I’ve been asked to write about my thoughts on Customer Experience for 2019. As I reflected upon this task, I realized there is a lot to talk about here, and it can’t really be categorized as “trends” or “predictions”.
If you’ve listened to our podcast this year, Mary and I have had some fascinating conversations with some of the top CX professionals in the business. What has struck me the most throughout these discussions, as well as those I’ve had with companies across the US and Canada in 2018, is that no one is debating whether customer experience matters or not; but there is a huge variation in how companies define, approach, measure and deliver experiences for their customers. So, why is this and what can we do about it?
Customer Experience is not a department or function, it is the end result of everything you do as a company
Too often CX is relegated to a person or small team, or worse, to a single research program. Companies spend millions (often billions) of dollars building hotels, stores, and airplanes; developing pricing strategies, ad campaigns, and brand equity; hiring by the thousands, training and communicating with employees. This all comes together when a customer spends their minutes, hours or days with you. How do they feel? Will they come back? Was the investment worth it?
Customer experience transcends departments. It is the end of all of your efforts and investments. It can make or break a business. It is not static, it is ever changing: one customer at a time, one store, one contract, one meal. Delivering great customer experience demands the best of your organization. It takes focus, leadership, investment, and consistency.
Think about how you design time when you think about Customer Experience
In season 1 of our podcast, Joe Pine discussed the concept of time well-spent and time well-saved. When our customers are engaged with us how do they perceive the time they spend in our store, on our website, in our hotel? Are you a time well-saved business or a time well-spent organization? If you operate mostly in the brick and mortar space then you are likely a time well-spent business but many companies do not spend enough time thinking about how their customers spend time in their stores. The question I want you to think about is a statement by HBR. “Shoppers need a reason to go to your store other than buying stuff.” What reason do you give your customers? Find out and make it come to life.
It’s time to update the metrics you use to measure Customer Experience
If you don’t have metrics that connect with business outcomes, it’s time to make some changes. There have been dozens if not hundreds of studies that have looked at more traditional metrics and business trends. If you want to be taken seriously with senior management, you need to be able to show how better customer experience leads to better results for the business. In addition, the experience is multi-dimensional. Having scores that look at one aspect of the experience are not doing the organization justice. Make sure you are capturing both the rational and the emotional elements of their experience.
The future is self-adaptive, static surveys are going extinct
Survey research has evolved. Artificial Intelligence has now spawned a new era in our industry that will change the way we collect, analyze, and deliver insight. It ticks all the boxes. Faster, better, and cheaper. It allows customers to drive the discussion rather than trying to cover every possible answer they may give.
It also provides real-time insights by doing the analytics as you go. Millions of responses can be organized in real time reducing the amount of time your team needs to sift through mountains of unstructured responses. A.I. built into surveys can also provide a better experience for your customers by reducing the length of questionnaires and focusing on the things that matter to them rather than running them through long batteries of attributes. If you aren’t leveraging A.I. yet you need to put that on the top of your list for 2019.
Feedback loops need to be fast, actionable and focus on the things that really matter
I am sure you have no shortage of feedback from your customers, the true challenge is uncovering which feedback explains what really matters to them. The trap many of us fall into is the old saying “the squeaky wheel gets the grease”. While many customers may be complaining about a certain part of the process or a recent blunder by one of your teams, the question you need to ask yourself is “does it really matter?” What I mean by that is, will it impact whether they come back and purchase again? Will it impact how they feel about your brand past the short term?
The way a lot of research is structured would lead you to believe the volume of feedback is the most important factor in deciding to take action. It might be, but it is also might not be. Being able to connected micro-experiences to behavior is critically important to decide where you need to invest or take action and which things are less important to tackle.
At Worthix we often talk about the challenges that the current state of things poses. A challenging consumer with every changing expectations. However, there are also vast opportunities for companies that realize the power that customer experience can have on the health of their business. Those that put the right measurement tools in place and give CX the focus it rightly deserves!
James is a 25 year veteran of consumer and customer insight. He has worked all across the globe for some of the biggest names in research consultancy including Millward Brown, TNS, GfK and Kantar. He is focused on helping his clients gain competitive advantage through understanding human behavior and how to best align corporate resources to accomplish business goals. His passion in recent years has been the intersection of brand and customer experience measurement and management. In addition, he has been pursuing how the industry can innovate by leveraging new technologies like AI and machine learning.