As technology becomes an increasingly large part of our daily lives, consumer behaviours and expectations are undergoing massive changes. To stay ahead of the competition and gain market share, companies are going above and beyond to transform baseline customer satisfaction into deep customer engagement, excitement and loyalty, and customer service technology is playing a more important role than ever.

According to Cisco’s 2021 CIO and IT Decision Makers Trends Pulse​, 71% of CIOs and IT decision makers agreed that customer experience is about more than just satisfaction—it is about delighting the customer.​

In this article, we will talk about the technologies that are transforming the customer experience and what you need to implement them effectively.

AR and VR enhance remote customer experiences

Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) are technologies that an increasing number of businesses are utilizing to make online shopping and services more realistic. For example, some fashion retailers offer virtual try-on of products, while other industries such as hospitality and real estate are using virtual tours as a means to help customers make purchase decisions without going onsite in person.

The global AR and VR market is expected to grow by USD125.19 billion from 2020 to 2024 at a CAGR of over 35%, according to research firm Technavio’s latest report in February this year. Asia Pacific makes up a large slice of this market with 37% market share in 2019.

The use of AR in the retail industry is not new. Makeup heavyweight L’Oreal was among the first to use the technology when it launched a virtual makeup mirror smartphone app named Makeup Genius in 2014. Such applications allow customers to virtually try on different kinds of makeup without the hassle of applying and removing them in real life and has offered huge opportunities during the pandemic when consumers are relying heavily on online shopping. Perfect Corp, a Taiwanese developer of virtual beauty apps, recently announced that it will invest significantly in the use of artificial intelligence (AI), in addition to AR, for skincare analysis, which will open up new possibilities for skincare brands in the e-commerce space.

Face-to-face video communication as an important service and sales tool

While consumers are becoming more accustomed to procuring products and services online, the human touch, including simple eye contact, are still powerful factors in engaging customers and influencing their decisions. With lockdowns and safe-distancing measures still in force in different parts of the world, video communication enables certain services like virtual health and fitness sessions to continue, as well as after-sales services like guiding customers to set up a product after it is delivered. For instance, during the COVID-19 pandemic, Body Logic Physiotherapy Joondalup, one of Cisco’s clients in Perth, Australia, has been able to continue providing patients who are concerned about their safety with rehabilitation services through video calls. Therapists demonstrate the exercises on screen while observing the patients as they carry out the rehabilitation exercises in their homes.

Many retailers are also making use of their shops and offices as a video set to showcase products that can be bought online. For example, many fashion retailers in Southeast Asia are holding live sessions on social media to demonstrate the style and fit of their clothing while chatting with customers and answering their questions.

Real time messaging is the preferred mode of customer communication and support

In today’s world, people are turning away from phone calls and emails and would rather use real time messaging as the primary channel to contact business representatives for an enquiry or customer support. Whether through texts or instant messaging functions on social media, real time messaging offers convenience at one’s fingertips. To businesses, real time messaging allows marketing information to be pushed to customers easily, saving time and offering higher conversion rates. According to e-commerce marketing platform LiveRecover, cart abandonment emails convert shoppers at a rate of around 7%, while text messages convert at 21% on average.

We have seen many companies offering chatbots to help businesses manage customer conversations round the clock. Using AI, these real-time messaging platforms can automate responses as well as gather valuable customer insights from conversations to support business decisions. In an increasingly globalized marketplace, these platforms also offer translation to engage customers in different languages and dialects.

How can SMEs make the most out of these trends?

To effectively leverage these technology to improve customer experience and boost market share, companies require a good digital infrastructure as foundation.

High speed network connection is critical to supporting these functions and ensuring a smooth customer experience – a choppy virtual experience or video call is guaranteed to frustrate customers. For video communication, a good video conferencing platform with functions such as translation and transcription will add value for the customer and make life much easier for the business. Finally, a secure cloud platform is a must to store all the customer and business information safely and enable business representatives to retrieve them anytime, anywhere.