2018 is already upon us, and as with every new year, we’re greeted with fresh new challenges, and a slew of new approaches to take them on.
2017 was a year when the Customer Experience took center stage. In 2018, this will be taken up another notch as companies aim to one-up their competitors in the Customer Experience game.
With this in mind, here's a look at 7 Customer Experience trends and predictions that will have a significant impact on how companies will do business in 2018.
- More companies use chatbots as a critical part of the Customer Experience
- Customer feedback analysis goes AI
- Companies crank up their data security efforts
- Customer experience governance enters the maturity stage
- The line between in-store and digital experiences continue to blur
- Companies are finally thinking mobile-first
- RIP: Long and impersonal surveys
Chatbots are taking the customer service world by storm. From booking a hotel room for your next vacation (e.g. Marriott International) to getting support with your account (e.g. Globe Telecom) all the way to providing makeup tips (e.g. Sephora).
Today, there are over 100,000 chatbots currently deployed on Facebook Messenger alone.
In an increasingly mobile world (more on that later), companies are adjusting how they approach the Customer Experience.
The deployment of chatbots allows companies to do just that, typically being deployed in features that their customers regularly use, such as Facebook Messenger or Slack. Plus, with reported increases in customer satisfaction and in response time (PDF), more companies are looking into leveraging this technology to boost their customer service efforts.
With the growing implementation of chatbots as a means to potentially decrease the need for customers to leverage traditional customer service mediums (such as call centers), will customers' inputs into these chatbots become one of the next big sources of customer feedback? Time will tell.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock the past few years, you will know that Artificial Intelligence (AI) is one of the hottest topics today.
AI is already seeping into every aspect of business as companies look for ways to improve their customer experience and deepen relationships with their customers.
One area AI is completely redefining is the analysis of customer feedback, particularly unstructured feedback (also known as “open-ended feedback”).
This type of feedback can offer some of the best insights into what your customers think of their customer experience, but can also require a lot of time to review let alone extract key insights or find emerging trends. AI will alleviate this time hurdle for more companies this year, allowing marketers to reap the benefits of Text Analytics with little to no work required on their part.
As David Roe pointed out in an article for CMSWire:
“The nexus of big data analytics and the various forms of AI, including predictive analytics, machine learning and deep learning should be the catalyst for organizations to exponentially improve customer experience.”
2017 saw a rampant surge of data security breaches that impacted some of the world’s biggest companies including:
- Equifax – Over 100 million Americans’ Social Security and driver’s license numbers (among other personal info) were exposed
- Verizon – 14 million customers’ personal data leaked online
- eBay – Full names and purchase history (inc. highly sensitive products) appearing in Google search results
Being hacked is now the nightmare of every brand. But the lasting impact of these breaches can be devastating.
The study found that people's perception of the Target brand significantly decreased immediately following the breach, including their customers' satisfaction with the brand's customer service, as well as the pricing, selection and quality of their products.
As these findings show, a data security breach can have a significant impact on the Customer Experience. To prevent this, companies are stepping up their game to make sure they, and their customers, do not fall victim to such a breach.
Gartner reported that global cybersecurity spending is expected to reach $93 billion in 2018, as more companies complete upgrades to meet key security certifications, like the HITRUST certification for healthcare organizations. Governments are also starting to put measures in place to protect consumers, such as the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which comes into effect on May 25, 2018.
In our increasingly digital world, data security is an integral part of the customer experience, and rightfully so. As a result, companies will continue to invest in ensuring that their customers' personal data, as well as any data they use to measure the customer experience, is not compromised.
Voice of the Customer (VoC) data provides a direct line for users to share how their interactions with the organization, whether online or offline, impacted their experience. With the Customer Experience being an organization-wide initiative, companies are moving towards democratizing their VoC data to ensure it's always in the hands of the key decision makers.
The C-Suite is the driving force behind any successful Customer Experience program, and instead of just simply advocating to take CX seriously, they are also getting their hands dirty. As a result, companies are combining VoC data with operational and financial data to provide the c-suite with a complete picture of the customer experience.
To help with this added workload and to make sure they get the most out of their VoC programs, more organizations are counting on their VoC solution providers not only for their tools but also their expertise.
Whether it's advice on how to design the VoC program to creating personalized dashboards to doing specific analysis on aspects of the customer experience. With this information in hand, the C-Suite will be better able to point their organization's customer-centric efforts in the right direction in 2018.
The digital and in-store experiences are being seen less and less as mutually exclusive experiences. One can often impact the other, and in fact, they can often complement each other.
For example, some people might examine an item in-store, take out their phone to check out the reviews for that item, then only choose to buy the item online using their tablet when they get back home. Others might simply choose to purchase items online and pick them up in-store when it is more convenient for them.
This omnichannel shopping experience is the new norm, and the lines between the online and in-store experiences will continue to be blurred in 2018. As Rachel Deacon, Managing Director at LIFE, shared with CMO.com:
"...brands will eventually link on and offline behavior to create a consistent and seamless customer experience. The setup of separate dot-com and physical store marketing teams creates silos of knowledge and insight, which is counterproductive to how I, as a real shopper or consumer, experience a brand."
This year will continue to see more companies rethinking the in-store and digital experiences, as well as redefine them as one 'customer experience', and analyze them as such.
It’s no secret that the mobile experience is an extremely important part of the customer experience. People can break out their mobile devices at any time, wherever they are, to interact with any brand they want – a behavior especially seen among millennials.
Customers can now easily switch from desktop to mobile (and vice-versa) as they wish, both contributing significantly to the overall Customer Experience. However, mobile has become the new default.
Mobile now surpasses Desktop in terms of visits, as was predicted by Adobe Digital Insights (ADI) for retail websites during the 2017 holiday season. Statista also reports that in August 2017, Mobile now accounts for half of all web pages served globally, up from 43.6 percent in 2016. This figure even reaches as high as 65.7 percent in Asia in August 2017.
As this data shows, the mobile revolution is indeed in full gear, and so companies are investing more in their efforts to optimize their mobile experience, and in fleshing out their mobile strategy. Summarizing insights provided by Tom Geekie, Managing Director at Jaywing, CMO notes that:
“…mobile strategy goes way beyond a responsive website, even if it is designed mobile-first. User experience [UX], conversion rate optimisation [CRO] and user journeys are critical, plus search engines reward better mobile experiences…”
From gathering customer feedback from mobile users to performing user experience (UX) studies to optimize how mobile users interact with their brand, companies will be putting the mobile experience more front-and-center than ever before.
Customer feedback is a vital part of any marketer’s arsenal when looking for ways to improve the Customer Experience, and can be instrumental in guiding CX professionals’ decisions.
People can be more willing to give you their feedback if you ask them questions that relate to them and their personal experiences with your brand. However, with people becoming increasingly on-the-go, they just don’t have the time to complete comprehensive (a.k.a. “massive”) surveys anymore, especially those that feel “by-the-numbers” and impersonal.
This is why companies will continue to move away from traditionally long and impersonal customer surveys to using more targeted and shorter surveys in 2018.
For example, if a customer completes a purchase on your website, companies are moving away from sending them long surveys about every thought they ever had about your brand, and are instead asking them exclusively about the purchasing process.
This approach provides more flexibility to learn more about their customer experience from different angles, while not requiring as much of a time investment from their customers. After all, when a company launches a customer survey, they must view it as an extension of their brand, and as such, as any other part of the Customer Experience.
Food-For-Thought about the Customer Experience for 2018
In 2018, marketers will continue to have their work cut out for them as they strive to meet their customers' ever-evolving expectations, and offer a Customer Experience that truly stands out from the pack.
Based on the trends and predictions discussed, I felt that the following thought from Laura Gurski, Senior Managing Director at Accenture, shared with CMO.com is a great summary of where we are heading in 2018:
"True differentiation in CX will come from connecting the brand purpose with a more 'human' understanding of customer needs. Know what your role is, know your customer more deeply, and design your channels and ecosystem to deliver on a meaningful brand promise."
Banner image source: Unsplash