We have all seen a range of articles talking about predictions for Customer Experience in 2018. I have waited until the dust has settled from 2017 before giving my views on what might lie ahead this year.
Will we see something new in CX or will it be more of the same? If it is more of the same, then the experience gap that has opened will only get bigger. Forrester have called it ‘A year of Reckoning’; they state that there is “a burning platform mandating bold action” but also that 30% of companies will see further declines in CX quality in 2018.
There are many things that we could see developing or improving in 2018. I will be encouraging companies to dedicate a better application to the 6 E’s of Customer Experience, namely:
ECONOMICS – Knowing what is and what will drive CX performance
Investments in Customer Experience have not always delivered the benefits or improvements that were hoped for. There is an opportunity (partly driven by technology and partly by an attention to analytics) to establish the contribution of CX as a driver of performance vs. other competing business priorities. Leveraging financial and customer data that is now readily available, companies can better correlate and predict ROI and customer (lifetime) value. This will help support the business case for CX and CX related initiatives.
One of the feeds into customer value can be Net Promoter Score (nps) which, In the absence of a better indicator, has become the proxy for customer experience success. When it was conceived, it was based on a link between higher than average nps scores and profitable growth - on average nps leaders grow at more than twice the rate of competitors. However, it has been difficult to link nps score and its drivers i.e. the things that an organisation needs to practically do to see improvements (and therefore see this increased level of growth). For many it is either not the right day to day barometer of CX performance or it should not be used in isolation.
NPS has a role in CX particularly if it is asked along with the “why?” question to establish what is driving promotion and detraction. If it is continually used as a measure of the quality of individual interactions at specific touch points at a moment in time rather than across the entire experience, we will continue to debase its value. There needs to be a rethinking of what suite of CX metrics is pertinent, their purpose and applicability.
EVIDENCE – Leveraging data to engage the organisation
Given the volume, speed and variety of data increasingly available, the focus will be on grappling with both structured and unused, unstructured data to draw real insights that allow businesses to prioritise, assimilate and action.
I predict there is going to be a step back from the vast array of, primarily transactional surveys, and Voice of Customer as we know it. VoC platforms have done a great job at bringing all kinds of sources of data into one repository, but they don’t reveal the full, accurate customer picture. Companies are only just scratching the surface of insight and will begin to leverage cognitive analytics technology to form better ones.
Most tech is merely an enabler. What is done with the data or customer ‘evidence’ is what matters or in reality it has no real value to an organisation. The growing body of customer evidence can not only be used for more Intelligent customer focused action but also to drive the CX agenda. Evidence will be used to engage at all levels in the organisation to continually use a customer lens on all that they do, on a day to day basis.
EMOTION - Acknowledging and embracing customer emotion
Research from Gallup and The Disney Institute has shown that companies that acknowledge and optimise emotional connections with customers outperform their competitors by 26% in gross margin and 85% in sales growth,
According to Forrester, there are three factors that influence customer loyalty: these are ease, effectiveness and emotion. It is emotion that is the primary influencer, stronger than the other two combined.
With brands having their hands on much greater customer feedback they now have the ability to focus heavily on the execution side of CX i.e. hearing what isn’t working practically and fixing it. Time and time again, we hear that customers want to feel more valued, more appreciated.
Making the experience more efficient for a customer may create a good impression temporarily, but it is emotion and empathy that keep people coming back to a brand as highlighted in an earlier publication of ours which spoke of the perils of ignoring customer emotion.
ELEVATION - Moving beyond fixing to innovating
By 2018, according to Gartner, more than 50% of organisations say they’ll shift more of their focus and spend to innovations that improve customer experience.
A heavy focus on execution and on removing friction from the experience has quite rightly helped improve some basic customer issues by removing needless or repetitive niggles from the experience.
No-one wants a ‘flat’ experience unless your business is focused on tasks which have little emotion attached and is highly functional, such as going to the atm. Many experiences have been streamlined and optimised; the effect has been a designing out the ‘troughs’ or pain points, Hoorah! But customers still want high points or peaks. There are always key moments in a customer experience where there is the opportunity to delight, to exceed expectations, to put a smile on the face of a customer, leaving them with a warm (experience) memory. 2018 should see a greater emphasis on creatively elevating key moments in the customer experience to create impactful interactions with customers in their journey.
ENRICHMENT - Engaging fellow humans to enrich the experience
Since organisational success is driven by engaged employees and loyal customers, Temkin believe that it is important to focus on the underlying needs and behaviors of these human beings. That said, they have named 2018 The Year of Humanity and they are encouraging companies to “think about people first in every activity and endeavor.” This is one of my biggest hopes for 2018. 2018 should be about a more human experience on a number of levels.
Companies need to be humanising, and technology enabling, the customer experience. Think higher tech but with more touch. In 2018, there needs to be a better balance or interplay between man and machine. Tech is great at making the experience more efficient and can make it more personalised, but humans have the capacity to make it truly personal. A human touch is needed where empathy is required. I’ve seen the term “hybrid” workforce used recently which, I predict, is the way we are headed.
Recognising and leveraging employees as a business or customer intelligence asset needs to be more widely recognised and accepted in 2018. We will see the rise of ‘Employee listening’, ‘Employee Intelligence’, employee feedback and ‘Voice of Employee’ to tap into their experience of direct customer interactions and how it feels to deliver the customer experience.
Companies need to get better at understanding the internal behaviours that underpin the customer experience that they aim to deliver. Once these supporting behavioural attributes are established, companies can review how well they are currently being delivered and where improvement is needed.
ENFORCEMENT - Turning CX from a discipline to a way of doing business
Finally, CX has been treated as a discipline or worse still, a department. Full company engagement hasn’t been helped by employing temporary practitioners who bring with them tools and methods such as journey mapping. Once the exercise has been done and those helpers have gone elsewhere, these assets are often archived and not embedded into the organisation. CX techniques can be powerful ongoing working practices that the organisation can use to align the entire business and its processes, rather than one off tools.
2018 needn’t be another year of unfulfilled promise. Using the 6 E’s will help your company succeed. Rethinking your CX around my 6 themes will help ensure a Smiling Company and Happy Customers.