CX trends are no substitute for customer listening

10th Aug 2022

On customer-facing websites, we have all got used to a familiar presence: the brightly-coloured button the corner that says ‘Let’s chat!’ This is the symbol of a fast-growing market – the conversational AI industry, which powers these ubiquitous chatbots, is set to almost treble in size by 2026. That’s no surprise: anyone working in customer experience (CX) would acknowledge the important role bots have to play in ensuring customer queries are answered quickly, accurately and easily.

They would likely also agree that personalisation in CX is a very relevant trend and that the possibility of using virtual settings (such as the nascent metaverse) to ramp up engagement is an interesting one. These are all developments that rightly demand attention. Yet sometimes I tire of the constant focus on what is coming round the corner, and worry that it distracts CX people from what is right in front them.

It is important that the desire to future-gaze doesn’t lead to navel-gazing. We don’t want to spend so much time talking about transforming the experience that we forget about the other half of the CX equation: the customer herself. 

The question I find myself asking other leaders most is “what about the customer?”. It sounds so incredibly obvious. Something that does not even need to be said, right? But it does. When you are designing a new product, fine-tuning a service, or overhauling an interface, you only need to forget about the customer for a second to risk losing them altogether. 

The idea of customer-centricity is easy, but the implementation is hard. It requires a consistent, relentless focus. And it means asking that obvious question until the customer is no longer an afterthought.

As we have rebuilt our CX programme over the last year at F5, it’s certainly the question I’ve spent most of my time thinking about and challenging people with. 

A big part of the CX process entails embracing, and deploying, new technologies. For example, we’re already seeing how AI can play a significant role in amplifying the voice of the customer and helping us to hear it more clearly. The traditional approach to analysing customer feedback data is tedious, slow, and subjective. AI enables us to rapidly process all the data we collect and derive insights in minutes rather than countless hours. That is technology doing what it does best: working as an enabler to achieve a defined business objective. 

Yet, while new technologies like AI are rich with game-changing promise, they must be fuelled by customer wants and needs. The most outstanding experience in the world will still fail if it hasn’t been focused with laser precision on the questions the customer wants to ask and the information they want to access. When that hasn’t been done, technology becomes more irritant than enabler – just a more exquisitely designed barrier to the customer’s objective.

That’s why my focus isn’t AI, delightful micro experiences, or the metaverse. The technologies we use to listen and respond may change, but our focus never should. It’s always been about the customer, and it always will be.

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