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Gartner Experience _123rf

By 2020, 25% of the customer service and support operations will integrate with virtual customer assistant (VCA) or chatbot technology across engagement channels. The number stood at less than 2% in 2017, according to Gartner. A 2017 Gartner survey found that 84% of organisations are expected to increase investments in customer experience (CX) technology in the year ahead.

Gene Alvarez, managing vice president at Gartner, said more than half of the organisations have already invested in VCAs for customer service, as it realises the advantages of automated self-service, together with the ability to escalate to a human agent in complex situations.

"As more customers engage on digital channels, VCAs are being implemented for handling customer requests on websites, mobile apps, consumer messaging apps and social networks," Alvarez said. "This is underpinned by improvements in natural-language processing, machine learning and intent-matching capabilities."

Organisations report a reduction of up to 70% in call, chat and/or email inquiries after implementing a VCA, according to Gartner research. It also reported an increased customer satisfaction and a 33% saving per voice engagement.

"A great VCA offers more than just information. It should enrich the customer experience, help the customer throughout the interaction and process transactions on behalf of the customer," he said.

Other Gartner predictions for CX leaders to know when developing a customer strategy include:

By 2019, 20% of brands will abandon its mobile apps:

Many brands are finding that mobile applications are not delivering the level of adoption and customer engagement they expected. Original return-on-investment (ROI) calculations are missing the mark due to the cost of support, maintenance, upgrades, customer care and marketing to drive downloads. Brands are now investing to build presence in consumer messaging apps, such as Facebook Messenger and WeChat, to reach customers where they spend a high percentage of their time.

By 2022, two-thirds of all customer experience projects will make use of IT:

This is up from 50% in 2017.  As the number of digital channels expand, self-service or digital commerce interactions increases, as well as the move away from human face-to-face or voice-based interactions. The proportion of projects using IT to improve the customer experience will steadily rise. Those not using technology tend to be projects related to recruiting, training, governing and managing customer-facing employees.

By 2020, 30% of all B2B companies will employ artificial intelligence (AI):

AI will be used to augment at least one of their primary sales processes. AI in sales allows for more efficiency and effectiveness in business processes, often with up to a 30% higher conversion rate when engaging prospects or leads, according to Gartner. It is becoming an attractive alternative for sales organizations with high volumes of lead processing, opportunities and forecasting processes because of its fast and accurate support when performing the different sales stages.

By 2020, more than 40% of all data analytics projects will relate to an aspect of CX:

Data and analytics are already prominent across marketing, sales, digital commerce, customer service, social media management and field service departments. However, an understanding of the overall condition of the customer's attitude toward the enterprise is lacking for the majority. What matters is not the customer's attitude about a store, department, process or product, but the level of trust they have in the organization as a whole and the customer's likely intent to remain loyal.

By 2020, AR, VR and mixed reality immersive solutions will be adopted in 20% of large enterprises:

This is as part of their digital transformation strategy. Organisations will have the ability to provide employees, customers and suppliers with the means to obtain real-time information, experience virtual environments and engage in social collaboration even without a small, limited display and a limited point of view. Consumers have already experienced some form of immersive technology, such as Snapchat filters and 360-degree videos and photos on Facebook.