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Will 2019 see the rise of AI and bots – and the demise of webchat?

The march of technology continues throughout pretty much every industry, but it has arguably had more of an impact on customer management than on any other. Capita Customer Management’s Alan Linter and James Brooks look to the year ahead.

Digital technology is evolving at an amazingly fast pace, dramatically changing the customer experience and the ways in which it is delivered. Here are some of the technology trends we believe will have the biggest effect on businesses, contact centres and consumers in 2019 and beyond:

The rise of messaging apps for business

With 1.5bn monthly active users, WhatsApp is now the world’s most popular messaging application. Throw in Facebook Messenger, WeChat, Telegram and Viber and you've got more than 4bn monthly active users. 

Seeing as Facebook Messenger for business has already been adopted by many leading brands, and 2018 saw the launch of both WhatsApp for Business and Apple Business Chat, I think we'll see a surge in customers choosing these familiar platforms to contact companies. Could this spell the end of traditional webchat?

AI for all

We can’t talk predictions without talking about GDPR and machine learning – 2018 was saturated with talk of it. But in 2019 we're going to see this put in to practice. And, while there won't be one big super droid taking over the office (contrary to some headlines), there will likely be a number of unperceived bots handling a range of closed transactions.

I think we'll also see bots assisting frontline advisors by completing necessary repetitive tasks and suggesting actions, based on both historical and in the moment customer data, to give real-time propensity decisioning.

And how's this for a prediction? With the wide availability of computer science knowledge and skills, I predict that towards the end of 2019, consumers will have developed their own transactional bots that will interact with the company's bots!

One voice?

Voice assistants (VAs) are already integrated into daily routines for many of us and, with Amazon, Apple and Google each investing significantly in their own versions of this technology, I think it's safe to say we're going to see (or hear) even more in 2019.

The VAs are only going to get smarter and more usable over time. This presents an exciting opportunity for organisations to automate, innovate and potentially reduce the cost to serve by developing the ability for customers to book appointments, update their personal account details, or simply request information through the VA.

As voice assistants find their way into our cars, it will be interesting to see if multiple VA platforms can co exist or if one will ultimately win out. Amazon currently has the market share but each platform has it's distinct pros and cons.

Also, look out for gesture control. Not only will we be able to shout at our connected devices, but we'll also be able to wave and gesticulate until they finally do what we want!

Price comparison moves to automatic switching

For a long time price comparison sites have been consumers’ first port of call, but they do not always reflect the whole market, or the best offers. A surge of automatic switching solutions such as SWITCHCRAFT, SWITCHED, etc, will mean the need to price compare will erode, as robots will permanently keep consumers on the best deal. Brands will potentially build price comparison functionality into their own customer journeys, switching customers to the best deal within their portfolio or matching deals in the market.

Erosions of traditional contact centre platforms and software

New disruptive technology such as Twilio and Amazon Connect will erode the value of traditional contact centre software giants. The accessibility and ease of use will allow bespoke applications to be developed from software libraries at little or no cost – this combined with the rise of APIs will allow single view of customers and bespoke journeys to be developed by skilled teams.

Photo of Alan Linter

Alan Linter

Insight, analytics & improvement director, Capita

Using data and information to do things better has been the central theme running through my career. I started out as an operational leader, then moved into business systems and planning, and have spent more than a decade working in IT and shared services in the outsourcing sector. I joined Capita in 2004 as IT and Shared Services Director, with responsibility for all the new systems implementations carried out on behalf of clients and draws on my experience as a Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt Practitioner, and a Net Promoter Associate. In my current role I am responsible for Capita Customer Management’s solution, insight, innovation and improvement function.

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