The survey of nearly 250 customer service and support leaders across the globe revealed five emerging trends in technology adoption and where service organisations are getting the most return on investments (ROI) today, according to Gartner.
“Technology plays an integral role in the operations and future strategy of service organisations — from self-service to improving the customer service rep experience,” said Lauren Villeneuve, senior principal in Gartner’s Customer Service & Support Practice. “Knowing which technologies to invest in and when is critical for customer service and support leaders, especially those managing ever tightening budgets.”
Service and Support Leaders Are Bullish on Technology
Gartner research shows that customer service and support leaders are not only vocally optimistic about technology for 2020, they are backing their optimism with action. Deployment of technologies has increased to 55% of respondents, up 10% from 2018. In addition, customer service and support leaders believe these investments will increase in value — with 80% of technologies deployed expected to return more value in the next two years than they do now.
Returns Aren’t Immediate
Service technologies that have been deployed for more than two years deliver the most value, according to Gartner. This means customer service and support leaders should expect relatively lower ROI during the first two years of deployment. Amid increasing pressure to demonstrate immediate returns from significant investments, customer service and support leaders must exercise caution when setting expectations on returns.
Self-Service and Channel Optimization Command the Most Investments
Gartner research shows the technologies that command the most investments are those related to customer-facing channels, such as self-service, and channel optimization. Investments continue to grow in web chat, chatbots/virtual customer assistants (VCAs) and video conference, as well as technologies that optimize channels such as search engine optimization, voice biometrics or co-browsing/collaborative interfaces.
Rep-Facing and Back-Office Technologies Hold the Most Promise
Customer service and support leaders report seeing the highest ROI — current and anticipated — from technologies that support back-office operations and optimize rep performance. These include technologies such as workforce management/scheduling software, assistance and task management, learning management systems and unified communications. When customer service reps feel the systems or tools they use enhance their ability to handle customer issues and simplify their day-to-day work, their productivity can increase by up to 20%, customer satisfaction increases by 11% and customer effort decreases by 9%.
Analytics Have Promise and Limitations
Despite a desire to pursue and adopt new analytics technologies (predictive, social media, digital, text and speech), customer service and support leaders report they are often held back by staff capacity and expertise or budgetary limitations. In fact, 50% of customer service and support leaders indicate there are analytics technologies that they view as being potentially valuable to their operations, but they have no current plans to implement them due to limitations.
Additional details on Gartner’s Technology Roadmap Survey and the Service Technology Bullseye are available to Gartner for Customer Service & Support Leaders clients in the report Technology Trends in Service 2020.
Michael Schirrmacher, UK MD at Bloomreach, said: “Customer experience is changing faster than ever before to meet the new expectations of digital native audiences – and technology is at the centre of this evolution. And in a world where new channels pop up every minute, leaders need solutions to help them manage the ever-expanding omnichannel marketing landscape. But this concept of omnichannel only works if it gets implemented across all business divisions, including customer service.
“The need for brands to put experience front-and-centre has never been more critical. Today, 51 percent of Britons are saying they prefer to shop online than in physical stores. And more and more, this includes people who would traditionally shop in stores, such as the over 55s. All segments of the population are embracing online and mobile commerce and the currency for all these shoppers is experience. Starting from the moment they click on a link to reach the website to the purchase, delivery and even returns, the customer experience is now synonymous with the relationship between the customer and the brand.
“It’s therefore no wonder channel optimisation and self-service technologies are priorities for customer service leaders globally. Channel optimisation is typically managed by digital experience platforms, which help create and manage a customer’s entire on-site journey, ensuring that every interaction with a visitor is smart, relevant and personalised. To help manage channel optimisation, modern platforms now rely on AI to power a set of algorithms and advanced merchandising capabilities that allows brands to optimise each visitor’s search, browse and landing page experiences. Whether customers interact with your brand via a website, app or voice, their experience depends heavily on the data connections happening behind the scenes. Failing to make use of these connections means that customers can be asked the same questions over and over, offered irrelevant services and ultimately choosing not to purchase – or to even engage with the brand in the future.”
Leigh Gammons, CEO at Cognifide, said: “Customer service is an integral part of the customer journey and, arguably, one of the most important, in terms of either sealing the deal or consigning the transaction to the bin. So it’s no surprise that Gartner’s latest research is showing not only that service leaders are planning to spend more on technology, but that the spend will be focused primarily in the areas of self-service and optimization. Technologies such as chatbots and virtual assistants are vital in helping customers make purchase decisions, nudging them towards closing the transaction. If the customer experience falls apart at this stage of the journey, it can, and almost certainly will, be a deal breaker. And whilst the bar for customer experience and service is being set incredibly high by Amazon, brands can’t afford to ignore the implications of not investing.
The recent Digital Trends report from Adobe and Econsultancy corroborates Gartner’s findings. 34% of leading businesses are making the customer journey a top priority for 2020 and over 50% see the greatest challenge lies in the variety of content required to make each touchpoint an exceptional experience. Ensuring that every customer service touchpoint lives up to expectation is going to prove to be the mark of success or failure.”