We are placing some bets on the future of customer experience

Join us at Relate to hear our five big bets on what the customer experience will look like by 2030.

By Adrian McDermott, Chief Technology Officer, Zendesk

Last updated May 17, 2022

Admittedly, it is been a minute since I have dusted off my crystal ball—closer to the length of a global pandemic. I made some predictions about the future of CX back in 2018, and certainly a lot has changed since then. During the past few months, I have been thinking a lot about this quote from futurist Roy Amara: “We tend to overestimate the effect of technology in the short run and underestimate the effect in the long run.”

Spurred by some of the constraints of the past two years, technology has made some rapid and creative strides forward. In fact, the future of customer experience is, in many ways, not so uncertain in the near term—much of what we can expect by 2025 is simply an extension of what is happening today. But by 2030, technology may evolve dramatically faster than we expect, and it will radically change the customer experience landscape.

By 2030, technology may evolve dramatically faster than we expect and it will radically change the customer experience landscape.

We will share the actual predictions at Zendesk’s annual user conference, Relate, but in the meantime, here is a preview of what I am thinking about—and what you should be, too.

  1. Conversational communication will dominate

  2. Despite generational and regional differences in customer service channel preferences over the years, the wild truth is that our phones are in our purses, pockets, and—most importantly—in our hands for the better part of our day. And this has changed everything. We communicate differently and sometimes more frequently. A relative across the globe is now only a WhatsApp message away and an actual phone call from family may now signal an emergency—otherwise, they would text.

    We have not necessarily abandoned traditional channels of communication, but it is very likely we use them differently. Just as we also handle many things differently—digitally—from browsing dating apps to banking or ordering groceries online. With these distances so easily closed, businesses must now consider the most expedient route to reach and communicate with customers.

    It will not spoil our predictions to acknowledge that messaging is no longer an “emerging” channel. Rather, it is a contender and we need to be prepared for its speed of adoption. Zendesk research found that high-performing companies are 6.8x more likely to have already implemented some form of messaging because they believe it delivers a richer, more proactive and more conversational customer experience across the customer journey. The question is: how dominant a channel will it become?

  3. AI will be in charge of customer service interactions

  4. Some applications of AI are invisible—our lives simply become easier as a problem is solved or a question is answered in a matter of moments. Yet other instances command our attention because it is impossible to overlook the very real fact that machines can replace us, whether by detecting a malignant tumor in an x-ray better than a trained human eye or steering a car or truck to a distant destination without a skilled driver.

    With these advances, our collective conversation has turned away from whether we should employ AI and instead centers on how we can best use it. In the world of CX, AI works particularly well with automation, recommendation and prediction—and as we move forward, it will be able to take on increasingly more, and more complex tasks, across the entire customer journey.

    In fact, whereas AI started out by freeing humans to tackle more cognitively complex tasks (instead of rote, repetitive, and time-consuming problems), it may actually be able to take over many jobs that humans no longer want or that businesses cannot fill fast enough. If this is true, there may be major implications within the customer service industry, where attrition is high and employee satisfaction can be low. The question is: how many interactions will be automated, and how many handled by humans?

  5. The advent of highly specialised service is coming

  6. Within the industry, we mostly agree that the customer is always right. The underlying philosophy is that companies will extend goodwill and acknowledge that when a customer reaches out, something has gone wrong and the business will attempt to make it right. This mantra gives power to the customer, but ultimately, the business and its team of customer service agents still mostly retain the power to decide whether and how to respond to customers.

    But consider if, moving forward, the customer has the power to define exactly the kind of service offerings they want and expect? Zendesk research uncovered that a single bad interaction drives 61 percent of consumers to switch to a competitor, and that leaps to 76 percent after two bad interactions—making the quality of each customer experience paramount.

    Customers are already telling us the exact support they want and expect to receive—instantaneous, generally—and the more they do this, the more they will have specific and bespoke needs. Personalised high-touch customer service may sound daunting but consider also that customers may be willing to pay for it.

  7. Leveraging the right data is crucial

  8. Businesses have long struggled to grapple with incomplete data, disparate or siloed systems and data sources, and data accuracy and cleanliness. Even so, there have been major improvements in recent years when it comes to data integration. Instead of lacking data, businesses today are faced with the challenge of wading through a vast ocean of customer information.

    So when it comes to getting to know your customer personally, you must identify the right data sources and use key insights to understand what your customers need at a pivotal moment in time. The challenge, however, is that data is not static. What you or I want one day may not be the same as what we want three days from now.

    We are at a point in time when we realise that data is ephemeral and dynamic, and it is something that​customers can choose to share or withhold, considering the increasing importance of privacy and data ownership. This makes it incredibly difficult for businesses to glean the right insights at the right time—but figuring this out will be the exact challenge ahead.

  9. Citizen developers help spark a dream customer journey

  10. Technology is advancing so rapidly that there is currently a high demand for developers. The shortage of available talent means that it may be difficult to advance technologies evenly across industries. This may sound like a version of a pandemic-related supply chain bottleneck except that it is counterbalanced by the low-code and no-code revolution—which is gaining speed.

    According to Gartner, 70 percent of new applications developed by businesses will use low-code or no-code technologies by 2025, which means that anyone, even you and me, may be able to perform the equivalent of advanced development through drag and drop, or point and click options.

    Additionally, composability means that code is not exempt from re-use. Modular packages of code that can be used to multiply impact will become the way forward, and something that can be used to also make development easier. There will be more options to leverage what exists as a baseline to unlock incredible growth.

The definition of a CRM is changing. It will evolve as technology rages forward, as it will, even with the roadblocks we are already aware of. This makes for an exciting time when we can build journeys that are more complete and more personalised—and easier to implement and iterate on than ever before. Join us at Relate to go deeper and learn more.

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