There isn’t one solution to meeting future service needs and with foresight we can build channel ecosystems that serve the changing needs of people both now and in the future.
Growing and maintaining genuine human connection lies at the center of successful services. Leveraging the most relevant physical and digital service channels, at the right time, with the right audiences, is key to this. The 2020 COVID-19 pandemic has proven to organizations and businesses across the globe that their service channels must adapt to the changing world to remain relevant. Understanding future scenarios has never been more important to creating successful channel strategies that work for both people and service providers alike.
EY Seren Research & Insight set out to develop a picture of the world in 2025 to understand how service channels can interplay to create real and valuable human connection.
Like today, channels of the future will face a dynamic environment of technology, service and customer developments. Understanding these themes is vital to developing channel strategies that place people’s needs at their centre.
The past decades have seen unprecedented expansion in digital technologies. From the explosion of mobile technology, to the expansion of internet to 4.5+ billion of the world’s population. Within the next five years, the world will continue to experience exponential technological developments. Alongside this, service structures will evolve; however, the fundamental needs and motivations of customers will remain stable and loyal to existing mental models and scripts.
Technology in 2025
- We are not likely to see a technology step-change that creates totally new service channels, such as smartphones, however the role technology plays in our lives will become more integrated than ever before.
- Artificial intelligence is set to play its biggest role yet for service channels. Transparency in the way it is used, and how it can add value, will be vital.
- Increased access to connected technology will draw people closer than ever before. The future is inclusive and must include more vulnerable people.
Service in 2025
- Growing security threats such as information warfare1 will challenge us like never before. Next wave biometrics will begin to provide reassurances.
- Artificial intelligence and new data exchange relationships will allow consumers to feel more in control of their personal information.
- Designing beautifully concise and simple service experiences will be more important than ever as digital platforms and devices increase in complexity.
- Voice technology will be activated in many households (already within 22% of UK homes)2 as services embrace the technology, and people become more comfortable and trusting.
Customers in 2025
- Fundamental customer needs will remain stable, but perceptions will continue to evolve. Customers will look to feel not just reassured but assured.
- Customers will become increasingly comfortable with ‘leaning-back’ into tech such as voice to automate their lives in new ways such as managing household transactions.
- Increasing unemployment and hardship will increase demand for support. Anxieties will lead to increased habitual monitoring, particularly on mobile devices e.g., checking bank accounts many times a day.
Service channel interplay in 2025
The explosion of connected mobile services and smartphones (71% of all UK online time in 2020 was spent on smartphones2), has pushed app service channels into the limelight. It’s only understandable that alongside this many service providers have prioritized investment in-app experiences - but is their enthusiasm overlooking the value of websites which have built relationships with customers over many years?
In many sectors, some of the most valuable transactions and interactions are still undertaken on websites and will continue to be done so well into the future. The nature of more complex tasks, which carry a risk of error, rely on reference material being to hand, a larger screen, a more comfortable place to sit and dwell, and access to supplementary customer service channels all draw people to websites.
On the other hand, the contexts of routine tasks, which carry less risks of error, and more familiarity all pull people to apps. They provide the ultimate in convenience removing friction and allowing engagement at any stage. This means customer journeys can be shorter and simpler.
Rather than rivals, websites and apps can be seen as siblings, providing different and complementary self-service qualities, within a wider multichannel mix. Moving towards 2025 we anticipate that customers in most sectors will continue to use both app and websites, and that this usage will be driven more by these existing behavioral routines and models, than they will be by emerging technology.
The future of service channel design is not about backing a single service channel. Real, human connection with varied audiences can only be truly nurtured through an omnichannel strategy that plays to the strengths of each channel to meet the needs of customers. Within the digital world of channels there is a lot of debate between whether websites or apps represent the future. The truth is that they will both continue to offer customers significant value, and both need investment in different ways to provide human experiences that have impact.
This article was informed with research conducted by EY Seren Research & Insight during June and July 2020. A mixed methodology of desk research, remote qualitative interviews and data analytics were used to uncover a range of signals for the future. Although futures studies are not able to produce totally accurate and complete information about the future, they are valuable tools for bringing the future to bear on current thinking and decisions.