No, for the first time we’re not talking about millennials. In the blink of an eye, millennials are now mostly well into their thirties and are already avid consumers of business and government services or products. They’re the customer of today. The customer of tomorrow, is Gen Z.
When the millennials came along, there was much concern and consternation around the different ways they’d interact with organisations and how they would select brands. Responding to the “millennial imperative” saw companies investing in technologies to support a mobile everything, technology savvy, socially aware customer base. The creation of “always on” self-service channels, smartphone applications, and digital first initiatives were born out of the need to differentiate to succeed in meeting the expectations of the millennial. This important group is now at its level of peak influence in terms of spending and social impact. Whilst the importance of serving this cohort well is not to be underestimated, how do organisations prepare for the customer of tomorrow – the generation Z customer?
The good news is that many companies acknowledge the need for regular innovation and are gearing their business towards it. However, the mantra has to be more, faster, and smarter. The customer of tomorrow is a true digital native; Gen Z have never known life without computing, social networks and even artificial intelligence. Their expectations, desires, wants and CX needs are shaped by their experiences of living in an age of accelerated technological and social change.
Organisations need to be in a state of constant innovation.
This is enabled in part through the acquisition and enablement of cloud technologies to deliver on primary business and functional requirements. Leveraging platforms and solutions within the cloud from leading vendors achieves many things, but importantly it moves the focus from “lights on” to innovation. In effect, the CIO moves from a Chief Information Officer to Chief Innovation Officer. With a cloud solution supplied and supported by leading vendors, the focus moves away from “maintain” to “innovate”.
Innovation within customer contact centres continues to evolve with vendors such as Genesys and Amazon for example, offering solutions that continue to expand and offer extended capabilities. Gone are the days when the only way to contact a company was voice; to pick up the phone. Whilst voice remains an important channel, increasingly self-service and digital engagement are at the fore. The investment these companies make in research and development results in their customers staying ahead of the innovation curve.
A huge focus on the customer of tomorrow will be the use of AI.
This is increasingly used to know the customer, predict the customer’s needs and proactively engage the customer within the channel of their choice. Artificial Intelligence in the form of conversational AI will engage more and more customers, Gartner predicts it will reduce labour costs by $80 billion by 20261.
Automating the back office with Robotic Process Automation, connected to conversational AI will streamline sales and service and see back-office processes enabled and completed before the contact with the customer has finished. For example, a customer could place an order using their voice but not talking to a human. Instead, they’d engage with a virtual employee, a digital assistant. As the call progresses, the virtual employee is already completing shipping forms, invoices, creating a pick list, and even initiating robots to pick, pack and dispatch the order. By the time the call is complete, the back-office tasks of collecting the items, creating the invoice and delivery dockets etc. are all completed.
When it comes to servicing Generation Z customers, speed and simplification will be paramount. Organisations will increasing need to connect front of house to the back of house with a near immediate process being triggered.
Better understanding your customer will also be possible due to artificial intelligence. AI can help to analyse data both within your organisation, and publicly accessible data. Simple examples of this are already occurring now; like moving to a new house triggering offers for retention or churn from utility providers. Better understanding your customer improves your capacity to deliver proactive offers or services that will drive revenue and retention rates. Those who fail to know their customer and act quickly will lose out in the battle for tomorrow’s customer.
Generation Z will expect that you know them. Organisations need to maintain a connected conversation across all channels so that the customer of tomorrow feels that they are understood that the information they’ve previously provided or their history with your orgnanisation is acknowledged and leveraged in every interaction. This will become increasingly important.
EX will be become even more important.
Increasing support of employees, and importantly driving employee experience will continue to be paramount. The growth of contextualised knowledge delivery will ensure every employee is an expert. The capacity to understand where an employee is within a customer engagement, and proactively share with them the best path to help the customer, is already underway and will only expand. The need for reducing training, friction and generally enabling and empowering employees will make a difference when it comes to dealing with Gen Z customers.
It’s fair to say we have only skimmed the surface, and that innovation within contact centre platforms will continue as we further leverage the power of AI and bots to deliver seamless customer experiences across all contact channels. We will also see an improved employee experience where employees can work from anywhere, with access to a larger range of customer data and knowledge bases of information to help resolve customer enquiries.