2017 was a big year for customer service.

It was a year of lessons. From the Fyre Festival, we learned the importance of keeping your word. From the Equifax hack, we were reminded of how putting profits ahead of customers can seriously hurt your brand.

It was also a year of change. We’ve seen AI and chatbots make big strides. You can now order your morning cup of Starbucks coffee through Facebook Messenger and get notified when it’s ready for pickup. The Messenger bot will also generate and play songs for you through Spotify depending on your mood.

So what’s next for 2018? If stats are any indicator, there’s much more change ahead. By 2020, customer experience will overtake price and product as a brand differentiator.

We’ve enlisted the help of some customer service experts to map out the biggest trends for the coming year.

1) Data-Charged Personalization

“In 2018, we’ll see:

– Emotion-tracking technology: Advances in machine learning have allowed computer software to analyze customer input and determine customer’s emotions. These programs can listen in on phone calls, evaluate how a customer is feeling, and feed this information back to the customer service representative on the line in real-time so that the representative can respond accordingly based on that intelligence.

– Customer data consolidation: With how extensive technology is today, customer data now arrives from a wide variety of sources, such as social media, surveys, live chat systems, and phone calls. Centralized dashboards will increasingly be able to consolidate data from all of these customer touch points to provide a comprehensive view of the customer that helps businesses determine actionable steps to improve the customer’s experience.”

Peter Yang, Co-Founder of ResumeGo

Wondering how to up your personalization game? Here are three examples of personalization done right to get you started.

2) Cloud, Communication, and Talent

“As we look back on 2017 and into 2018 there are some new challenges as a result of new technology platforms, mainly cloud platforms, and customers demanding more ways to communicate with organizations. I see three major challenges that need to be addressed: learning to effectively leverage cloud technologies, managing the growing number of communication channels, and expanding the workforce.

– Leveraging cloud technologies: Cloud technologies allow organizations to achieve things they haven’t been able to before due to financial or resource constraints. With the “pay-as-you-go” model and the elimination of of premise based systems, organizations now have access to a broader set of technologies. Some of these technologies are as basic as workforce management while some are more advanced, like speech analytics. Organizations need to determine which technologies to utilize to improve both the customer and employee experience.

– Managing the ever growing number of communications channels: Customers continue to broaden the range of communication channels that they use to communicate with organizations. And organizations are challenged with providing the same level of service across all of these channels. Organizations must figure out how to address a number of items including: the types of skills agents need across various channels, key KPIs for each channel, and how to support customers pivoting across channels.

– Expanding the workforce: As a result of agents needing a more diverse set of skills organizations must continue to figure out how to expand their workforce. Remote teams are an increasingly popular way of accomplishing this. To build a successful remote work program, organizations must address a number of items including: setting up the proper echnical infrastructure and incentivizing employees to stay engaged.”

CEO, Varun Shoor, Founder of Kayako

3) Still About The Humans

“My predictions for 2018: despite all the new industry buzzwords and CRM technology, in the end, customer relations in 2018 will depend, as it always does, on the customer service representative.

Customer service representatives need to be knowledgeable, courteous, and pleasant when dealing with the customer. Whether over the phone, on the Internet, or in-store, reps need to know the answers and deliver exactly what customers are looking for.

So, forget the technology, my 2018 prediction is your front line customer service people will make the difference.”

Nancy Friedman, President of Telephone Doctor Customer Service Training Inc.

4) Balancing a Human Touch with Automated Support

“There is no end to the number of technologies that make it easy to capture and record individual customer preferences and purchase history. This allows companies to create tailored solutions for their customers that (theoretically) enhance the customer’s experience. However, there is a real desire amongst consumers to have real human interactions. Even though we have the technology to answer their questions, sometimes customers just want to talk to a person — and chat bots aren’t cutting it. This is a real issue that I believe will grow in 2018 and beyond as more companies defer entirely to technology for customer support. We’re mindful of this challenge at Chairish and strive to provide a balance between offering the human support that consumers crave and automated support for efficiency.”

Anna Brockway, Co-Founder and CMO of Chairish

Scaling Into 2018

Whether you’re thinking about chatbots, personalization, or cloud technologies, one thing’s for sure: 2018 is going to be about growth.

$62 billion of business was lost last year to due poor customer service. That’s 50% higher than two years before. This loss isn’t all because brands are providing bad support. It’s also because consumers now have a higher standard for customer support.

Consumers want to be able to talk to brands across multiple channels and devices. They expect brands to know their preferences and to be able to customize experiences based on their needs.

And in 2018, brands will have to find ways to offer that at scale as the digital ecosystem grows more complex than ever before.