Manifesting Better Customer Experiences

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And just like that—it’s 2024 and we’re back!

One of my favorite things to do at the beginning of the year is to think about what I’m putting on my customer service “bingo card” for the next 12 months. Some people might call these predictions, but I prefer to consider them my personal manifestations. So, get out your tarot cards and your crystals and let’s take a journey together. These are three things I hope will come to pass in 2024:

We are entering the year of AI-augmented onboarding.

Surely you didn’t think we’d get through one of these without mentioning generative AI? Not going to happen, friends. If 2023 was the year of generative AI hype, 2024 will be the year the rubber hits the road. While there are several interesting opportunities for genAI in the contact center, the one stealing my focus is agent training and onboarding. We all know that retention in the contact center is … not where we want it to be. It’s a tough job, and it’s only getting harder as we automate all the easy stuff.

Did you know that for most chat agents, the first experience they have with their chat platform is when they are supporting their first live customer? Yikes. We need to do better than that. Some vendors are developing genAI applications that whisk agents into dynamic simulations, where they can hone their chat mastery in the exact software they’ll use—with AI-generated customers. Hands-on learning that empowers agents to refine their skills without exposing customers to the learning curve? Love it.

Brands will look inward before orchestrating outward.

OK, full disclosure—I’m a bit of a tough critic when it comes to brand experiences. It’s my job, after all. My biggest pet peeve, though? When brands have all the data they need to orchestrate a killer experience and … they just can’t get it together. For all the industry’s talk about having a 360-degree view of the customer, it feels like companies should prioritize a 360-degree view of how they engage with the customer.

One company I spoke with a few weeks back had seven (7!) different solutions for outbound messaging, each with different triggers, each managed by different teams, and with zero coordination between them. This is a symptom of a broader issue: The right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing. Marketing teams spend untold sums trying to talk to customers more while the contact center is spending to avoid speaking with those same customers. Something’s not adding up here.

But I’m starting to see the beginnings of change. Companies are realizing that, wow, maybe we need to clean up our house if we want to give our customers the experiences they deserve (and expect). Making 2024 the year of brand introspection? Don’t mind if I do!

Human authenticity will shine brightest.

Frequent flyers of this column will recognize this sentiment. We’ve talked about this before. OK fine – I’ve talked about this before, and you’ve indulged me.

Your customers’ experiences with your agents matter—a lot. It’s one of those make-or-break moments that we’ve all experienced. A contact center conversation that goes so badly that the company practically rolls out the red carpet to a competitor—or one that goes so well that the company just earned a customer for life.

We are going to see more companies launch customer-facing experiences with genAI this year (Forrester predicts half of large brands will experiment in this area in 2024). It’s going to be a year of unprecedented automation in the contact center, and I love that for us. But we must be careful not to lose ourselves to the machines. Companies that master the art of strategically applying the human touch to the right customer moments will be the ones playing to win.

Christina McAllister is senior analyst, Forrester Research, covering customer service and contact center technology, strategy, and operations.

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