There were some major announcements last year, but I think it’s fair to say there’s a lot more to come from the roll out in the UK. The coverage remains minimal, and the fact that there will be no 5G Apple handset until later in 2020 has also held it back.
But 5G is important, not just for the extra speed, but because of its ability to connect a wide variety of devices together, and many more within a square mile, with greater bandwidth.
We will be watching 5G closely for several reasons. First, because we need to know how it’s likely to affect call volumes in contact centres, and how strong the public’s interest will be. For our mobile provider clients such as O2, Three and Tesco Mobile, it could mean huge peaks in contact volumes when the latest handsets are released, and we need to be prepared for that.
Second, because it will affect areas such as smart metering, that currently relies on the broadband connectivity of individual customers. Equip those meters with 5G and they become completely mobile potentially giving energy companies more control.
And third, because we see a situation arising where the additional connectivity could actually be a challenge for consumers, as well as a benefit. If, for example, they’re trying to get a Samsung device to connect to an Apple device, who do they call? Samsung or Apple? And what if each of those companies says it’s a problem with the other company’s technology?
Giving technical advice on connectivity and enabling consumers to get the most from their devices would be incredibly powerful support to offer – and, we suspect, will be much sought after.
4) Let Alexa do the waiting
Voice systems will continue to get smarter. One of the things we’ve already done is develop an Alexa skill that acts as a voice concierge. If you ask Alexa to contact a company for you, it will use live telephony data to navigate through the interactive voice response (IVR), then tell you how many calls are in the queue and what the wait time is. You’ll have the option of calling and waiting, if the times are not too long, or it will text you the endpoint number so you can make the call when things are quieter. It’s a simple idea, but it could make a major difference to the quality of customer experience for many people.
5) A new reality for the changing room
Augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) have been around for a while now, but I think a combination of the two – mixed reality – stands to make a bigger impact, especially in the retail sector.
We continue to see the challenge of clicks vs bricks, and whether high street stores are going to shrink or fall away altogether. I think the answer is that they’ll continue but, with the help of mixed reality, they’ll need much less physical space.
I expect to see a wider adoption of ‘magic mirror’ technology, where you have a digital catalogue of clothes down one side. Drag something onto your reflection in the mirror and it will adjust to your body shape and move as you move, so you can see how it fits. Then, rather than taking a physical item to the checkout, you order it online, there and then in the changing room.
So you could end up with stores that no longer need racks and racks of clothes, but can do it all with a dozen intelligent changing rooms. That may be a while in the future yet, but in the time being, I think we’ll start to see new ways of maximising customers’ experiences while they are in the store itself.
Facial recognition is still controversial, and there some questions to be answered there yet. But if retailers could recognise us while we were in store, they could tailor our experiences, maybe messaging our mobile phones to encourage us to go to a particular floor or display where there are items we might be interested in. Or potentially sending a discount voucher if we bought something today.
Join us again in the new year, for our post-CES report, where we’ll be discussing what we saw at the show – and delving deeper into how the tech that’s just around the corner might affect the future of customer experience.