As we discovered in our 2017 summary, the last 12 months left brands with serious concerns about the standard of customer experience they are delivering.
And early indicators are that 2018 could be another chastening year unless CX strategies are successful.
Even though early reports indicate that customer confidence is on the rise and spending is up, Forrester Research has noted that there are several developments that are of concern, not least of which is customer trust in brands, which has plummeted of late.
Ryan Hart, principal analyst at Forrester, says: “This crisis of trust is worsened by misleading and false statements from executives and politicians alike, which are amplified by the speed and power of internet platforms to scale the spread of falsehoods.”
With the onus on organisations to acknowledge this trust crisis, and to respond to the array of shortcomings that left their CX confidence in tatters last year, MyCustomer has identified the following five crucial customer experience needs for the coming year.
Can your brand fulfil these needs in 2018?
1. The need to demonstrate values and honesty
Given the lack of customer trust, there is a clear need for brands to communicate their values and demonstrate their transparency and honesty.
“As we've seen big brands like British Airways (and other airlines) struggle to implement their brand values effectively, I think there'll be a further emphasis on transparency and humanness from some of the big names,” says Shaun Smith, author and founder of Smith+Co Consultancy. “Expect value-add marketing on tap and plain-speak comms.
“As the markets tighten, and disruptor brands put up distinctive messages in the digital space (think Bulb energy) we'll see more human faces behind corporate messaging. But this isn't new, it's an evolution, an extended dig into what proved successful last year.”
Smith continues: “Brands will work harder to present a 'simple and honest' CX, as the storms of 'fake news' continue to gather. News has gone to weird places this year, far more bizarre than most of the big sci-fi films released in the last 12 months. Brand leaders with a bit about them will recognise that customers want to feel reassured in their customer experience as the world feels to be heading to more and more uncertain times.”
2. The need for the right balance of human and digital
“I believe that companies will have to start wrestling with what is the optimum balance of human touch and tech in their service and experience mix,” says CX expert Adrian Swinscoe.
“Research by Accenture suggests that many firms need to consider how they rebalance and redefine the balance of technology and human involvement in customer experience as they have placed too much reliance on digital technologies in recent years and this has resulted in the development of ‘human-less’ customer services, which has left the majority of customers (70-85% depending on geography) saying that they are frustrated or extremely frustrated with how easy it is to do business with organisations.”
3. The need to understand why customers feel the emotions they do
“As customer emotions are starting to become more accepted, more advanced organisations are already moving on from this and looking at the cause of why customers are feeling these emotions,” predicts Colin Shaw, author and founder of Beyond Philosophy. “In 2018 the more advanced customer experience companies will advance from just understanding that customers feel emotions but to ask themselves, “why do customers feel emotions and what can we do to change and manage this?” Organisations will need to have a deep understanding of customers behavior and their decision-making. This in turn takes you into the field of psychology and behavioural economics.
“This leads us onto the next system trend that we are seeing which is going to be vital in the future - predictive analytics and sentiment analysis. Whilst these two areas have been growing in importance and becoming a trend, in my view, they are still in their infancy. This does not mean you should not get involved; you really should. Those that do will be a step ahead in the future. What I think we will start to see is a few, progressive, companies use predictive analytics and sentiment analysis to truly understand customer’s behavior at a psychological level. When they do this will be incredibly powerful. Therefore, I would encourage everybody to start understanding customer behavior to ensure they are armed for the future.”
4. The need to focus on engaging customers
“In terms of strategy, I see an increasing emphasis on relationship quality,” predicts CX author and consultant Steven Walden. “We have been in an era of experience quality where the emphasis has been on making thing smooth, easy and effortless. Now, with technology and increasing interconnectedness, we are seeing an increasing move to engage customers more. This is seen in systems of intelligence not just engagement and the infusion of processes that seek to co-create with the customer and enable co-ownership.
“This is important as firms come to realise that a single view of customer data take is insufficient to describe the customer. And that the winning strategy is not ever more data, but a better means of working with consumers and other stakeholders. This is the route to personalisation: "tell us how we can go forward together"."
5. The need to navigate survey fatigue
“2017 saw more fatigue amongst customers due to constant request for clunky, boring surveys (like British Airways) or texts to rate the brand immediately after a call or visit. This will have to change,” says Smith. “Instead we shall see the use of text analytics, sentiment analysis and Big Data in social media to derive the VoC from what customers volunteer rather than formal surveys.”
About Neil Davey
Neil Davey is the managing editor of MyCustomer. An experienced business journalist and editor, Neil has worked on a variety of newspapers, magazines and websites over the past 15 years, including Internet Works, CXO magazine and Business Management. He joined Sift Media in 2007.