Several members of the Wilke team recently had the chance to join the SOCAP Annual Conference in San Diego, I wanted to share a few thoughts we took away.
1. Artificial Intelligence / AI - There was a lot of discussion about Artificial Intelligence. One of the best analogies we heard compared the AI buzz to the state of social media in 2009-2010 – everyone seems to think it will be big but isn’t quite sure how to define it or what to do with it. Josh from our team sat on a panel that offered some practical ways to bring AI to bear in consumer affairs today. From improving agent efficiency, to increasing coding accuracy or automating some types of contacts via bots – AI represents a real opportunity to enhance your contact center and consumer care efforts. There is no better way to get started than to to get started! (Shameless plug – we have incorporated AI into our offering in several ways and would love to discuss how it can support your business processes!)
2. Benchmarking - The CPG session always offers great perspective on how brands are engaging their consumers. Several items struck me from the review of the CPG benchmarking study:
- More than half of respondent consumer care teams now report to some ‘commercial’ group – marketing or PR. Our function still has strong Quality / Manufacturing roots but this is the first time I recall a majority being part of brand in some way. For many this brings a new set of requirements and challenges, notably it also brings potential investment in consumer care! (A few ideas on making a case to secure that investment!)
- Social consumer care is mainstream – nearly all consumer care groups seem to be involved in supporting consumers via social media! While the specifics vary by company it is incredible to see that in the past 7 years this has become a fully accepted mission for consumer affairs.
- SMS has caught up to chat – chat and SMS are each supported as channels by about 25% of brands. This is certainly borne out in our experience - Wilke has been offering SMS as a direct channel into our CRS system for years, with an option to text enable toll free numbers since 2015. However 2017 has certainly been the year that we see adoption picking up dramatically!
3. Mobile – The average smartphone user reaches for their phone 155 times every day! Most time spent consuming digital media is done via mobile! There are tons of capabilities available to consumer affairs teams as a result of smartphone proliferation and usage – but we heard from the mobile panel that its important to get the basics right first: Responsive websites and contact us pages, enabling click to call phone numbers, receiving images from consumers as a process enabler, ensuring your mobile site loads in under 3 seconds (or 50% of consumers will abandon), and enable ‘mobile channels.’ (Per #2 – SMS as a channel seems like the winning choice!)
4. Innovation – With innovation as the overall theme there were a ton of conversations about where technology is headed. And while we would disagree with the startup founder who projected that your company “will be out of business in 5 years if you don’t take text messages” technology can play a huge enabling role for most processes. But it is worth noting that a presentation on alternative approaches to consumer reimbursement / compensation was also a huge crowd pleaser, not because of the technology but because it was solving a business problem in a way that delivered clear, positive consumer and business outcomes! (I admit that I bring some bias to this – cutting edge technology for its own sake often leads to disappointment – great results come from bringing technology and process together with an end in mind – my video for the SOCAP video contest on this topic is here.)
5. Millenials – I now understand why there are so many articles and talks about the Millenial generation - as of now this is the largest generation in the US, with 80+ million between the ages of 18 and 35. While it seems we can generalize too much about a generation it is absolutely worth remembering that this group is shaped by 9/11 rather than the Cold War, that they don't know a world without the internet, and that student loan debt and the sharing economy will have a large impact on how they consume. It was interesting to hear the extent to which influencer marketing is expected to be a breakthrough tactic for reaching this generation. (Recall that we have shared a number of blog posts on this topic, our own Kyle presented on influencer marketing and demographics at this SOCAP event with a client - we think there is a powerful intersection between influencer/word of mouth marketing and consumer care!)
6. We have the best clients! – In 2017 we mark 35 years in consumer affairs and in SOCAP. It was a real pleasure to have about 80 clients and partners join us for an informal celebration in San Diego! We are fortunate to work with such a great group, innovators and leaders in the profession – pushing us with requests and ideas, and also an extended family, who are a joy to share an evening with.
We look forward to seeing you in 2018 in Baltimore!