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CX tech rising, but human interaction still key

By Shannon Williams, Fri 24 Sep 2021

CX tech is on the rise, but human interaction still key, according to new research from NTT.

NTT has released the 2021 edition of the Global Customer Experience Benchmarking Report. Now in its 24th year, the latest GCXBR arrives at an important juncture to help organisations calibrate their rapid adoption of CX technology, revealing a significant gap in perceptions between organisations and consumers.

This year, NTT interviewed 1,359 professionals across 34 global markets and 14 different sectors, including 112 in ANZ. For the first time, the research also included a voice of the customer (VoC) survey, supplementing evidence from professionals with opinion from a consumer panel of 1,402 respondents.

Resounding positive signs for CX

In the context of a disrupted CX environment, responsibility for CX has been elevated to a significantly more senior level and confidence in CX has followed suit:

  • 71% of organisations now have ultimate accountability for CX held at the board level, up from 26% in 2020 
  • The rate of organisations with ‘well advanced’ or ‘complete’ CX strategies has more than doubled to 66%, up from 25% in 2020 
  • The rate of organisations reporting being ‘very satisfied’ with their CX has risen to 43%, up from 3% in 2020
  • Organisations now expect that the majority of CX will be automated in twelve months’ time, with workloads handled by AI and robotics rising to 42% from 28% today, and over a fifth of interviewees reported that their use of AI or robotics is delivering beyond expectations

Keeping track of consumer perception

The positive outlook from the industry was only partially echoed by the new VoC survey, however. Encouragingly, 87% are happy to continue using digital channels at the increased levels triggered by the pandemic, while 38% said that the quality of automated CX systems had improved over the course of the pandemic.

In other areas, the research found warning signs about the amount of progress yet to be made to fully meet consumer expectations:

  • 52% of consumers report digital channels failing them due to limited capabilities or services 44% experience failures due to digital channels misunderstanding their queries Just 35% say they are ‘very satisfied’ with automated CX solutions
  • With forecasts for next year showing high rates of organisations expecting to have implemented voice-activated AI assistants 46%, robotic process automation 45%, web-based AI assistants 47%, and other new technologies, these developments hold a lot of potential for businesses to differentiate themselves by more effectively solving customers’ challenges.

“The addition of VoC data this year has shone a spotlight on a really interesting situation,” says Rob Allman, vice president, customer experience, NTT.

“It’s allowed us to spot a – potentially growing – disparity between how businesses assess their own performance and how consumers perceive CX. The fruition of new technology in the CX space is exciting, but the ultimate focus always needs to be on people.”

The need for the human touch

When asked about human-led support, 96% of CX decision-makers agreed that it remains critical – but only 39% agreed that they have the technology in place to fully support remote CX employees. Meanwhile, 38% in the VoC panel stated that their biggest reason for avoiding digital channels is that they would rather speak to a human.

“Of course, technology has always augmented human capabilities”, says Allman. 

“This year, the key message of the CXBR is to empower customers and employees through the use of data and AI-driven technology. People need to be at the centre of any CX strategy, with technology in the service of superior customer and employee experiences that create value.”

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