Vanessa Boudin-Lestienne, General Manager EMEA of The Social Client, takes stock of 2016 and shares her insights on what to expect in terms of digital transformation in the year(s) ahead: Messenger chatbots and AI are indeed proving indelible, however it’s ultimately the Customer who remains Context of and Influence over… everything.
Conversations at the heart of our interactions
Today’s Customer Relationship has placed mobile phones at the heart of all our interactions resulting in a new means of communication: instant messaging that opens a conversational window through which customers can immediately and always access a brand as well as a record of their conversations.
Messenger, What’sApp, Twitter are championing this new form of exchange, but this model has also been adopted “inApp” where, within Customer Accounts, you can find a history of your exchange at any time.
For the millennial generation, messaging has become the no 1 way to contact a brand which correlates with their technology adoption rate, namely for mobile technology.
e-reputation: customer feedback…
Another significant trend, which brands are finally realizing the import of, is customer feedback. Communities and conversations surrounding brands have a highly structuring impact on businesses ever since they became a primary influence over a customer’s choice of a brand.
Today, word of mouth has exponentially exploded because of digital technology and the internet’s potential to make our opinions, impressions, advice… immediately go viral. It has therefore become absolutely critical for brands to increase the recommendation rate, to work on promotional customers and take feedback into consideration… in sum, all of what makes its e-reputation. Not only do brands have to take it into consideration but they have to successfully manage and fuel it.
… and customer influence
In 2016, brands (finally) realized the relentless extent to which word of mouth could make or break an e-reputation. In 2017, they have to turn it to their advantage by expanding and building on customer feedback, creating brand reps, activating ambassador programs, involving social influencers… all of which will enable brands to enrich, organize and take full, successful advantage of word of mouth’s impact.
Think mobile native
What is outdated and yet persists are brands who keep trying to adapt computer formats to mobile formats. We’ve moved far beyond this point by now. There are very specific codes tied to mobiles, and it no longer works for a brand to think of them as an additional, secondary experience to offer. Today, because of technology, we’re in a position to offer mobile native experiences.
Also, more generally, duplicating models that we’re familiar with is no longer a functional option, a more globalized strategy is required. The PMU brand demonstrated great foresight in this respect, in its way of dealing with its community by adopting a communal and holistic approach, crossbreeding all the different interactions - that vary considerably depending on the contact channel - and by meshing as well their own internal departments: corporate, marketing, communication...
Convergence of all contact points
Over the next three years we’ll realize the full measure of one very important thing: digital technology has dizzyingly multiplied our contact points and brands are facing an impasse. They can no longer afford to be wherever their customers are, and at all times. As contact channels ceaselessly multiply, brands will reach a point where they can simply no longer keep up. The resulting trend is the convergence of all contact points, at the center of which two main actors are proving to be decisive:
- Social Media namely Messenger who has adopted this convergence strategy for over a year. We can now simply add the “Send to Messenger” button on any interface which allows the customer to contact a brand through one, single channel: Messenger.
- Developers who work on Customer Relationship interactions and CRM interactions to create a unique platform that allows “contact blending”, regardless of all the different channels.
Chatbots and AI
Thus emerges a logical corollary trend: chatbots and automation. As the number of channels keep increasing, so does traffic flow which chatbots and AI can effectively streamline – begging the question of whether automation will replace human contact. We don’t believe it will. We do believe, however, that certain simple, repetitive tasks will be accomplished automatically bringing additional value to the actual human contact with the brand. Customers’ expectations will be far higher at the time when they will actually get in touch with a human advisor. Technology, therefore, opens up a space to enrich if not altogether invent new experiences…
One of the first French brands to have taken this leap is voyages-SNCF.com with the creation of a chatbot through which, after purchasing a ticket, you can receive your confirmation directly into your Messenger thread and can at all times contact their Customer Service. The telecommunications industry is following their lead, as at the tail end of 2016 Orange launched its own twitter chatbot as well as embedded Messenger into its “Orange and Me” app.
Immersive reality, customer context and brand proactivity
Brands have already started experimenting with virtual and augmented realities in order to create genuinely immersive and singular customer experiences. These experimentations are gain substantial importance, credibility and financing and, we believe, are committed to becoming standard within five years.
We’ve spoken about the convergence of contact points as well as automation and augmented reality, which brings us to the notion of Customer Context: a new era that we’re ushering in. Because of automation and artificial intelligence, brands will be able to personalize their customer relationship. By gathering knowledge on what a customer expects from this relationship, brands will have the means to fine-tune, customize and personalize the Customer Experience and become truly proactive in answering their customers’ needs, and better yet… anticipating them.
Within a context of racing innovations, our ambition at The Social Client is to help brands understand the evolution of technology and its impact on users’ activities and behaviors. For 8 years, our agency has been experimenting, innovating and deploying disruptive solutions that apply to the digital Customer Relationship. Most especially, we aim to help brands successfully exploit all these new technologies by implementing concrete operations in accordance with their needs and both their business and marketing strategy.
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