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What CX strategy improvements should be made to build a strong connection with the new kind of customers?

In what way has the customer behaviour changed during the past years and how has your company adapted?

 Three obvious behaviour shifts have happened during the pandemic:

  1. Customers have significantly shifted to digital channels (even if the customer experience hasn’t been universally brilliant). This means that customers should be able to get an integrated, easy experience end-to-end digitally – this is often not the case currently.
  2. Video has become embedded in customer’s lives. Not everything needs to be delivered on video – even though a massive number (85%) of customers in our research said that they were interested in video chat – but niche areas such as product demonstrations, medical consultations, and financial advice are showing massive adoption.
  3. Working from home has become common place. This has changed both customer consumption patterns, and employee expectations. The desire for more flexibility hasn’t bypassed the contact centre industry – but mechanisms need to be put in to ensure that advisors are supported and connected to their customers and colleagues wherever they choose to work.

What should we expect from AI-based technologies in CX in the future?

AI enables companies to do a number of things, including:

  1. Personalizing experiences. AI can make the customer experience more personalised and more proactive as it learns about customers and their preferences (it could also get more predictive about what customers might want/do, although that could get a bit creepy, if handled badly). This is powerful in an era of connected everything, IoT and edge computing – but it does heavily rely on customers sharing their data – and to do that, you need to make it worth it for them. AI doesn’t work by magic, sadly, so this is a “me”conomy. Customers need to see what advantages data sharing gives them, otherwise, they might not let companies have it.
  2. Intelligent customer journey support. AI also offers the opportunity to support the digital customer journey more intelligently. Chatbots can support basic conversations and steer customers (and advisors) in the right direction if they are deployed in the right parts of the customer journey. They also need to be seamlessly connected with human advisors if they fail. That requires both precision routing to the contact centre and the ability to transfer conversations from digital to physical worlds, so customers don’t need to start all over again if the digital journey fails.

How to build a strong connection with the new kind of autonomous, self-serviced, and highly demanding customers?

Customers’ expectations of service haven’t gone down during the pandemic – although they may have been a bit more forgiving in the first few weeks, that good will has now gone. Many customers also neither want, or need, deeper connections with their suppliers – they just want things to work. Human connection is usually required when they are in crisis or need advice or reassurance – and it’s that human connection that makes experiences unique, because digital experiences are easy to copy. That’s why the employee experience is vital to get right. Customers expect front line employees to be informed, empowered, and empathetic and that has been tested during the pandemic as advisors have shifted to remote working. Training, effective systems support and strong team leadership are all basic foundations for effective customer connection – especially if those customers are stressed, angry, or need help.


Nicola will be speaking in more detail about The Autonomous Customer: Cloudy with a chance of AI during our 11th Annual Strategic Customer Excellence Summit on 6th – 7th April 2022 in Vienna.

Dr. Nicola J. MILLARD is a  Head of Customer Insight & Futurology, Global Innovation Team at BT. Once described as “human caffeine” on Twitter, she injects a positive, people-centered expresso shot to innovation and future strategy. Half social scientist, half technologist, all academic, Nicola uses techniques from disciplines such as design thinking, psychology, anthropology, computing, and business consulting to generate data, provocations and stories which can engage and create conversations from the board room, to the front line. No frothy coffee; just solid research.

In her long and varied career at BT – mostly based at Adastral Park in Ipswich, UK – Nicola has done many jobs, including futurology, research, usability, customer service, marketing, and business consulting. She was involved with a number of BT firsts, including the first application of artificial intelligence into BT’s call centres, BT’s initial experiments with home working and helping to develop BT’s “net easy” score, a new way of measuring customer experience. She currently looks at innovation in both employee and customer experience.

Nicola is an award-winning presenter, with 2 TED talks and hundreds of conference panel, chair, and keynote sessions under her belt. She occasionally pops up on radio and TV around the world. She is a judge on numerous award panels, including the Institute of Customer Service, the CCMA and the Association of Business Psychology. In both 2020 and 2021, she was listed as one of the top 20 UK CX Influencers by Customer Experience Magazine.

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