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Food for thought: Three key trends in the digital customer journey

The fourth industrial revolution is upon us; a time when technology is advancing so fast, it's impacting the very fabric of society. The period is characterized by the fusion of technology and its scope knows no bounds. When it comes to business, not even the contact center is immune from its pervasive effects.

Recently, digital customer experience (CX) leaders from various top brands, along with representatives from TELUS International, joined Stephen Loynd from global analyst firm Frost & Sullivan, for a dinner and discussion on how to adapt to the digital age as it unfolds in real-time.

Read on to discover three key trends on the minds of these CX leaders — we're just sorry there aren't any leftovers to share!

1. Shifting from multichannel to omnichannel

Providing an effortless customer experience is at the forefront of a modern CX strategy. But, the consistent and seamless delivery of service a progression from a multichannel offering to an omnichannel level of support.

"'Omni' means connecting all data from different sources, and providing an end-to-end experience such that if someone jumps channels, his or her history of experiences travels with them, whereas "multi" means offering multiple channels between which data is not necessarily shared," defines Jim Radzicki, chief technology officer for TELUS International.

Most companies today appear to have multi-channel capabilities, which means customer experiences are fractured when customers move from one channel to another. The challenge is taking that next step by connecting all the various data points.

With silos between departments and legacy infrastructure in place, many brands are facing real difficulties in making omnichannel a reality. As Lori Harmon, vice president of global digital, virtual and reneweable sales at NetApp puts it, "Moving that glacier is hard, it can take a long time to make that shift." Although it's not a simple implementation, once the right people, processes and technology are in place, the positive impacts of an omnichannel CX strategy are exponential for both the business and the consumer.

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From Multichannel to Omnichannel Customer Experience

A checklist to help organizations assess their readiness to make the jump from multichannel to omnichannel CX.

2. Taking ownership of AI

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a popular buzzword among CX leaders, and there continues to be debate about 'when' it should be incorporated into the customer journey. On the one hand, you have customers who will go out of their way to avoid talking to a live agent, and on the other, there are those who cringe at the notion of having to work their way through an automated system.

This polarized take on AI is why Grace Hayes-Larson, product manager for U.S. fintech Chime suggests that the first thing companies must do is identify whether a particular customer wants to talk to a person or to a robot, and then accommodate them accordingly.

But, just as organizational silos prevent the successful flow of data required for an omnichannel offering, they can also present similar challenges when it comes to AI integration. This is where a chief customer officer, someone who owns the entire customer experience, can offer an advantage.

Most organizations have several systems handling different stages of the customer life cycle and the various channels involved. On top of that, CX is often a shared function between marketing and service, and different departments or product groups within a company may have their own set of applications.

This complicated structure increases the complexity of any AI-related initiatives. Successful companies have someone in place who owns AI and is responsible for accelerating its role in the customer journey.

3. Honing in on the customer journey

The adoption of digital technologies is producing oceans of data, creating a whole new world of consumer insights and intelligence. This emphasis on data is warranted given the trend towards personalization, but has the near-obsession with precisely incorporating it into customer mapping processes stalled our ability to move forward?

Christine Rimer, former vice president of product marketing & customer advocacy for SurveyMonkey recalled a time — in the not so distant past — when a journey map might be sketched out by a cross-functional team “on the back of a napkin," so to speak. Now, however, there seems to be more of an expectation of perfect data before journey mapping.

It's important to remember that the ultimate goal of any journey mapping exercise is to identify and eradicate obstacles in the customer's path. “It isn't about checking boxes, but rather, helping me understand overall customer challenges and how to get an effortless experience," describes Radzicki of TELUS International.

As next-gen technology becomes increasingly integrated into the customer journey, brands must not lose sight of one key component — the human connection. Although there are countless technology solutions to consider, empathy and understanding reign supreme when it comes to providing an authentic, sustainable and successful customer journey.

For more CX insights, including a complete summary of the discussion, please click here.

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