream by the close of the decade. Our research found that, by 2030, 81% of customers expect to engage with chatbots, 80% to use virtual assistants and receive deliveries by drone or autonomous vehicles, and 78% predict they will control other devices with their wearables.

 

The rise in new channels will give companies more opportunities to engage and convert. However, to be in the running, organisations need to be able to keep up. If customers are hopping across a myriad of different channels and devices, brands need the capabilities to follow and track them across the entire customer journey. It’s the only way to deliver a joined-up, seamless experience.

 

The digital natives of today are going to be tomorrow’s customers. They won’t shrink away from new technologies, instead they’ll embrace them and carry competitive, tech-enabled organisations with them.

 

All in the data

Leveraging these new technologies will require taking advantage of the mountains of customer data that organisations have collated over the years – but are consumers ready for this?

 

Consumers are willing to share personal data in exchange for value. For example, 49% of consumers are willing to trade their private and personal information for free products or services, while half would trade it for improved or paid products and services. However, they’re also savvy about their data and are concerned about a loss of privacy and control over the data that brands have acquired.

 

This doesn’t just cover online data, but the physical world as well. Trust is therefore a key element in the overall customer experience, and it follows that brands which cannot provide a high level of trust cannot provide a high level of customer experience.

 

The FATE framework

Succeeding in the digital era requires organisations gaining consumer trust. To connect with consumers, organisations will need to take new steps and, given the prevalence of new technologies in the future CX landscape, this will inevitably centre around implementation.

 

Here, organisations would do well to employ ethical frameworks to ensure AI is governed appropriately. The FATE approach is a good example of this. This means having fairness in the way AI is implemented, ensuring it is devoid of bias and corporate discrimination. It’s essential to question who decides that AI outcomes are ‘right’ and ensure a diverse range of inputs at the design stage to avoid inbuilt discrimination.

 

Secondly, the ownership of AI-powered decision-making should be clear and accountable. AI should not simply be left on its own to make decisions on behalf of the organisations – rather, project owners must be assigned to ensure fair and ethical decision-making.

 

Thirdly, the method by which insights and decisions are reached must be laid out from start to finish to avoid ‘black box’ scenarios.’ Under GDPR, consumers have the right not to be subjected to decisions made by ‘unseen’ analytical processes – greater transparency allows for greater trust in decisions made by the system.

 

Lastly, AI-generated decisions must be explainable in that they must make clear sense. Businesses must strike a balance between accuracy and interpretability – the more complex the output, the less explainable it will be. A transparent AI process is more likely to produce models that can be explained.

 

Preparing for the future

While 2030 is some time away, that’s not to say it’s too early for businesses to future-proof themselves. The customer experience has emerged as the defining point of competitive differentiation between brands. Businesses will therefore require new capabilities to narrow the gap between consumer and marketing technologies if they are to remain relevant in a crowded space.

 

Fundamentally, this means gaining consumer trust and making the most of customer data and new technologies. Ethics will therefore be of the utmost importance in the future CX landscape, and brands must be clear and transparent in the way they collect data. The brands that survive and thrive in the future are the ones willing to innovate and discover new ways to delight customers today.

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