This week's blog has been penned by Melanie Howard, leading futures expert and Chair of the Future Foundation - a leading independent global consumer research company that specialises in identifying key consumer trends that may shape the business landscape of the future. Melanie is also a special adviser on future trends to CCA and is working with CCA Industry Council Thought Leadership Forum through 2015 to develop four new future scenarios as to what customer service might look like in the next 3-5 years. This is building on the work we did in 2012 where we produced future scenarios (link here)  that looked 10 years hence to 2022.   

CCA Futures Programme 2015 - The future of complaints management  
The aim of this year’s futures programme is to engage the CCA’s Industry Council in the process of identifying the key areas needed for industry-wide leadership and change in order to foster the most positive business environment for CCA members by 2020. The focus this time will be on the next three years, rather than taking a decade-long view as we did in 2012. Those scenarios helped us talk about underlying trends and the big challenges over the long term. So this year’s new visions will overlay them with shorter term perspectives from which we will derive more practical recommendations for members in a series of blue prints for action which I will be unveiling at Convention in November. 
The first of the four planned workshops was held on 22 January in London at the Which? office in Marylebone with 21 representatives from 17 organisations from CCA Industry Council from both private and public sectors. Starting with a review of 8 specially selected Future Foundation trends to assess which were the most relevant to the subject of future complaints management, it turned out that there was a high degree of consensus amongst the groups.  
The most powerful was considered to be the emergence of the Multi Social Consumer – this describes the way in which individuals are now expanding their social media portfolio, interacting in different ways with different groups and networks, and expecting brands and organisations to be able to respond and reach them appropriately in resolving issues – whatever social media platform they chose to use and with the necessary tools and idioms. For example, SnapChat is being used to recruit serving staff in Sober Land – an interestingly-named pub in Ireland! Given that the next workshop (19th March) will focus on social media, this bodes well for that session as we will be exploring the challenges that this raises for the next three years in more detail. 
The second most relevant trend selected was Living La Vida Data. If big data has been a hot topic already, this trend tells us that it will only get bigger as we go forward with an ever greater onus on the organisation to be able to analyse and assess the signals from customers in real time to provide timely and appropriate support when problems arise. 
The third most powerful trend was considered to be De-Pop! This describes the move to more integrated, flexible and effective artificial intelligence at every interface, progressively replacing human beings and the need for service providers to lead in testing and incorporating these in ways that will smooth the interface and provide a seamless and timely service across all channels in dealing with complaints. 
Building on these trends four narratives for the future of complaints management were developed in teams. Called Open Choice; Anticipate!; Knowing Me, Knowing You and Intuit - these ranged from the need to get consumers more actively involved in personalising their own products and services through open systems and thus reducing the potential for problems and dissatisfaction, to the idea of using biometric sensors and visualisation tools to highlight stress and negative emotions as they arise and deal with them directly. They all provided useful fresh perspective on the future – and will be revisited in subsequent stages of the work. 
Most positively, all the groups felt the trends are pointing to a more central and powerful role for customer service and complaint handling within the organisation of the future – providing there is sufficient investment in the tools and expertise to respond and analyse customer needs and movements, this will become the 24 hour control centre of the brand of the future. Already advertising agency agencies and other comms specialists feel that they are losing out as more activity is managed and integrated from within the heart of the organisation. Power is flowing in the contact centre’s direction – we just need to be able to work effectively to shape and manage the opportunity. Watch this space!
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