Four factors that will reshape customer experience roles in 2020
Customer experience experts predict where the profession is heading in the next 12 months.
The 2010s saw the emergence of customer experience as a discipline, bringing with it the usual smorgasbord of pros, cons, opportunities and perils associated with the proliferation of any new business practice.
As we enter 2020, the focus on customer experiences has never been greater, and the year ahead promises to mean a continual shift towards experience over product.
It’s a point that has been well-versed by Joe Pine for 20 years thanks to his seminal book, The Experience Economy, and highlights the need for businesses to not only focus on how customers ‘experience’ them as a business, but also how they can present themselves as an experience-led brand.
And as Richard R. Shapiro, president of The Center for Client Retention highlights, the coming 12 months is set to accelerate our need for bigger and better, ‘mega’ experiences:
“Anyone who’s seen the iconic 1967 Mike Nichol’s film The Graduate will likely recall the poolside scene where young Benjamin (played by Dustin Hoffman) is given career advice by a well-meaning neighbour. “Just one word…” the man intones. “Plastics.”
“Without delving into the irony of the comment, I’ll offer that if the scene were reshot today the word would be 'experience'.” Consider, for instance, the unprecedented investments in Area 15 in Las Vegas, with Meow Wolf as its top experiential attraction, and the American Dream Mall which just opened 10 miles from New York City with ski slopes and high-speed roller coasters–designed to draw adventurous consumers. 2020 is going to be the year for mega experiences.”
So, as experience takes on greater prominence than ever, what are the main trends that will characterise 2020 for customer experience professionals? Let's examine what some of the experts are saying.
CEOs taking greater ownership of CX
Despite the growth in customer experience leadership roles in recent years, author and consultant, Blake Morgan believes the proliferation of Chief Customer Officer roles is creating a smokescreen for businesses that are merely trying to pay lip service to CX, and expects more CEOs to take ownership of the discipline as a result.
“By hiring or promoting a Chief Customer Officer, or Chief Experience Officer (CXO) the company makes it publicly seem like they understand customer experience and are working toward improving it, but this is often only a public gesture. The hire is rarely anything significantly impactful for the business. A business will often give this c-level executive some influence, some resources, and a pinch of authority across the business, but not enough necessary to impact real change.
“One person cannot pivot an entire ship without power, influence and resources. It is very hard if that CXO doesn’t have the full support of the CEO and the board. When the CEO is involved in customer experience, results are much better. The CEO must tie performance metrics to customer experience — across the entire business. And the CEO’s performance should be tied to customer experience as well.”
This is reaffirmed by author Chris Adlard, in his recent article ‘How the customer is killing the CEO’, stating that CEOs will themselves be facing the prospect this year that they’ll need to buy into the ‘customer economy’, or risk being jettisoned.
“Clearly a customer-centric approach not only benefits the [customer]; it also allows businesses to thrive. Recently, Forbes reported that customer-led companies which had invested heavily in improving and simplifying their customer experience outperformed those who had not.
“Consequently, there needs to be a C-change (with 'C' representing the customer) in which CEOs become customer-led and move away from the short-term, financially led goals which are not going to cut it in the customer economy. If not, those one-dimensional CEOs risk becoming obsolete, the latest victim of the customer revolution.”
More ROI pressure from the top
Adlard’s point about short-term financial goals may be pertinent, but it doesn’t mean that businesses won’t be ramping up the pressure on customer experience leaders to display the ROI of the customer experience programmes; in fact quite the opposite. Especially from finance teams.
As Jim Tincher, mapper-in-chief for Heart of the Customer, explains, businesses are likely to take a keener interest in ‘measurement over metrics’ in 2020.
“Metrics are survey scores – that’s what customer experience focuses on. We’re really into them. They’re nice and neat, and easier to collect.
“Measurements are what the business cares about. But they are trapped in operational systems, making them messy and hard to nail down. Lost customers, reorder rates, order size, service costs, repeat business – those are all measurements with financial impact.
“That’s where you grab your CFO’s interest. You’re at risk if you don’t tie your programme into these measurements.”
Job losses for CX professionals...
One consequence of the CEO's greater influence on customer experience programmes, and in particular their greater interest in CX financials, is job losses for customer experience practitioners in the coming year.
Forrester Research expects one in four CX pros will lose their jobs in the year ahead - chiefly because they aren’t demosntrating the business impact of their programmes.
“CX leaders who can’t prove their value to the business will find themselves on the street, just like the dozens of high-profile CMO positions wholly eliminated in the past year — including those at Johnson & Johnson, Walmart, Netflix, McDonald’s, and Kellogg’s,” predicts Forrester analyst Harley Manning.
“Those who do keep their jobs will do so by ensuring that their metrics and measurements relate to what matters most: KPIs with a dollar sign in front of them. We expect that financial services industries will be hardest hit by CX job elimination, especially in retail banking and investment firms. This dynamic will also be important in B2B firms, where executive teams tend to be even more sceptical about the business impact of CX relative to other factors such as price and contractual lock-in.”
...but more CX positions being created
The good news for CX professionals, however, is that while there may be swingeing job cuts in the customer experience field, there will also be a large number of new CX job openings being created at the same time.
While he predicts there will be significant job losses, Forrester's Manning also believes that 2020 will see businesses creating new CX positions at a similar rate to those that are axed – and expects the number of executives hired to the role of Chief Customer Officer to increase by 25%.
However, he warns that customer experience professionals shouldn’t expect this to create a state of equilibrium in the job market: “Firms will raid competitors with successful customer experience improvement programmes and also promote from within, tapping experienced business leaders with track records of success in non-CX roles, like marketing and product management.”
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Chris is Editor of MyCustomer. He is a practiced editor, having worked as a copywriter for creative agency, Stranger Collective from 2009 to 2011 and subsequently as a journalist covering technology, marketing and customer service from 2011-2014 as editor of Business Cloud News. He joined MyCustomer in 2014.