4 Trends Transforming the Customer Experience in 2019
For many years, the de facto Marketing Mix has been considered to be the four P’s: product, price, placement and promotion. A recent study suggests that by 2020, the Marketing Mix will be upended — with customer experience (CX) overtaking price and product as the key brand differentiator.
Customers have choices, they understand the value of their loyalty and their business, and they’re vocal advocates for and against companies they’ve worked with in the past. We experience this first-hand as consumers (vividly in the holiday season), and yet sometimes we can forget when we’re charged with curating and nurturing meaningful experiences for customers just how much they can mean to us when we have them.
Anyone who has ever had to change travel arrangements because of a family emergency or bereavement knows personally just how much of an impact a brand’s approach can have to the way we experience the companies we interact with.
In 2015, Gartner predicted that by 2019, more than 50 percent of organizations would redirect their investments to CX innovation. Since that time, companies that have invested in CX have seen improved customer retention and loyalty, as well as brand affinity and positive word of mouth.
In fact, one Qualtrics study revealed that organizations that have blazed the CX trails have customers seven times more likely to purchase from them, and 15 times more likely to spread positive word of mouth.
With CX on the brain, let’s discuss some of the upcoming trends transforming the way leaders approach transforming experience in 2019:
No. 1 — Meet the CXO
A new role has emerged in recent years — The Chief Experience Officer (CXO) — responsible for managing the experiences customers and employees alike have with the brand.
It might be easy to consider customer experience to be the domain of consumer-facing organizations, but it is also a critical priority for B2B today. Every business buyer is also a consumer in their private lives, and their expectations from applications, products, and services created to delight users, to encourage daily use and interaction, and promote loyalty have certainly changed the expectations those individuals bring to the way they purchase products and services for businesses as well.
CXO will be an increasingly popular role in 2019, with a growing mandate to invest and transform the customer and employee experiences in meaningful ways.
No. 2 — AI, Automation and Chatbots
No New Year predictions are complete without a mention that automation and artificial intelligence are completely changing the way work gets done and the way buyers experience service.
While there is a reactive push to invest in the human touch — the personal experience — there is also space for self-service customer support to be delivered through automated chatbots and other portals for immediate response when customer service agents are not on duty or experiencing long hold times.
Robots are coming — as they say — and yes, it is transforming the way companies deliver service. But in 2019, companies will get smarter and more strategic about when to utilize automation and when to invest in personal experience for customers looking to achieve different goals.
Automation can free employees from mundane and repetitive tasks as well as offer efficient self-service portals for customers with common concerns.
No. 3 — The Premium of Emotional Intelligence
In a recent study from eConsultancy, 86 percent of buyers reported that they are willing to pay more for a great experience. In the same study, 73 percent of buyers said customer experience was a critical factor in their purchasing decisions. That means investing in and addressing CX should be a top priority, but it can also call to mind that what customers must mean when they report being willing to pay more for premium service is that they want to speak to another human being with empathy and flexibility who can help them.
However, I can think of several occasions that I received better service from a chatbot than from a customer service agent because of the intention of the service. For example, consider a time you called to speak to an agent of a call center for service from a brand. You might have been on hold 10 minutes before speaking to someone, and upon reaching an agent, you may have discovered a common experience of an agent limited by the range of their technology and the empowerment they have from leadership to provide solutions for customers. In other words, sometimes you’re calling to speak to a human who has been given the same range of options to offer service that an FAQ could have provided. Which is to say, some companies are so devoted to their policies, they leave no room for the flexibility and empathy that is expected when speaking to another person.
While there is a focus on the human touch, it’s important to be strategic about the mix of service options that any customer has to reach solutions to their issues. A self-service portal can be useless, even if it’s built on the same technology as any leader in CX may be utilizing. But sometimes even more frustrating is speaking to a person who has been prevented from offering solutions because of short-sighted strategy.
2019 will bring a smarter, more strategic focus on a mix of artificial and emotional intelligence to provide meaningful solutions for customers.
No. 4 — Community Management is Critical
Along with the rise of social media and an emphasis on brands building community comes the importance of strategic community management. Leveraging social media for customer service is a popular strategy, but fewer brands have developed contingencies and strategies for managing communities to thrive and flourish — to find and develop advocates, provide memorable service, and leave an impression.
One study from the University of Michigan found that customers spent 19 percent more after participating in a company’s online community. A customer experience that leaves an impression begins long before a purchase and ends long after.
Proactive community management on social media includes moderating communities as well as listening for opportunities to address stakeholder concerns online where and when those dialogues are happening.
2019 will bring an increased focus on managing communities developed in recent years to their full potential to return investment and improve loyalty.
As the imperative for investing in customer experience continues to grow in the coming year, so too will its expectations for measurement, management and performance.