By Tim Deluca-Smith, vice president of Marketing, WDS, A Xerox Company

The ability to take care of a customer has become a strong point of differentiation when done right. It is often the attribute that separates success from failure. Given the ease with which bad reviews can travel, 2015 will see many brands shifting into proactive mode — extending a helping hand before customers even ask for it.

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The trends are fast-changing in customer care, with 2015 shaping up to be another transformative year. Experts at WDS have put together their list of the 10 trends that will accelerate most in the next 12 months.

The headline notwithstanding, I present three trends from our report to whet your appetite. Each is accompanied by 90-second videos of Xerox researchers who share related insights from their work. I think you’ll appreciate the insights, and I look forward to continuing this conversation at your leisure.

Mobile-First Support

By the end of 2015, Forrester Research reports, 42 percent of the world’s population will own a smartphone. The ubiquitous device increasingly defines how we communicate, how we travel, how we shop — and how we engage with brands.

If a customer wants to communicate with a brand, it’s increasingly likely to be through a mobile device. Examples: According to the Wall Street Journal, Hilton Worldwide is investing $550 million to optimize their mobile customer experience, from start to finish. During 2014, we also saw Starbucks and Citibank start using mobile experiences to promote customer loyalty.

The challenge for companies will be how to integrate mobile, and all it represents, into a larger ecosystem of contact methodologies. Organizations will be expected to “remember” the context of a conversation that may have spread out across various channels over days, weeks or even months.

Self-Service is Raised in Stature

When engaging a brand for support, today’s customers have an abundance of choices. But not all channels are created equally. You have a 90 percent chance of a successful resolution when contacting a call center; over social channels or Web services, the probability drops to 70 percent.

The reason is quite simple: Customers often can’t find the answer to their problems and also miss out on the benefits of the two-way nature of a conversation.

Machine learning and natural language processing is reinventing our view of self-service and driving new levels of success. A new generation of “teachable” virtual agents will emerge this year that can learn from terabytes of data to provide contextual, relevant responses instantly and with the same accuracy as a live agent in a call center.

Smart Machines Make Their Mark

Great customer care is defined by the ability to provide an experience that is exactly right for each unique customer. But this can be a tall order, particularly for medium-to-large companies.

There are just too many people to meet.

But brands can now lean on smart machines to get better acquainted with their customers, without the limitations of scale. Capable of collecting huge volumes of data and processing this to surface valuable and timely customer insights, at an individual level, brands will be better able to add that personal touch. Harnessing both big and small data processing, tomorrow’s smart customer care technology will listen to big data to spot trends and prioritize appropriate action.

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