A panel of experts discuss what will characterise the customer experience management landscape in 2019, and how brands can capitalise on these trends to improve their CX.
As we enter 2019, the customer experience is set to wield even greater influence over business performance, reflecting a trend that has characterised this decade.
“Experience will overtake price and product in 2019,” predicts Paul Fennemore, c-suite level digital transformation and customer experience consultant at Sitecore.
“Next year, we’ll see a drastic shift in focus from product and price to an emphasis on customer experience. Recent studies suggest that millennials spend more money on doing things than on buying products. Yet, they aren’t the only age group that puts a high value on experiences over goods. When it comes to in-store customer experience, baby-boomers prefer the human touch that comes with a twist of technology innovation, such as expecting store staff to carry smart devices to assist with their inquiries.
“2019 will be a pivotal year for brands and retailers to focus their efforts on making sure customers get value that goes beyond the product.”
With that in mind, MyCustomer spoke with a panel of experts to find out what will characterise the customer experience management landscape in 2019, and how brands can capitalise on these to improve their CX.
Trend one: Understanding customer emotions
A recent Orlo research study showed that 86% of large EU brands regard emotion as highly important to online CX. The research, highlighted at Orlo’s Future CX event, revealed that brands report a range of key benefits in creating positive customer emotions - with 63% recognising high customer satisfaction, 61% customer loyalty and retention, and 53% building strong relationships as core benefits. With 95% of purchase-making decisions being made subconsciously, keeping customers happy is essential to any bottom line.
Unsurprisingly, then, understanding customer emotions will be high on the list of priorities for leading-edge brands in the coming year.
“One of the biggest trends I expect to see next year is an increased focus on consumer psychology and behavioural economics within CX strategies. Businesses are getting to know their customers on a deeper level, and they have to in order to deliver the type of experiences that customers crave,” says Geoff Galat, CMO at Clicktale.
“Rather than treating consumers as numbers in a spreadsheet, it’s essential that businesses understand what makes them tick on a human level. To do this, there needs to be a significant shift towards analysing the impact of emotions, moods and behaviours and assessing the role that these factors have on the customer’s experience.”
More companies will seek to bridge the ‘emotional gap’ in their experiences as heightened awareness for making the right emotional connection and its impact on customer loyalty grows.
UserTesting’s chief insights officer, Janelle Estes, is in agreement.
“More companies will seek to bridge the ‘emotional gap’ in their experiences as heightened awareness for making the right emotional connection and its impact on customer loyalty grows. In order for companies to make that interpersonal connection, they must deeply understand and empathise with their customers by truly understanding their motivations, needs, desires, behaviours, and intent. After this deep understanding, they can then create and pivot offerings that tap into the needs of their customers.”
However, achieving this understanding will be easier said than done.
“While the average marketing technology stack is now far more advanced, most marketers are still too busy running questionnaires and compiling Net Promoter Scores to really analyse their customers’ behaviours in any depth,” warns Galat.
“In 2019, I expect more brands to look beyond such basic metrics, turning instead to ‘experience analytics’ - hovers, clicks and scrolls that show exactly how a consumer is interacting with a website or app. But rather than relying solely on experience analytics platforms, it’s the brands that work closely with behavioral experts that will develop far more informed insights into their customers’ wants, needs and experiences.”
Trend two: CX practitioner roles and requirements
“With the application of technologies in CX gradually maturing and the conventional “Serve Customers Better” approach persistently failing to perform, pragmatic CEOs will switch their support to digitization projects for improving customer experience. Thus, the skill set requirements of CX practitioners are going to change from ‘soft’ to ‘hard’,” predicts CX thought leader Sampson Lee of Global CEM.
“The positioning of in-house CX professionals will be awkward: the data-obsessed marketers have an absolute advantage in managing digitization projects, ‘pure’ service is within the realm of customer service, and merely knowing how to draw customer journey maps isn’t sufficient to secure their jobs.”
For this reason, Lee believes that a considerable number of CX professionals may become redundant in 2019, though he adds that: “Those CX folks who can upgrade their role and capabilities from functional to strategic will have a good chance to survive and thrive.”
Rebecca Wilson, senior advisor, Customer Experience Council, at Forrester, has also written about the changes that lie ahead for CX professionals. She notes that while there will “very definitely be a role, and a critical one at that, for CX teams into the future… what that role is will, of course, depend on the CX maturity of the organisation and the ongoing commitment of the executive team.”
She predicts several roles that will attain particular significance in the future:
- Storytelling – bringing to life not only customer experiences but success stories that infuse a different spin on business cases.
- Behavioural economics - to help understand how and why customers and employees behave.
- CX analytics roles – to promote the patterns and opportunities they find in customer research and data, continually challenging the organisation to deliver results based on customer understanding.
- Teacher/training expertise - enabling and expanding the skills of the organisation to deliver customer-obsessed strategies.
Trend three: Customer journey mapping will continue to gain momentum
When MyCustomer surveyed 250 CX professionals for its Customer Journey Mapping Research Report last year, it found that two-thirds (67%) undertake some form of journey mapping. A third of these (32%), however, had only set up their programmes within the last 12 months, and so many are continuing to refine their practices to improve insight and – crucially – the actions driven from the findings.
With plenty of pressure building to improve customer experiences, 2019 could be the year that brands get their journey mapping programmes up to scratch.
“Customer journey mapping is becoming increasingly important. Businesses want to understand the end-to-end journeys of their customers – whether they came from online or offline, the path they followed, who they interacted with, and the ultimate decision about what they purchased or which service they decided to use,” notes Matt West, CEO at Feefo.
Combining the skills of customer journey mapping, measurement, prioritisation, improvement and stakeholder management, the lack of genuine CJM globally is one of the overriding causes of inertia in customer experience worldwide.
“With the challenges of reduction in High Street spending, online experiences are more important than ever, so brands need to better understand the whole journey, and provide a consistent experience. Gaining this intelligence will be hugely valuable to any brand in 2019 and beyond.”
CX consultant Ian Golding certainly hopes that customer journey mapping will be on the to-do list of more brands this year.
“I very much hope that the concept of customer journey management will become a trend in 2019 – a never ending, continuous cycle of activity to drive demonstrable improvement to the customer journey. Combining the skills of customer journey mapping, measurement, prioritisation, improvement and stakeholder management, the lack of genuine CJM globally is one of the overriding causes of inertia in customer experience worldwide.”
Trend four: New organisational structures to support CX innovation
Digital transformation has been a priority for many organisations over the past 18 months, but there are increasing reports of these projects hindering – rather than helping – the customer experience.
In a global survey of 800 CIOs by Dynatrace, 73% of respondents said the need for speed in digital innovation is putting customer experience at risk. The study found that on average, organisations release new software updates three times per working hour, as they push to keep up with competitive pressures and soaring consumer expectation. And nearly two-thirds (64%) of CIOs admitted they are forced to compromise between faster innovation and the need to ensure customers have a great experience.
In a bid to ensure that digital transformation supports CX improvements, 2019 will see a growing number of brands seek out new organisational structures and operating models.
Almost every major report, including our own CX report, has shown that organisations aren’t able to join functions, departments and capabilities together in order to deliver a consistent, meaningful customer experience.
Golding explains: “Connected to the increasing focus on digital technology, the world has gone mad for agile! Not so much a methodology than a state of mind, the principles of agile are having a positive effect on driving change quickly and efficiently. However, agile working should not be seen as the sole domain of IT – the principles of agile should/must be applied to ANY change related to the customer experience and organisational operating model.”
Related to this, Matthew Chokshi, creative director at Zone, believes that the growing need for organisational design will characterise 2019.
“In the past few years, consultancies, agencies and businesses have all been preaching to ‘think digitally’ and ‘be agile.’ Yet still today so many companies struggle to keep up with people’s demands and have the capabilities to support and continuously improve their value and service. Let’s call this the innovation dilemma. Either they have trouble validating innovation decisions fast, have trouble implementing solutions that solve people problems in a scalable way, or simply can’t join it up end-to-end.
“Almost every major report, including our own CX report, has shown that organisations aren’t able to join functions, departments and capabilities together in order to deliver a consistent, meaningful customer experience. And that’s down to organisational process and structure. Great organisational design identifies the right collaborative ways of working that help break down silos, give a single view of journeys and empowers members of organisations to make the right decisions quickly that make a big difference.”
Trend five: Deeper personalisation
Despite growing concerns about privacy and data sharing, consumers continue to demand personalised experiences. Accenture research suggests that 81% of consumers surveyed wanted brands to get to know them and understand when to approach them and when not to. And further research suggests that 80% of consumers would voluntarily reveal personal information in exchange for relevant and valuable interactions from the brand they’re buying from.
“Salesforce found that by 2020 over half of respondents expect companies will anticipate their needs and make suggestions prior to contact. To do so requires companies to track behaviours, obtain feedback, and do outreach in real-time while the customer is interacting with the brand,” says Sue Duris, director of marketing and customer experience of M4 Communications.
“But companies must also act on what customers tell them and close the loop with the customer. This is the piece where companies have struggled. Successfully treating each customer as an individual earns customer trust and loyalty.”
Duris anticipates that 2019 will therefore witness renewed efforts at deeper personalisation.
There’s still a disconnect with brands that say personalisation is a top priority and that actually have the resources in place to deliver on it.
“There’s still a disconnect with brands that say personalisation is a top priority and that actually have the resources in place to deliver on it. As customer expectations increase, so do requirements for companies to keep up with these expectations. We live in the age of the customer, where the customer drives the brand and they expect a company to know them and anticipate their needs. Thus companies will need to double-down on customer experience management platforms that provide a holistic customer view where brands can monitor, act and improve moments along the journey and incorporate VoC feedback at key moments to be able to proactively deliver what customers want when they want it.
“In addition, companies must deploy predictive analytics tools to predict behaviours so they can be proactive. These resources combined will enable companies to anticipate customers’ needs and be proactive with service delivery resulting in optimising a customer’s experience. Technology is the bridge to drive personalisation.”
And the rise and rise of AI is also expected to provide technological assistance in this path to deeper personalisation, says Alice Blair, CMO at Engage Hub.
“In 2019, we will see AI continue to make CX more personalised,” she explains. “Machine learning and predictive analytics will all play a role in giving customers a more tailored experience – particularly in retail. 38% of businesses have already implemented AI, and that figure will continue to grow as the technology becomes more sophisticated, affordable and powerful.”
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.