13 Customer Experience Trends to Watch in 2013

2012 was a very active year for customer experience management. I expect 2013 to be an even more robust year as we move deeper into the Era of CX Professionalism.

Here are 13 CX trends to keep an eye on this year as these efforts gain maturity:

  1. Decline of surveys. As more companies thirst for customer feedback, the number of surveys has escalated. But there is a limit to customers’ willingness to complete surveys. As completion rates get more difficult to maintain, companies will become more efficient with the questions they ask, target questions at specific customers in specific situations, and stop relying as much on multiple-choice questions. Tidbit: When we asked large companies with VoC programs about the changing importance of eight listening posts, multiple choice survey questions were at the bottom of the list
  2. 13 customer experience trends for 2013Rise of text analytics.Companies are learning that some of the richest insights from customers come from unstructured content like comments on surveys, calls into the contact center, social media conversations, and chat sessions with agents. Companies will shift more of their focus towards collecting and analyzing these types of feedback. Tidbit: Nearly three-quarters of large companies with VoC programs are using or considering text analytics.
  3. “Big data” predictive insights. It’s hard to talk about trends without discussing big data (in order to be fully buzz-word compliant). But what will this term mean for customer experience in 2013? Companies will blend together customer feedback data with troves of other data they have in CRM and other systems about customer transactions and value. Using this large dataset, they will predict customer satisfaction levels and Net Promoter Scores across their customer base. Since analytics requires more than just technology, we’ll see a surge of demand for data scientists. Tidbit: More than half of large companies with a VoC program are using or considering predictive analytics, but only one-third of large companies feel that they are effective at integrating CRM data in their VoC efforts.
  4. Anticipatory service. As companies gain a deeper understanding of customers through research and analytics, they will use that information to develop more individualized customer experiences. Look for companies to route callers to phone agents most likely to help them based on anticipating why they are calling, train front line employees with different scripts based on anticipating a customers’ needs/interests/emotional styles, and proactively recover from service issues before customers even complain about them based on detecting potential changes to a customers’ loyalty. Tidbit: When companies responded very poorly after a bad experience, 47% of consumers stopped spending completely with the company. When they had a very good response, only 6% stopped spending and 37% increased their spending.
  5. Experience-infused product development. We’ll see more companies create products with customer experience embedded throughout the entire development process. What will this look like? Product teams will define usability requirements, set minimum experience thresholds for product launch, and design the entire service lifecycle. Fidelity Investments evaluates all new product and experience efforts via a CX scorecard to determine the level of customer experience risk involved in a proposed project. Its “Customer Lens” process incorporates standards and checkpoints into business case and new product development methodologies to deliver more customer-centric experiences.
  6. Design-based process improvement. As customer experience efforts highlight the need to redesign more operational processes, companies will combine customer experience efforts with other process improvement efforts such as lean sigma and design thinking. These combinations, such as GM’s bringing together of customer experience and product quality, will merge process-centric tools with the power of deep customer empathy. We’ll also see more companies follow firms such as Intuit that are embedding design thinking across their organizations (check out the Stanford d.school). Tidbit: 74% of CX professionals think that customer experience design is important for their company, but only 34% think that their firm is good at it.
  7. Loyalty-focused contact centers. As companies more fully understand the link between customer experience and loyalty, especially with customer service, they will increasingly view contact centers as value-creators and not just cost centers. Some of the effects in 2013: less focus on average-handle-time and other productivity metrics, more focus on customer feedback and quality metrics, more on-shoring of previously off-shored interactions, and more investment in agent training and coaching. Tidbit: Consumers that are satisfied with customer service interactions are more than 4 times as likely to repurchase than those who are dissatisfied.
  8. Appreciation of employee assets. Companies are beginning to see the deep connection between employee engagement and customer experience. So many firms will focus on their employees in 2013. We’ll see more CX programs develop internal ambassador programs and an initial wave of HR organizations leading employee engagement efforts across what we call Five I’s of Employee Engagement: Inform, Inspire, Instruct, Involve, and Incent. Tidbit: Highly engaged employees are 5.8 times more committed to helping their companies succeed and 3.5 times more likely to do something good for their employers that is not expected of them.
  9. Mobile, mobile, mobile. Consumers will have more smart phones, more mobile apps, more tablets for them to do even more things wherever they go. Companies will increasingly integrate mobile into their product offerings and service experiences while integrating mobile with other channels, especially when it comes to combining desktop applications with mobile apps being used in physical stores. Tidbit: 31% of U.S. consumers use apps on their mobile phones on a daily basis.
  10. Software as an Experience. The initial rise of cloud-based software (a.k.a. SaaS, or software-as-a-service) focused on renting access to software instead of the historical approach of selling licenses. As cloud-based software expands, we’ll see these offerings cater more explicitly to the needs of customers. How? More simple, highly-focused, specialized applications (like smartphone apps), more focus on quick initial usability, more sharing of best practices (usage, not technical), and customization based on behavioral analysis of users. Tidbit: Net Promoter Scores for tech vendors are more correlated to customer experience than product performance.
  11. Resurgence of values. As more companies push forward on their CX journeys, they’ll find that there’s nothing holding their efforts together. The desire to improve customer experience will fall victim to other priorities if the effort is not tied to the core values of the company. But many organizations are so heavily focused on their operations that they’ve lost sight of their raisons d’être. I expect more companies to articulate and recommit to a core set of values like those of Zappos and Whole Foods, customer promises like that of TNT Express, and mission statements like that of the Dallas Cowboys.
  12. Rethinking risk-experience trade-offs. Customer experience is often constrained by rigid requirements imposed by legal, compliance and risk management teams. As a result, companies are forced to collect additional information from customers, add additional steps in processes, and eliminate valuable self-service options. In 2013, given the increased emphasis on customer experience, we’ll see companies push back on and successfully eliminate many of the most egregious experience roadblocks.
  13. Continuing CX education. Some customer experience practices are becoming standardized enough to create educational curriculum. In 2013, we’ll see more corporate training departments rolling out CX training, MBA programs incorporating more CX content into service and marketing courses, and the creation of standalone CX academic courses. Tidbit: The percentage of CX professionals that see training as an important professionals development goal increased from 52% in 2011 to 57% in 2012.

The bottom line: 2013 will be a busy year for CX professionals!

About Bruce Temkin
I am a customer experience transformist, helping large organizations improve business results by changing how they deal with customers. As part of this focus, I examine strategy, marketing, interaction design, customer service, and leadership practices. I am also a fanatical student of business, so this blog provides an outlet for sharing insights from my ongoing educational journey. Simply put, I am passionate about spotting emerging best practices and helping companies master them. And, as many people know, I love to speak about these topics in almost any forum. My “title” is Managing Partner of the Temkin Group, a customer experience research and consulting firm that helps organizations become more customer-centric. Our goal is simple: accelerate the path to delighting customers. I am also the co-founder and chair of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA.org), a non-profit organization dedicated to the success of CX professionals.

13 Responses to 13 Customer Experience Trends to Watch in 2013

  1. Solid list. The overarching trend is captured perfectly in the opening graphic. Customer experience is past the “nice to have” or “exciting to have” or “cool to have” phase and moving into being a professional discipline. Companies are getting strategic about how they collect and act on customer insights, and it’s a great time to be a part of the Cx profession. Looking forward to the challenges of 2013!

  2. Great list – it is very much in-line with what we’ve seen with our customers. “In the moment” feedback is on the rise and we’ve had more and more customers adopt not only our social media feedback analytics, but also mobile feedback. Both require text analytics, also on your list. We find that purpose built text analytics (versus a platform) is the way to go as it is more targeted and built for the specific process of uncovering insights from customer feedback data.

    See our blog post below that touches on some of the same topics you outline here!

    http://blog.medallia.com/announcements/predictions-for-customer-experience-management-in-2013/

  3. Shep Hyken says:

    Bruce Temkin shares an excellent list of the trends in customer experience, making it easy for us to understand and take action on the trends that affect our companies the most.

  4. Very insightful piece, Bruce. Agreed completely on point #1. Between social listening, call center logging, store feedback, site feedback, and MR projects, companies are literally drowning in VoC as it stands now. Annoying customers with sprawling, 40-question surveys merely invites diminishing returns. Like you, I see an increased reliance on ambient feedback and limited, contextual question sets. I also see brands doing more with less: deploying shorter VoC instruments but extracting more insight through deep analysis, text mining, segmentation, and predictive analytics.

  5. Great list Bruce! I didn’t see a “in no particular order” but #1, 2, and 3 are definitely at the top of the list for many people.

  6. Agreed on the decline of surveys. I think its time we stop asking consumers to answer our questions (brand), and let them talk about what is important to them. Lengthy surveys’ as a collection mechanism for VoC data (to me) are pushing up on the brink of irrelevance. They are antiquated in terms of the customer experience and from an analysis perspective are typically looking in the rear view mirror.

  7. Great list. One area I expect we should more attention to is using text and predictive analytics to deliver strategies that influence customer “emotions” through the customer journey. We need to do more “outside-in” capture to understand how best to make “magic moments” for the customer.
    But also, and fundamentally, more investment is needed in training and education for front-line staff to deliver compelling experiences (especially in the B2C world) – and thats something that doesn’t need technology!

  8. kevinbrownaz says:

    Unfortunately, I frequently find myself as a Negative Naysayer when it comes to CX. Bruce is correct about much of this list, but I find some of it too positive for delivery in 2013. For example, in my area of expertise: “4. Anticipatory service” has been possible for many years in contact centers, but I still see 99.9% of organizations not deploying it. The tail end of that point is proactive Service Recovery, something I was on the forefront of twenty years ago. I see less REactive Service Recovery today than back in the early 90′s. Why would proactive Svc Recovery increase suddenly when organizations are dropping the ball in massive proportions with reactive Svc Recovery?

    I too would love to see significant progress even in just engaging organizations in discussions around either of these points, but am going to be realistic in stating that I just don’t see much progress in 2013 happening for point 4. Let’s hope that I am wrong.

  9. Bruce Temkin says:

    Thanks for all of the comments and feedback on these trends. Kevin, nothing wrong with being doubtful — it keeps us all on our toes. I agree that these trends will not become mainstream activities in 2013, but I’ve seen and worked with leading-edge companies that are already focusing on them. So I am very confident that there will be more activity in all of these areas and that they will start to play a more important role in customer experience. Having said that, there will still be a lot of companies sitting on the sidelines and not doing much across any of these 13 areas.

  10. Herbert Lonsdale says:

    I like this a lot – your list underscores the need for a service experience that is intentional , consistant , differentiated and valuable. The means to measure the real physical attributes and emotional feelings customers experience in their tranactions with appropriate metrics and tools will become even more important .

  11. You can’t always predict why a customer will be calling but you can get pretty good at it! The more you anticipate your customer’s needs the less time you’ll spend ramping up the interaction and the more time your agents will be able to dedicate to actually solving the problem.

  12. Wilson Raj says:

    Thanks for this thoughtful list, Bruce. We’re definitely observing most of these trends with customers, especially #2, #3, and #7. Contact centers are increasingly looking to text and predictive analytics to infuse loyalty throughout the customer journey. I’m excited to see more examples from your list in 2013. Thanks again, Bruce.

  13. jeff gossman says:

    Great insight Bruce. So many market dynamics converging all at once. Hopefully organizations that serve take notice that new methods and approaches are critical to stay ahead of the curve. You are spot on about how the rich set of data that is available from all interactions tell stories through journeys much better than transactional surveys.

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