In 2019, the heat will be turned up on Customer Experience (CX) professionals to design positive, memorable experiences that will attract new consumers, and keep existing customers from fleeing to their competition.
This will require CX professionals to look into ways they can empower their brands and employees to best deliver these experiences. Opening up new ways for departments to collaborate, reconsidering some of the ways they have traditionally done things internally, finding new ways to take advantage of emerging technologies; 2019 (and beyond) will be a challenging, if not an exciting time for CX professionals across all industries.
Here are five Customer Experience trends on which I think CX professionals must keep an eye (and hopefully capitalize) on this year.
- Closing the loop becomes crucial as ever
- Data consolidation becomes a must
- The omni-channel customer journey takes a front seat
- Data privacy becomes an even-greater sticking point
- Brands will prioritize experience measurement with emerging tech
Every brand interaction can impact someone’s opinion of their Customer Experience and of the brand itself – sometimes for the better, other times for the worse. The fact that 32 percent of customers stop doing business with a brand they love as a result of one bad experience goes to show just how quickly customer loyalty can evaporate in today's marketplace.
This has increased the need for brands to not only collect intelligence and customer feedback in the moment of truth (immediately following a key experience), but also to quickly close the feedback loop. That is, following up with those who provide feedback to help ensure a positive experience with the brand.
Accenture estimates that $1.6 trillion is lost in the US as a result of poor customer service. Suffice it to say; brands need to be able to act and react quicker than ever before to ensure a positive and personalized experience.
More CX professionals will realize the importance of closing the loop on their customer feedback, and put in place the infrastructure to better inform employees in real-time so they can take immediate action.
In 2019 and beyond, with the Customer Experience increasingly becoming a differentiator among competing brands, it will be especially crucial for employees to have the tools necessary so that they have the opportunity to temper bad experiences that otherwise may be irreversible if no immediate action is taken.
Incorporating customer feedback into Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems, for example, will power these efforts. This will provide client-facing employees and CX professionals alike a direct pipeline that will allow them to more easily identify ‘problem’ experiences that need to be remedied right away, and have a continuous source of insights as to how they can fine-tune specific aspects of their customer experience.
You can't close the loop, let alone design the 'total' customer experience within which your closed-loop efforts exist, without leveraging your different customer data sets together. Not very well, at least.
CX professionals need access to the right insights that will help them better understand the customers for whom they want to design positive, thoughtful experiences. In particular, experiences that would help reduce the number of issues that would necessitate you closing the loop.
As Stacy Martinet, VP of marketing strategy and communications at Adobe told CMO.com in their article, "The 5 Biggest Marketing Trends For 2019":
“One common denominator among today’s most innovative companies is a unified view of the customer, pulling data from across multiple sources... It’s going to take a mix of creativity and intelligence to stand out."
A company’s Customer Experience efforts, as well as the creativity and intelligence to which Stacy Martinet refers, are only as good as the collaboration that exists between its departments. This requires breaking down the data silos that may exist between departments, especially as it relates to information that would allow CX professionals and key stakeholders to better understand the ‘Who, What, When, Where, Why and How’ of their consumers.
In 2019, CX professionals will increasingly recognize the need to move away from a fragmented view of the customer to a more complete one.
A survey by Econsultancy found that less than half of the marketers have a well-organized or centralized system for collecting and analyzing customer data. By integrating more customer feedback into other key customer data sources, CX professionals will continue to gain the insights necessary to fill in many of the blanks that would have otherwise required them to make a lot of assumptions as to how their customers feel about their experience (and how to improve it).
“Customers don’t care about terminology [omnichannel]; all they care about is being able to connect with the brand however they want to… They just want the most convenient (to them) way to connect to the company and get what they want – quickly and easily." - Shep Hyken in his article for Forbes, "Ten Customer Service/Customer Experience Predictions for 2019"
From the time we research a product, all the way to the moment we need product support, we’ll most likely be switching from channel to channel if it means a more convenient, comfortable customer experience.
Every person has their preferences for how they want to travel along their customer journey, which translates to potentially millions of different customer journeys that CX professionals must consider. Defining the overall landscape on which all of these journeys will unfold undoubtedly remains a top challenge for CX professionals today.
As Shep Hyken’s quote above alludes to – we as consumers expect brands to offer us an experience that gives us the freedom to do what we need in whatever way we want. Not to mention, they need to do it well, too, if they are going to keep us as customers.
CX professionals will become more attuned to their customers’ multi-device and multi-channel behavior and increasingly realize the need to design a seamless, omni-channel experience.
There will be increased pressure on CX professionals to deliver a tremendous omni-channel experience. One of the keys to designing a seamless, smooth and memorable Customer Experience is to know precisely what customers need, expect and prefer at each stage of the customer journey, and so the onus will be primarily on brands to put the measures in place to obtain this business intelligence.
The GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) was one of the hottest topics of 2018, impacting how brands approach customer data. Coming into effect on May 25, 2018, it required many brands to reconsider how they go about collecting and managing the personal information for their customers and visitors in the EU.
While this regulation focuses on data security for EU residents, it’s safe to assume similar regulations may be passed worldwide (including in the US). People are becoming more informed and guarded about how their information is collected and used, especially when major data breaches are frequently being reported.
Brands must adapt to ensure and solidify the trust of their customers and visitors, all while ensuring they have the data necessary to design great experiences for them.
Brands will continue to invest time and effort into adjusting their offerings to customers, who are becoming increasingly wary of how their information is collected and used.
Permission-based sources of customer insights like customer feedback, or what Forrester refers to as "zero-party data", will become a must-have for any marketer in this new, security-centric climate.
Make sure to check out our post, “Why Voice of the Customer Research Will Be Even More Important in the Age of GDPR”, to learn more about this.
Artificial intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT), augmented/virtual/mixed reality - there is a reason that we are all consistently seeing these topics being discussed. Emerging technologies like these promise to change not only how people interact with the world around them, but also how brands do what they do.
It feels like we are only scratching the surface of what these technologies can do.
"As consumer-facing technologies and channels continue to accelerate—from voice skills to connected experiences—the ways in which we interact with these technologies will create new consumer behaviors and expectations." - Mel Edwards, Global CEO at Wunderman (via CMO.com)
Gartner has previously forecasted that consumers worldwide will have 12.9 billion Internet of Things (IoT) units installed in 2020. A study by HubSpot also revealed that over half of internet users feel most (if not all) searches will be done by voice in the next five years. These two findings alone (and there are more out there) help paint a picture of how the standard customer journey, and how people travel across it, may become notably different, or more mainstream, than what is commonplace now.
The inevitable advent of new and increasingly-powerful technology will always present Customer Experience professionals with more complex challenges when trying to design memorable experiences that will help their brands stand out. However, this technology will also provide brands with new opportunities to get closer to the actual experience and hear from their visitors and customers about their experiences.
CX professionals will look into ways to leverage emerging and increasingly-mainstream technologies to get closer to understanding their customers’ experiences as they happen.
As brands fight for every inch on the battlefield that is the Customer Experience, they will seek out new ways to incorporate into emerging technologies like IoT in search of ways to get closer to the “in-use experience”. In turn, this may help unlock new insights that CX professionals need to have a step up on their competition.
This is examined in more detail in this post: The Internet of Things, Voice of the Customer, and Understanding the In-Use Experience.
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