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Rating the accuracy of last year's CX predictions - and sharing 12 more for 2023

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With some trepidation, Peter Dorrington revisits the 2022 CX predictions he shared with MyCustomer early last year to score how successful he was. Plus he shares 12 more predictions for 2023. 

13th Jan 2023
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In February of 2022, I wrote an article sharing my CX predictions for 2022. At the time, I could not have anticipated much of what was in store for 2022: The invasion of Ukraine and unprecedented sanctions imposed against Russia, the significant reduction in cheap fuel imported from Russia, contributing to the highest UK inflation rate since early 1992, with a squeeze on the cost of living.

Businesses also continued to suffer from ongoing supply chain disruption, COVID and flu outbreaks putting strain on health services. Three different UK prime ministers in two months and finally, the death of Queen Elizabeth II. In short, it was an unprecedented year.

I won’t be presenting my predictions at CX Summit this year, and it is with some trepidation that I review my predictions for the last year and make 12 new ones for the coming one in this article. 

Last year's predictions for CX in 2022

2022 continued the roller-coaster ride of the previous year and this obviously had an impact on what I thought would be priorities at the time:

  1. That disruption would continue – And COVID indeed continued to disrupt everyday life, especially in the first half of the year. However, some other factors gained importance, such as political instability, economic volatility, and social disruption. Frankly, a lot more significant events occurred than I anticipated. 

  2. We would need to get comfortable with uncertainty – For example, the invasion of Ukraine in February had far-reaching consequences for both business and consumers, and it is still unclear what all the long-term effects will be. As a result. Many businesses have shortened their planning horizons from years to months or even weeks.

  3. The ‘new normal’ would give way to the ‘new exceptional’ – I thought that operating in competitive online marketplaces would force businesses to focus on delivering exceptional experiences, not just competence to differentiate themselves. But many of those businesses have instead focussed on surviving the changing economic landscape.

  4. ESG would go mainstream – And that demand by customers would make businesses more transparent about their impact on the environment and wider society. This has partially happened, but not to the extent that I expected. Many consumers have instead had to focus on dealing with rapidly rising costs and shrinking household budgets.

  5. There would be a rise of ‘values-based’ CX - Going beyond ESG reporting, brands would become increasingly focused on their ‘purpose’ and what customers care about. Some of which has come true, but in some sectors (e.g., entertainment) there appears to be an emerging backlash against ‘virtue signalling’ – especially where consumers suspect that it doesn’t reflect a brand’s true values.

  6. Trust would become a critical differentiator - Customers would place a premium on brands that share their values as well as keep their promises (do what they say they will do). Research continues to support the argument that both trust and empathy continue to be significant contributors to consumer loyalty.

  7. More CX programmes would fall under the CMO - Recognising that ‘customer journeys’ start well before the first interaction, I predicted that more businesses would put CX under the control of the CMO, but I don’t think this happened as much as I expected; instead, more executives are taking a collective approach to CX.

  8. The war for talent and the ‘great resignation’ would hamper recovery and growth – I thought that as economies recovered, more businesses would struggle to fill vacancies with skilled staff or hold on to existing employees. If fact, this was made worse by economic turmoil and many employees changing their work/life priorities, impacting customer-facing roles particularly hard. For example, many older employees retired early and removed themselves from the labour pool (something the UK government is trying to reverse).

  9. CX would span the value chain - CX would become an issue for everyone; suppliers, employees, and partners, as customers hold brands to account for poor / failed performance. This proved to be the case – customer expectations rose and frustration with bad service increased, as customers rejected tired excuses for poor delivery. For example, one poorly performing delivery company routinely refers disgruntled customers back to vendors when they complain about long delays or missing goods, when the problems clearly lie with their inability to deliver.

  10. Increasing costs will drive more transformation - Rising costs, including wage inflation, would make the business case for accelerating digital transformation more compelling, and this proved to be the case. However, resource constraints were also a driver as businesses found growth constrained by a lack of staff.

  11. There would be lots more [bad] automation and AI - A significant number of businesses that introduce automation and AI, would fail to achieve their initial goals or meet customer expectations. In my experience, many companies have successfully introduced automation and AI; partly through necessity, but many still offer a poor online/self-service experience (as I have personally experienced on numerous occasions).

  12. Increased use of first & second-party data – I believed that challenges with accessing reliable 3rd-party data would stimulate more businesses to focus on their own data and data shared with partners. This is still a work in progress; but lots of CX programmes are using now their own data to support operational decision-making and provide deep personalisation.

Overall, mixed results; I think I got about two thirds of my predictions right, but no one anticipated that there would be a conflict on the eastern edge of Europe, or that it would have such a big impact on business, consumers, and the economy.

So, with that in mind, what are my predictions for the coming year?

My 12 CX predictions for 2023

I am going to make some basic assumptions; firstly, the conflict in Ukraine will continue for most of the coming year, secondly, that international sanctions on Russia (and especially on oil and gas exports) will continue and thirdly, that the economic landscape will remain volatile and challenging.

  1. Disruption will continue for the foreseeable future – We find ourselves in a volatile and uncertain world, with new challenges and opportunities arising continuously. In my view, we should view this uncertainty, and the disruption it brings as ‘the new normal’, implying that businesses need to remain vigilant to detect early new disruptive influences and respond quickly.

  2. Address executive priorities – Even though the climate is challenging, many businesses still see plenty of opportunity ahead (especially as competitors fail). However, executives are asking CX professionals to also support their strategic priorities of providing greater agility and resilience, improve efficiency, and to make a strong and measurable return on investment commitment.

  3. Increased focus on affordability – As many consumers concentrate on reducing spending in the face of economic challenges, they will look for cheaper alternatives to traditional brands and offers. Notably, affordability will take over from ‘value for money’ in many households as net household incomes fall in real terms. Consumers will also favour brands that help them stay within budgets, favour that will likely last into the future.

  4. Enhance the employee experience – In my conversations with executives, many of them are concerned that a lack of staff will impact their business plans. Many sectors are reporting challenges with recruitment; new employees ‘quick quitting’, existing employees ‘quiet quitting’ or ‘acting their wage’, or just leaving. Therefore, a focus on improving the employee experience becomes critical to delivering a good Customer Experience by ensure that adequate staff are ready, willing and able to deliver on the brand promise.

  5. Accept that remote / hybrid working is here to stay – Firstly, let me say that I know this is not a (desirable) option for everyone, but that it has changed the world of work for many, affecting staffing, operations and the customer experience. That said, many customers are no longer willing to accept excuses about staff working from home as a rationale for poor customer service. Businesses need to find a workable solution to the challenges of operating in a world where ‘working from home’ is a thing.

  6. Invest in technology enablement – Partly to reflect the desire of many customers to interact with organisations in different ways and via different channels, and partly to reap the rewards of investments in such technology-led initiatives as Machine Learning / Artificial Intelligence or a transition to cloud-based operations – all of which can improve business agility and resilience, as well as deliver an objectively better customer experience.

  7. Increase utilisation of automation – There are two immediately identifiable reasons for this; firstly, that many customers now accept and want the option to ‘self-service’, and secondly to augment the capabilities of over-stretched or inexperienced staff. Whether it be Robotic Process Automation (RPA) for self-service, or Robotic Desktop Automation (RDA) for staff support, automation is high on the business agenda.

  8. Provide additional online customer support – Whilst many customers are willing and happy to self-service, that’s not the case all the time, or for all customers. Furthermore, it is via customer service / support that many customers directly interact with the brand, so it is critical that this is a focus area. Sadly, as I know from personal experience, many organisations are still neglecting customer support and paying the price in lost lifetime revenues; You might save a few pounds in the short-term by not offering the option to talk to a real human, but can you afford the destruction of long-term value?

  9. Be where your customers are now – Many customers are increasingly utilising social media for customer service and it’s often the first port of call when they want to (very publicly) escalate a problem, so it pays to pay attention to it. However, you need experienced staff to make the most of the channel (we’ve all seen the horror stories of a well-intentioned employee damaging a brand’s reputation by a poorly considered or worded post or comment).

  10. Provide more customer service training for employees – As I mentioned above; customer experience (and therefore customer service) is increasingly seen as a business-wide imperative – not just the responsibility of the customer service or sales departments. Therefore, it pays to ensure that all you staff are ready, willing and able to talk to customers when needed; even if they don’t think theirs is a front-line role. This also helps them develop an understanding of why good CX is critical to business success.

  11. Use AI to create a personalised CX – In a recent study by Intercom, three in four US consumers (75%) say that communications that makes them feel valuated is a top or most important factor when doing business with a brand. The data revealed 64% would leave a business if they didn't feel valued and 61% said feeling valued and respected is even more important than fast support response. One way to deliver on this need is to use AI and first-party data to provide a truly personalised customer experience; one that reflects the history between the brand and the customer and what they value as an individual.

  12. Be bold – Finally, even though we may be in challenging times, there is still plenty of opportunity out there. So be bold and take measured risks; try something new because, to paraphrase and misquote Henry Ford “If you always do what you always did, you will no longer get what you always got”. Now is the time to double down on customer experience and look for the new ways you can disrupt your sector and capture market share.

Conclusions

For many organisations, employees and customers, 2022 proved to be a challenging year; the rate and scale of change forced everyone to think again about established wisdom. In my view, 2023 will also be challenging, but present new and exciting possibilities as well.

As we deal with a world that has become more volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous, we are going to increasingly turn to technology and novel methods to deliver on the promise of customer experience. 

Of course, there is a lot I didn’t cover in this article that will be on your personal ‘to do’ list for the year, but I look forward to next year’s retrospective and ‘owning’ my predictions.

 

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