The three topics that shaped the CX world in 2022by
We look at three of the main topics that have characterised 2022 and what they have meant for CX programmes around the world.
Disruption continues to be the theme, as the chaos caused by the pandemic has receded, only to be replaced by a new set of challenges for today’s customer experience leaders.
Let’s take a look at three of the main trends that have characterised 2022 and what they have meant for CX programmes around the world.
The cost-of-living crisis
If COVID was the villain of the piece for 2020 and 2021, inflation has arguably been the bogeyman for 2022. Families around the world are struggling to make ends meet as fuel bills and food prices have skyrocketed. The impact on customer experience management has been borne out in a number of recent research studies.
A survey by the Ello Group found that customer trust was plummeting as brands have been forced to raise prices, with almost a third (30%) of respondents saying that rising costs are impacting their trust in brands. As a result, one in five consumers revealed that they have switched supermarket, energy supplier, or mobile phone provider in the last 12-months.
Indeed, customer loyalty has been another casualty. Research by the Data & Marketing Association (DMA) found that 41% of consumers claim that they feel less loyal to brands and companies than they did a year ago.
“The next few years are likely to be tough – the outlook is certainly looking grim at the present time,” said REaD Group’s Scott Logie of the findings. “However, consumers still want to be loyal to the brands they love, and they want to retain the habits they have built up. But that may not be possible, so offers and cheap prices are likely to become more and more attractive.”
But worse was to come. A study from October found that rather than brands upping the ante with their customer service in order to tackle consumer attrition, service standards were actually on the slide.
A consumer survey by People 1st International suggests that customers feel that the standard of customer service they had received in the last 12-18 months had worsened. People 1st International believes this point to ‘skimpflation’ - a phenomenon whereby inflationary pressures and squeezed profit margins force firms to cut corners.
Disinterested staff and chatbots replacing human interactions were amongst the most commonly cited complaints of respondents who thought that the standard of customer service offered by firms is in decline.
“In times of recession, training and development budgets are often the target of cost-cutting, but failing to invest in your people can be damaging to business finances in the long-run,” said Jane Rexworthy, executive director at People 1st International.
“Our survey is clear what UK consumers value the most: well-trained, knowledgeable and happy staff. With that in mind, I urge consumer-facing businesses to continue to invest in their people and carefully consider the impact of any potential cutbacks on the customer experience.”
In her article on the importance of CX during the cost-of-living crisis, Kantar’s Chloe Woolger noted: “In the face of rising costs, extreme geopolitical circumstances and limiting supply chains, it’s understandable that many businesses are on the hunt for ways to reduce costs. Cuts to customer experience may feel like an easy way to protect against the worst impacts of the economy, but businesses need to take a long-term view.
“CX is an essential differentiator – building loyalty, helping people see the value of paying higher prices and agree to changes to service where necessary. What’s important is that brands are willing to be transparent and keep an open dialogue with their customers, keeping them engaged as the landscape changes.”
Indeed, investing in CX and investing in staff seems to be the sensible course of action. But another trend this year indicated that some staff could be beyond saving…
Throughout 2021 and into early 2022 there were major concerns that contact centres and customer service frontlines would be stretched beyond their means by ‘the great resignation’, a global trend with people taking the initiative and looking for new opportunities following the cumulative pressures of lockdown, working from home and general job dissatisfaction. Indeed, one UK recruitment survey suggested that as many as a quarter of UK employees were planning to change their jobs in the first three to six months of 2022.
Fortunately, while job movement was certainly up, this dramatic level of disruption didn’t manifest itself in the end. But this was instead replaced by another employment trend that threatened to be just as damaging - quiet quitting.
“Rather than slowly quitting your job as its name would suggest, quiet quitting involves doing the very bare minimum at work, essentially quitting the idea of progression, work ethic and going above and beyond,” explained Stephen Holliday, CEO of Level, recently. “For those unhappy in their current roles, this is the strategy they’re taking to restore work/life balance.
Quiet quitting is happening, and it is disrupting the business world as we know it, and especially in contact centres.
“They know they won’t lose their job as their skill set is hard to replace. They don’t want to leave until they’ve found a new position, or they don’t want to face the stress of trying to find a new job. Quiet quitting is a happy medium, and the easiest way to cope with the pressures of work.”
But for customer service teams and contact centres, it presents a real problem. According to Salesforce, 71% of service agents considered leaving their jobs in the recent past, many of whom have skills and experience that will be difficult to replace quickly.
“For the contact centre industry, it’s a worrying trend,” continues Holliday. “Retention and recruitment is at an all time low. It’s hard to recruit staff, and it’s hard to keep those who join. Staff are often burnt out from the laboursome roles in contact centres, and it’s not a role that would be very successful if one were to ‘quiet quit.’”
Peter Dorrington recently said: “It is happening, and it is disrupting the business world as we know it, and especially in contact centres. The trend is likely to continue, so businesses must be prepared to adapt. They need to find ways to attract and retain agents, and they need to be more creative and flexible with work arrangements to keep them motivated and productive.”
In a recent advice piece on how to tackle quiet quitting, ImprintCX’s Ed Murphy shared the following tips for leaders:
Refocus on culture
Communicate with employees on a frequent basis
Continue to be transparent
Invest in employee research (e.g. voice of the employee, employee engagement, focus groups), and data analytics
Evaluate positive cultural attributes that have emerged since the pandemic and can be a source of strength and innovation.
Evaluate which cultural elements have been suppressed during the pandemic and need to be reinforced
Customer experience leadership appears to be going from strength to strength, with another hugely impressive crop of CX leaders competing for the top prize in this year’s CX Leader of the Year competition. Read about all the 20 finalists in our CXLOTY 2022 hub here.
But if budding customer experience professionals were looking for leadership lessons from high-profile figures, they were left wanting. 2022 has been pockmarked by poor leadership from some of the most recognisable figures on the world stage.
When Elon Musk announced his decision to acquire Twitter, we speculated how this might impact the growing number of businesses that have used the social network for customer support over the past 10 years. Little did we know at that time, that we would now be talking about how long it will be until Twitter completely collapses altogether, with Musk having gutted the company of its staff and expertise.
Elsewhere, Boris Johnson and Liz Truss both demonstrated that leadership quality was also in short supply in the political arena (in case anyone actually doubted that). The most alarming thing was arguably that in the wake of Truss’ spectacular self-destruction, Boris’ reappointment genuinely felt like a potentially realistic prospect for a short time. How can a man of such dubious character still be regarded as leadership material by so many?
This was a question posed by - and answered by - Nicki Davey, director of Saltbox Training & Events, at the time: “Why did so many people consider Boris Johnson to be a good leader? Why did they overlook his ruthless ambition and self-serving egotism? Because they saw someone who fit their perception of a good leader – white, male, decisive, bold, and someone who was ‘getting things done’.”
She continued: “Research shows that if leaders show self-confidence, people tend to misinterpret this as competence, and when they speak, the strength of their verbal delivery influences people's judgement of them as a leader more than the content of what they say or their performance record.”
But new times call for new leaders, and prospective customer experience leaders would do well to read Nicki’s article on what genuine leadership entails.
She concludes: “What the world needs now is a deep and radical change in leadership perceptions and behaviours, so that we value and embrace more ‘feminine’ leadership traits such as humility, compassion, collaboration, understanding, and emotional intelligence (this useful short video on the power of quiet leadership gives a good explanation of this).”
Neil Davey was previously the editor of MyCustomer from 2007 until May 2023. An experienced business journalist and editor, Neil has worked on a variety of newspapers, magazines and websites over the past 20 years, including Internet Works, CXO magazine and Business Management.
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