7 Things We Learned from Astute Connect 2018

customers gathered at astute connect

During the last week of September 2018, Astute was pleased to welcome more than 150 of our customers and partners to our hometown of Columbus, Ohio for our Astute Connect Customer Conference. We’ve been hosting Connect events for more than a decade, but this was the first time in many years we had been able to host here at home, with our global headquarters minutes away from the conference venue. It was also the first Connect Customer Conference we hosted since joining forces with Wilke Global, another leader in customer experience technology and solutions.

It was a whirlwind event full of lively social gatherings, informative workshops and roundtables, and break-out sessions covering everything from AI in the call center, to building better reports, to keeping your social customer engagement game sharp. Here are seven things we learned from this year’s conference that we’ll be carrying forward through the end of this year and into 2019:

1. Change is the Only Constant

If there’s one thing that’s consistent across every level of customer experience, it’s that things are changing rapidly and will continue to do so. Astute CEO Ray Carey discussed these ongoing evolutions in his kickoff keynote, addressing the shift that most brands are experiencing from traditional retail distribution models to more direct ecommerce engagements directly with consumers. Carey also covered a major customer experience trend we’ve been seeing over the last several years: the transition of CX practices – particularly social media interactions – from a company’s marketing department to their consumer affairs or customer care teams. Change has been a big part of the industry for years now, and it’s critical for us to be prepared and to help our customers and partners meet those ongoing challenges.

2. By 2020, Everything Could be Different

So if everything is changing, imagine what CX could be like in 2020! Astute CTO Alex George did just that as he discussed the changes major consumer brands have experienced over the last year and revealed his projections into what the customer of 2020 will look like. CX professionals can expect to be dealing with more informed customers than ever, customers with a broader ecosystem of needs that go beyond a single experience. Personalization is going to be the key to unlocking those connections and delivering experiences that set your brand apart.

3. Everyone Needs Insights with Impact

One major element of delivering the bespoke interactions customers expect now and into the future will be the quality of data brands are able to capture and how they deploy that data into real-life applications. Astute hosted a series of customer roundtables as well as a targeted focus group on this theme and heard that reporting is still a major challenge for many of customers as they look for ways to dig deeper into customer data for actionable next steps. Now that we’ve been collecting all this customer data, we need more efficient ways to understand the insights, using visualizations, trend analysis, and more to get the full story behind the metrics.

4. Social Is No Longer the Shiny New Thing

In the span of less than a decade, social media has gone from a fun, casual novelty technology into a real, integrated platform for engagement that brands need to maximize if they want to attract and keep their core audiences. As such, we heard from many of our customers that they’re treating social engagements just like they would a phone call or a direct email, with processes for direct responses and tools to incorporate these social interactions into their CRM databases. With the rise in new channels and new audiences for each, brands are looking to be more conversational with their social strategies and more relevant to ensure these customer relationships are built to last.

5. Automation is No Longer a “Nice-To-Have”

Automation is a must-have for more efficient and engaging customer experiences across just about every platform. Customer self-service technology is helping many Astute customers deliver the results their consumers are looking for without the need to engage with a live agent – which is what many digital-oriented consumers prefer. Companies using chatbot technology are realizing that it can put customer support front-and-center on the brand website, preventing them from being relegated to a dark corner of the site or the bottom of a page. This kind of focus on interactive support is what consumers are craving, and automation gives them those options while allowing live agents more flexibility to tackle tougher, more complex issues.

6. Innovation is Better When It’s a Hands-On Experience

At this year’s Connect Conference, Astute hosted our first Innovation Experience Open House at our office headquarters, giving customers a chance to meet the teams of developers and other experts helping them change the face of the customer experience. From going backstage to see how the Astute Conference Bot was built, to using voice assistants for meal delivery, to coaching customers on how to achieve next best action, attendees got a closer look at how the Astute team is working to deliver on the next big innovations on the horizon for CX technology.

7. “Better Together” Isn’t Just for Reese’s Cups

Beyond the Astute Connect theme of “Rockin’ Customer Care,” our overarching theme for 2018 has also been “Better Together.” Not only does this apply to delicious peanut butter and chocolate candy, but it’s been a key guiding principle as we’ve been welcoming Wilke Global customers and employees to the Astute family. Beyond that, we truly believe that we can help brands deliver awesome customer experiences by working together to create solutions from the most advanced technologies available. Whether it’s AI or CRM, Social or Knowledgebase support, all of these solutions truly work better together than they do alone.

That’s the key message we at Astute will be carrying forward into 2019 and beyond, one that was clearly solidified among our customers and partners at this year’s Astute Connect Customer Conference. It’s going to be challenging at times as trends and technologies keep evolving, but we can’t wait to see what the future of customer experience holds because we know that we can all make CX better together.