5 Ways Technology Will Affect The Way Businesses Interact With Customers

The world is changing, and the pace of that change is accelerating. In 2019, the US Patent Office granted 391 103 patents, representing nearly a doubling since 2009. The same period has seen a 400% increase in employees working from home, after centuries of offices. It’s tempting to talk about the last ten years in AI, but the deep learning revolution is only eight years old.

In those eight years, we’ve seen a rise in ubiquitous AI with 77% of devices including some sort of AI functionality, and 8 billion voice assistants in constant use.  Everything’s in flux, and everything’s about to change but—how does that impact you and the way you interact with your customers? 

AI will take over the boring parts

There’s nothing at all new about using machines to automate tasks. All AI has done is to increase the number of tasks that can be taken care of by a machine, as opposed to a human. These tools are usually buried deep in the business side of a company’s tech stack, but some face the user directly. A great example is customer support AI chatbots which can take over all routine tasks. This frees up the human operators to tackle tasks that require special attention. 

No one expects AI to fully take over all customer care tasks, nor is this desirable. But what AI can do is free up 90% of an operator’s time that is spent repeating the same answers. With all that extra time the humans will focus on tasks that require the personal touch or specialized care. This is vital in an era of rapidly increasing expectations customers have for their overall experience. 

Mass use of video conferencing 

COVID-19 has driven a massive rise in videoconferencing, but don’t let that fool you. This is merely an acceleration of a trend that’s been around for a long time. We may confidently expect, as we face 2021, that videoconferencing will become ubiquitous enough to completely change the nature of what it means to be present. 

Using video for customer interactions may present challenges, of course. Video interactions must be as on-brand as in-person ones, even in the case of remote workers. However, customer convenience and infrastructure savings make meeting those challenges a very tempting proposition. Further, eye contact is a well known positive factor in all communications, making video an enticing alternative to voice-only or text channels. 

The technology exists to implement face-to-face online meetings and video-voicemail in your business now, and doing so, will put you ahead of the curve when it comes to customer interaction. This is why many experts believe that project management will be bigger than ever come 2021. 

Sensor-driven insight into the mind of the customer

A lot of marketing is about understanding customers so as to optimize all interactions with them. So far, technology was mostly used to understand a customer in the aggregate. Based on a pattern of clicks and browsing and shopping habits, some sort of profile can be built. This profile, as powerful as it is, is only an aggregate, statistical fiction: there’s nothing in it about the real, live customer in the moment of interaction. This is about to change. 

With the ubiquitous use of smart devices and laptops, a large number of users will interact with your business in front of a camera. A camera feed is all sophisticated software needs to identify emotions, and this new technology is poised to explode onto the marketing scene. Even well-established high-tech tools of market research like eye tracking are changing. Tracking a customer’s gaze when they interact with marketing material used to require a lab and special equipment, but can now be done with a single camera. 

These technologies will allow customer interactions not just tailored to a profile of the customer, but to the actual customer and their current frame of mind. 

Blockchain changing the nature of payment

Paying in bitcoin is really no different from paying in any other currency. While the economic effects will be long-reaching, this doesn’t impact your interaction with your customers. Where blockchain changes everything is deeper. It’s in the way payment itself is processed and conceptualized. The secret is in transparency. This is only possible through smart contracts—a way to translate a contract into automatically enforceable code. 

What blockchain permits are fully transparent commercial transactions and frictionless financial services. This means that your customer doesn’t need to ask for or provide assurances regarding the flow of money: full transparency on how much money went where and why is a few clicks away. 

Customer success managers can be freed from explaining complex billing in an economy that’s focusing more and more on services over simple goods. This means recurring payments and sliding scales: something blockchain manages efficiently and transparently. 

Self-service as user empowerment

Customer self-service is becoming more and more popular, visible not only online but in the real world as well. In the future, it’s only expected to grow as the result of the intersection of three trends. Companies find the practice valuable as it reduces cost, and can make more and more use of it as more sophisticated tools are created. 

Meanwhile, the use of technology has shaped user expectations. This means that they have come to expect speed, instant availability, and complete control when dealing with any sort of information. Rather than asking, they prefer to find out, rather than waiting, they prefer to take action themselves. Over 40% of customers prefer self-service and the number has every indication of increasing. 

It’s evident that users find the experience of self-service empowering, while companies find it profitable. As the pace of technology enabling it quickens, we can only expect it to increase. 

Luke Fitzpatrick: Luke Fitzpatrick has been published in Forbes, The Next Web, and Influencive. He is a guest lecturer at the University of Sydney, lecturing in Cross-Cultural Management and the Pre-MBA Program. Connect with him on LinkedIn.
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