2012 is still a vivid memory for most of us. But it’s time to look ahead to 2013 and focus on the key trends that customer service professionals need to pay attention to as they plan for success this year. Here are the top trends that I am tracking. My full report is here.
PERSONALIZE CUSTOMER SERVICE
Trend 1: Channel Preference Is Changing Rapidly
Across all demographics, voice is still the primary communication channel used, but is quickly followed by self-service channels, and digital channels like chat and email. Channel usage rates are also quickly changing: we’ve seen a 12% rise in web self-service usage, a 24% rise in chat usage, and a 25% increase in community usage for customer service in the past three years. Expect customer service organizations to better align their channel strategy this year to support their company’s customers’ needs. Expect them to also work on guiding customers to the right channel based on the complexity and time sensitivity of interactions.
Trend 2: Mobile Solutions Are Becoming A Must-Have
The word on the street is that Nuance is buying the online virtual agent company VirtuOz for an undisclosed sum (see the TechCrunch article here). So what does this acquisition mean?
Let's start with Nuance. Nuance’s solutions help engage customers with what it terms “smart, automated conversations.” Its customer service solutions revolve primarily around the voice channel and support both inbound and outbound interactions. Nuance’s main building blocks focus on speech and touch-tone automation solutions, speech-enabled call-routing solutions, voice authentication, and outbound notifications. Recently, it launched Nina, a virtual assistant product targeted at the enterprise for mobile customer service. Again, Nina leverages much of Nuance’s core expertise in voice biometrics, speech recognition, text-to-speech rendering, and natural language understanding to empower customers to ask questions and receive relevant answers to questions like “Did my last check clear?” without tortuous back-and-forth conversations between the customer and the service organization.
What Nuance does not have is a complete customer service solution, being so focused on voice interactions. Specifically, Nuance lacks web self-service solutions to support the increasing popularity and usage of these digital channels. This is where VirtuOz comes in.