Customer experience (CX) has been already a hot topic in business during 2017 and is promising to be even of higher importance in 2018. “CX transformation is no longer a nice-to-have, it's a necessity” – concludes Forrester, one of the most influential research and advisory firms in the world. It’s predicted, that by 2020 customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator when making consumer choices.
We were curious to know what CX professionals should pay attention in the coming year and asked the leading CX experts for their opinion.
That’s what we asked each of them:
- How do you see the future of customer experience?
- What are, in your opinion, the top challenges in customer experience that companies should be aware of in 2018?
- How to overcome those challenges?
Some hints: big data, omnichannel, personalisation, AI and organizational culture.
Read the full answers:
Ian Golding, CCXP, CX Consultant and Trainer
“CX is at a very interesting point in its evolution. There is no doubt that across most industries, the end-to-end CX has improved over the last twenty years. Much of the improvement has been driven by advancements in product innovation and digital technology. HOWEVER, I also argue that despite that, too many consumers continue to endure ‘random’ or ‘unexpected’ experiences as a result of the inconsistent delivery of the end-to-end customer journey.
Too many organisations are still focused on ‘making money first’, with the customer coming a distant second. That is why although CX is evolving, it is doing so far too slowly – hence the need for CX Professionals and anyone with a passion for CX, needing to continue building a revolution within companies to get those business leaders who still do not understand the fundamentals of CX to wake up and smell the coffee. As more industries continue to be disrupted by smaller, more agile, niche specialists who are better able to meet the needs and expectations of customers, larger, legacy businesses are at serious risk of losing relevance with their customers and potentially ceasing to exist.
In my opinion, three things that are essential for CX in 2018 include:
Restoring trust – 2017 has seen more examples of organizations continuing to fail to meet basic customer expectations. In Europe, the Ryanair debacle is the most prominent case of all. In 2018, all brands across all industries are going to have to work hard to restore trust with the everyday consumer.
Value for Money – we live in a world where disposable incomes continue to be challenged on an annual basis. Consumers will continue to look for brands that offer the best value for money for the ‘end to end’ experience. That includes how much it costs to deal with things when they go wrong.
Honesty and transparency – the brands that continue to do what is right for their customer, when things go right and wrong, are the brands that will continue to flourish in 2018 and beyond.”
James Dodkins, CX Revolutionist, Keynote Speaker and Author
“I see the future of customer experience being ‘hyper-personalisation’, moving away from process standardisation and towards experience personalisation. Understanding that each customer and each experience will be different every time and creating your business to incorporate, embrace and excel at this.
The biggest challenge, in my opinion, will be trying to meet all of these new customer demands within industrial age organisation structures, structures that were never designed to deal with ‘customer experience’ let alone the customer experience of the 21st century.
How to overcome those challenges? Stop organising by function and skill set, start organising by ‘ability to deliver customer success’ create ‘experience teams’ of people with different skills and different core competencies that can manage the entire customer life cycle and reward them together for the achievement of customer success, not completing tasks and activities.”
Blake Morgan, Customer Experience Futurist, Keynote Speaker, Author
"The future of customer experience is around providing tailored and personalized customer experiences. Customers want you to know them. At this point we have the technology and data prowess to actually know our customers - and predict their needs - but we still aren't there yet. With advanced data and personalization, we should be able to provide truly personal and omnichannel experiences to customers. As more companies figure out how to do this, in the future customers will demand it or leave.
The first challenge is the focus for most companies on quarter profits. Once we stop obsessing over wall street and quarter to quarter how we are perceived - we will be able to achieve transformational growth. But that requires being misunderstood for long periods of time. Consider the words of Laurence Fink, co-founder and Chief Executive of BlackRock with 4.6 trillion in assets recently said, “Today’s culture of quarterly earnings hysteria is totally contrary to the long-term approach we need."
How to overcome those challenges?
Talk to your board. Find someone to champion customer experience at the c-suite and give them influence and resources to actually get things done”.
Chip R. Bell, Customer Loyalty Keynote Speaker, Trainer, Author.
“We will continue to struggle with the proper balance between technology and people. Many organizations are currently enamoured with the promise of technology and big data. However, research shows most customers still value an emotional connection with the people fronting the organization.
With rising customer expectations, good service is no longer good enough. Customers want unique, special and innovative. Organizations will want quantitative justification of their investment in great customer service. Organizations will continue to look for more effective ways of gaining real-time customer intelligence rather than rear-view-mirror methods like surveys. All will take leadership deeply committed to customer experience as a significant marketplace differentiator.”
Adam Toporek, Customer Service Expert, Speaker and Author
“The future of customer experience will involve finding ways to use technology to create and maintain positive emotional connections with customers. Despite the human brain’s remarkable inability to distinguish the artificial from the real, organizations will still need to find the magic balance between technology-faced and human-faced experiences.
The shifting sands of artificial intelligence will keep many organizations on unsure footing in 2018. For larger organizations, the top customer experience challenge will be figuring out how to strategically invest for the present while staying nimble for the future. For smaller orgs, the challenge will be figuring out how to gain and sustain competitive advantage in the face of larger competition that is able to use technology to deliver faster, more personal experiences at significantly less cost.
For larger organizations, the best path is to focus on the current experience while keeping an eye to the future. You don’t need to worry about being left behind in five years if you can’t keep your customers for the next five weeks. Smaller organizations need to maximize their competitive advantage by delivering experiences that larger orgs can never truly emulate, no matter how good their technology.”
Diane Magers, CEO at CXPA
“Customer Experience has been a catalyst for organizational change. As we understand the customer’s varied interaction with our brands, their needs and wants, it has shaken the foundation of many organizations – the way they work, how they make decision, how they collaborate, how they use data, how they build products and services. The focus on acquisition, scores and fixing issues has been replaced with outside disruption, market ecosystem expectations (i.e. Blockchain, GDPR) and coordination. This will push more aggressive change driven by Customer Experience professionals.
Organizations will have to rethink how work gets done. Organizational alignment will be most critical – both internally and to the market and customer expectations.
A talent shortage will be evident. Not just talent in general, but workers with cross functional skills, collaborative and design skills.
Data, digital and technology transformation will be critical and many organizations have only scratched the surface to keep from becoming just a functional utility.
Successful organizations will drive deep, orchestrated transformation rather than just fixing customer issues or tracing scores. It will require experience professionals to help drive more collaboration and alignment of operations, measures, metrics, processes, governance, workflow – true and real strategic organizational transformation.
Aggressive action will be required for many organizations – business model changes, more extensive rigor on digital enablement, acute awareness of customer behaviour in the market and knowledge of ever changing impacts on organizations (i.e. data security, gig economy, AI, machine learning).”
Rüdiger Pläster, Executive Managing Director at ORT Medienverbund
“I do see a bright future of all facets of CX. Never underestimate the customers expectation in CX. It will be growing and growing. Once the customer had a positive CX, it will set a new benchmark. It will also be thrilling to see how UX, customer centricity and empathy will be connected to the field of AI. 2018 will be the year of CX and AI.
Finding talents that understand the challenge and will be able to work on the ongoing convergence of analog and digital, will be still the top challenge. Also, companies really need to transform their structures to reflect customer centricity. This includes breaking down silos, which is still an issue. Let’s think in customer touchpoints instead. As I often refer to in my presentations: CX is not a package tour, it’s an expedition.
Don’t underestimate culture. Plan transformation, reflect what business case makes it necessary, and take your co-workers and customers with you, that’s what we are doing. Start experimenting, build your hypothesis, fail fast and learn – and start all over again. A lean and agile culture will definitely support you in that matter. We call it discovery and delivery track – internally we call ourselves the “dual track agency."
Jeremy Watkin, Director of Customer Experience at FCR
“Customer experience doesn’t begin with awe and delight as much as we love reading about this on social media. It’s about bringing all groups within an organization together with a focus on making each experience more effortless for customers. This is hard work but it’s that work that ultimately brings about happy, loyal customers. More and more companies will focus on having top leaders who are instrumental in bringing everyone together.
We will continue to hear more about artificial intelligence and chatbots in the coming year. When it comes to using technology to allow customers to self-solve issues, some companies automate too much and some don’t automate enough. These new technologies are here to stay and we’re wise to vet and implement them carefully, testing frequently to ensure they are truly improving the customer experience rather than detracting from it.
How to overcome those challenges?
Three words: voice of customer. With any changes and enhancement to the product or service, it’s critical to keep a finger on the pulse of the customer. Customer surveys, deep dives into customer service contacts, and conversations with key customers are great ways to fuel continuous improvement. I’ve asked many customer service professionals and customers alike for their feedback and have never had a shortage of insights for improving the customer experience.”
What do you think is the future of Customer Experience? Download our guide to CX to know more.