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The future of customer experience

10th Jan 2022
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The future of CX
Image by Computerizer from Pixabay

Customer Experience has become a top priority for businesses, and 2022 will be the year that companies start to make big changes in this area as we enter a new phase of the pandemic - recovery.

There can be no doubt that the pandemic has changed consumer behaviour forever. The way they search, engage, purchase, and seek support has seen rapid shifts, which have major implications for all businesses. It’s not just about marketing, it’s about building a business that can respond to this new reality.

On the 27th of January 2022, the CX Summit returns with over 25 CX professionals and thought leaders discussing the future of Customer Experience. Below are just some of the challenges (and opportunities) we will be discussing:

How to capitalise on digital transformation & AI

According to some reports, only about one-third of companies are leveraging digital transformation to create innovative business models and revenue streams that reflect the new reality of changed customer behaviour. In other words, whilst the potential demand is huge, many companies are not able to make the most of it.

One of the main reasons for this is that many companies do not have a clear vision or strategy for digital transformation. This is not surprising as the digital transformation process is often highly complex, and organisations are still trying to find a balance between what they already have and what they need; whilst others simply adopted a solution that met their short-term needs without having the luxury of time to consider long-term implications.

Utilising new data and analytics to address changes in customer behaviour

Very early in the pandemic we saw many businesses move online to be where their customers now were; the most obvious case being retail and fashion. But many of these 'new' customers were not 'digital first' and were online through necessity, rather than choice. Furthermore, their motivations and behaviour were and are very different. The result has been a failure of historic data to predict the behaviour of this cohort, and an absence of new data that can be used to develop reliable models of the future.

In addition to these challenges, the upcoming demise of 3rd-party cookies will mean that businesses will have to look more to their own (1st-party) data than ever before. Hitherto many were so focused on cookies and 3rd-party research that they forget about the most important data source: their own 1st-party data.

Cultivating organisational cultures that place customers in the centre of all operations

This can be a difficult task, especially in the face of continuing operational challenges. But the companies that have achieved this are reaping the rewards of being able to engage with their customers in a way that is meaningful and rewarding for both parties, including over digital channels.

But changing an organisation's culture can be difficult; it is not uncommon for many employees to be reluctant to change their behaviour without a compelling reason to do so. There are several reasons for this, including not understanding the need to change, being afraid of what change may mean for them, or simple inertia.

Delivering a hybrid customer experience that works

With the exponential rise in the use of digital experiences, it would be easy to think that all customer needs can now be satisfactorily met using Robotic Process Automation (RPA) or via self-service through digital channels. But one research study after another is showing that this is simply not the case.

Many customers, having discovered the convenience of digital, will undoubtably prefer to use that channel in the future, but that does not mean they will want to use it for everything, others will return to their familiar habits as soon as they can conveniently do so.

No matter what channel consumers choose to use, their expectation of the brand will space across them; they do not expect to be treated any less well on one channel than any other. Businesses then must examine how best to deliver a high quality, consistent experience that meets the expectations of their customers, irrespective of the channel they choose to use.

Re-engineering automation & technology to deliver deep personalisation and empathy

I have been fortunate to be involved with several research projects over the last two years that examined what customers really want from businesses, and one thing comes up every time is to be treated as a human being. Unfortunately, too many businesses are still focused on the product or service they deliver, rather than the experience the customer perceives they receive.

There are undoubtably operational and cost benefits to be had by simplifying and automating many customer-facing processes, and technology can do a lot to reduce the workload of customers, suppliers, and employees alike. But businesses must never forget that people are more than just 'cogs' in a machine, they expect more than a simple ‘transactional’ relationship.

We must use technology to firstly listen to what people are telling us about themselves, then to understand what they need and expect from us, before using yet more technology to deliver it.

At Anthrolytics, when using technology to do this, we call it Digital Empathy™ - understanding what people care about and why, so that we can anticipate their needs and provide them with the best possible response and meeting both their emotional as well as functional needs.

Demonstrating the value of Customer Experience

Before the pandemic, many CX professionals were having to work hard to demonstrate the Return on Investments made in CX programs and this could sometimes be difficult to do. During the pandemic, many CX programs suffered as attention (and budgets) were shifted to meeting more immediate operational needs, such as moving the business online or enabling remote working.

However, after 18 months, most of those operational challenges have been met, and whilst there are still plenty of new challenges ahead, many businesses have started to look ahead, seeing opportunity in meeting pent-up demand as consumers get back to consuming.

But business leaders are still cautious, as Delta and Omicron have shown us, we are far from being in a stable 'next normal'. Therefore, whilst having an increased appetite for transformation (partly to maintain resilience and agility in the face of ongoing uncertainty) they expect all programs to have a solid business case. CX Leaders therefore must be able to demonstrate the bottom-line impact of their programs and do so at a time where we are all still learning what the future may hold.

The war for talent and 'the great resign'

Finally, one of the main concerns of executive teams today are the obstacles that inhibit an organisation's ability to meet an increase in demand. Included within that is a shortage of people to resource the operations of the business, including Customer Experience programs and initiatives.

After nearly two years of disruption to the 'normal' ways of doing things, many businesses are finding it hard to recruit and keep the people they need to design and deliver the exceptional customer experiences that will set them apart from their competition as economies recover and begin to grow again.

Whilst many of us have pointed out the maxim that 'a good customer experience needs a good employee experience' some were slow to recognise the importance of becoming not just the 'vendor of choice' but also the 'employer of choice'.

The future of Customer Experience

In the preceding paragraphs, I have laid out some of the topics that we will discuss at the CX Summit. There are many more and I hope that you will join me for a full day of presentations, discussions, and debates about what will enable businesses to not only survive in the 'next normal' but to excel and thrive.

You can register for the CX Summit here: http://www.eventora.com/en/Events/cxsummit-2022 and if you use the code "cxspeakers" you get 30% off the ticket price

The Greek version of this article can be read here: http://marketingweek.gr/to-mellon-tis-ebirias-pelati/

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