14 Customer Experience Trends for 2014 (The Year of Empathy)

It’s time to identify key customer experience trends for next year. We did a pretty good job of identifying 13 CX trends for 2013 and many of those trends will continue on into 2014, so they remain on this year’s list. We expect CX to gain even more momentum next year as 2014 brings us deeper into what Temkin Group has labeled the Era of CX Professionalism. Based on what we see emerging in CX, we believe that 2014 will be The Year of Empathy, which is the 14th trend. Here are 14 CX trends to watch for in 2014, followed by some advice for each item:

  1. 2014CXTrends2Renovation of VoC Programs. Large organizations spend millions of Dollars/Euros/etc. per year on collecting customer feedback. Yet, all too few of them gain the value they could—or should—from those investments. Only one out of five organizations has reached Temkin Group’s two highest levels of voice of the customer (VoC) maturity. In 2014, we expect many companies to scrap their overly burdensome customer surveys in favor of more targeted feedback. They’ll rely less on multiple-choice surveys and more on topic-specific surveys and text analytics of unstructured content like comments on surveys, calls into the contact center, social media conversations, and chat sessions with agents.
    ADVICE: Don’t worry too much about trending historical data. A feedback system that helps you make improvements now and into the future is far more valuable than one that only enables you to compare yourself with the past.
  2. Lots of Customer Journey Mapping. One of the most effective tools for customer experience professionals is Customer Journey Mapping (CJM), which is why so many people read our CJM posts in 2013. These tools identify key areas of improvement and opportunities for innovation and can help build organizational empathy. In 2014, organizations with customer experience ambition will most likely develop their own CJMs. However, despite all this activity, many companies will still misuse CJMs by mistaking touchpoint analysis with CJMs and forgetting that a CJM is merely a means to an end—not the ultimate goal.
    ADVICE: Think of CJMs as a learning experience, not as an output. Be clear about how you want to use them before you start and focus on a few targeted areas. And make sure CJMs are created from your customer’s perspective.
  3. Integration of Customer Behavioral Data. While feedback is a form of customer insight, it is by no means the only form—or even the best form. Companies can glean a lot of insight through an understanding of what customers have done, what channels they’ve used, what products they’ve purchased, and what service interactions they’ve had. These data sources provide the rich content required to fuel predictive models. In 2014, we’ll see the continued trend from 2013 with more companies blending together customer feedback data with troves of other data they have in CRM and other systems about customer transactions and value. This will enable companies to accurately target experiences to reduce churn, improve metrics (e.g., satisfaction, NPS), and increase customer lifetime value. Consequently, data scientists—especially those who can speak with business people—will continue to be in high demand.
    ADVICE: It’s easy to get overwhelmed when you start integrating multiple data sources, and it can quickly devolve into a pure “big data” project. Don’t let that happen. To stay on track, focus on the analysis you want to do and start by integrating only the data required for that analysis.
  4. More 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 the phone agents who are most likely to help them based on the anticipated reason for the call. Companies will also train front-line employees with different scripts based on anticipating a customer’s needs/interests/emotional style, and will even teach them to proactively recover from service issues before customers can even complain about them by detecting potential changes in customer loyalty.
    ADVICE: Get into the habit of asking, “what’s next?” When you’re working on anything related to customer experience design, think about what the customer is likely to do after they finish the experience you’re examining and find a way to make those next steps easier.  CJMs can be a great resource for this type of thinking.
  5. Experience Infused into 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 using a CX scorecard that determines the level of customer experience risk involved in a proposed project. Its “Customer Lens” process delivers more customer-centric experiences by incorporating standards and checkpoints into business cases and new product development methodologies.
    ADVICE: Most new products and services overly focus on functional requirements. To break this pattern, create ease-of-use requirements, defining things like how quickly a customer can set up and start using the product/service or how long it will take for customers to realize the value proposition defined by the product.
  6. Consolidation of CX Process Methodologies. Large companies often have several efforts focused on creating customer-centric processes. 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“–like GM’s effort to bring together customer experience and product quality–will merge process-centric tools with the power of deep customer empathy. We’ll also see more companies following firms such as Intuit that are embedding design thinking across their organizations (check out the Stanford d.school).
    ADVICE: If your organization has a LEAN or SIGMA effort underway, then embrace it — but make it more customer-centric. Combine some of the deep empathy pieces of design thinking with the more efficiency-focused other process methodologies.
  7. Contact Centers Morph into Relationship Hubs. For years, companies have relied on their contact centers to deal with customer interactions—from technical support to requesting medical coverage—but contact centers are on the verge of a major change. Driven by a shift in technology capabilities and consumer behavior, leading companies are refocusing the primary purpose of contact centers from handling individual calls to building customer loyalty. These changes will morph contact centers into what I’ve called Relationship Hubs. In 2014, Relationship Hubs will establish success metrics tied to long-term customer loyalty. Belgacom, a Belgium telecom provider, changed its key call center metric from average handle time to a combination of two metrics—first call resolution and likelihood of customers to recommend the company.
    ADVICE: Identify what your customers really want when they contact you. If it’s a service interaction, then they are likely looking for a speedy and complete resolution to their issue. Shift your measurements that drive rep quality ratings from efficiency to fulfilling these customers’ needs.
  8. Deeper Appreciation of Employee Assets. Companies are beginning to see the deep connection between employee engagement and customer experience. Engaged employees are more than twice as likely to stay late at work if something needs to be done, help someone at work even if they’re not asked, and do something that is good for the company even if it’s not expected of them. In 2014, we’ll see more employee surveys, executives developing employee engagement goals and objectives, and managerial training focused on employee engagement.
    ADVICE: Our research shows that employee engagement is not a matter of compensation. Leaders across the organization have the ability to provide what’s really important to people, intrinsic rewards. Start training your managers on what truly matters to their employees and measure their ability to engage employees.
  9. Mobile, Mobile, Mobile: Personal Health Monitoring Takes Off. This isn’t about mobile phones: it’s about digital experiences integrated into everyday life. More consumers will have smart phones and tablets, and these devices will have more apps and more sensors that enable consumers to do more things wherever they go. We’ll see a surge of personal health monitors, such as Nike’s FuelBand and Sleep Cycle Alarm Clock. In 2014, health plans and health care providers will begin integrating these remote monitors into their offerings.
    ADVICE: To make these programs work, health care companies (plans and providers) will need to consider the end-to-end experience from initiation through ongoing use. These firms don’t typically have the expertise of designing into everyday life, so they should hire outside firms such as IDEO and Continuum to help shape these offerings.
  10. Mobile, Mobile, Mobile: Retail-Digital Integration. Mobile is such an important area that it generates two of the trends. Companies will increasingly integrate mobile into their product offerings and service experiences. They will integrate mobile with other channels, particularly focusing on combining desktop applications with mobile apps being used in physical stores. In 2014, every major retailer will need to have a strategy for putting customers’ mobile phones to use when they are in their stores.
    ADVICE: Retailers need to stop thinking about digital channels as an alternative to retail channels, and instead, embrace experiences across them. Create a cross-functional retail-digital task force to identify the best way to capitalize on the mobile habits of their shoppers.
  11. Software As an Experience Continues. 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. That makes sense, considering that Net Promoter Scores for tech vendors are more correlated to customer experience than product performance. 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 smart phone apps), more focus on quick initial usability, more sharing of best practices (usage, not technical), and customization based on behavioral analysis of users.
    ADVICE: Start measuring how your customers use the software and use these measures to identify what drives happy and renewing customers (as well as unhappy customers). Use what you learn to help customers gain more value from their software. This effort will require a shift in the focus of account management from sales and enrichment to success and renewal.
  12. Resurgence of Purpose. 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 focus intently 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.
    ADVICE: Check out one of the principles of People-Centric Experience Design, Align Through Purpose.
  13. CX Certification Accelerates CX Education. The Customer Experience Professionals Association will be launching its Certified Customer Experience Professional (CCXP) certification in 2014. This industry-wide certification will help solidify the role of a customer experience professional and create demand for more CX training. In 2014, look for a surge in companies offering CX training aligned with the categories in the CCXP test.
    ADVICE: If you’re a CX professional with at least three years of experience, consider going for your CCXP certification.
  14. The Rise of “Empathy.” As companies increasingly focus on customer experience in 2014, they will recognize that their organizations lack a deep understanding and appreciation for their customers. It’s not a flaw in the people, just a natural result of an internal focus on day-to-day operations. In 2014, we’ll hear more executives talking about the need to build “empathy” for customers, making “empathy” THE CX word for 2014.
    ADVICE: Check out one of the principles of People-Centric Experience Design, Guide With Empathy.

The bottom line: I hope that 2014 is a great year for CX within your organization!

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.

10 Responses to 14 Customer Experience Trends for 2014 (The Year of Empathy)

  1. Many of these micro-trends lead to a micro-trend: Customer-centricity as an organizational focus, even obsession. And, a critical element of customer-centricity is building trust and humanity into the enterprise. We can expect this to continue in 2014. Being human is not only a customer-centric approach to business, it is financially sound: http://www.customerthink.com/blog/building_valuable_customer_centric_and_trust_based_relationships_a_well_established_concept_tha

  2. An excellent piece, very informative and well written. Bring on the Empathy 2014!

  3. I would put Empathy in the same breath as Customer Journey Mapping. Empathy is the absolute basis to initiate CJMs, get the buy in from different groups in the company and get them to run this invaluable like you say “learning experience”

    • Great post filled with incredible insight – thanks! Our company can vouch that #3 on the list is definitely trending strongly. Over the past few months, we’ve seen a significant uptick in the number of companies that are exploring customer journey mapping & how it can help them better understand customer needs and improve the overall experience they deliver. I take this as evidence that empathy is and will continue to abound. It’s going to be an exciting year for Cx!

  4. kellee says:

    Many thanks for sharing these insights and observations with us. I’m particularly pleased to see that Empathy is destined to play such a starring role in successful organizations in 2014. I have been a stanch advocate of the power and importance of empathy throughout my entire career, and feel that empathy is the key to overcoming roadblocks and further strengthening relationships with internal and external customers alike. Yes, bring on the Empathy!

  5. “ADVICE: Don’t worry too much about trending historical data. A feedback system that helps you make improvements now and into the future is far more valuable than one that only enables you to compare yourself with the past.” – This is a good advice, but how do you feel about comparing your customer experience to the one provided by your competitors? I am referring to comparisons on a product level http://blog.amplifiedanalytics.com/2013/11/a-product-is-only-a-part-of-customer-experience/

  6. Two points
    1) Empathy and delight are often viewed by CFOs as being time consuming and expensive because everyone refers to the Nordstrom tire story which was expensive. In fact, companies like Chick-fil-A have encouraged “micro-bursts of emotional connection and empathy which can be accomplished in 20-40 seconds both face to face and via phone and even chat.

    2) Anticipation goes way beyond the call center – SoCal Edison sent emails to 30,000 customers based on smart meter data warning them 20 days before the end of the billing period that their bill was going to be really high, resulting in delight, behavioral changes and 300 thank you calls. Your internal operations data saying what your are about to do to the customer is the best source of anticipatory action. Few companies view operations data as experience data.

  7. Love the focus on empathy. Empathy trumps sympathy any day! Great principles here – thanks!

  8. Great list and it seems very consistent with research our company has done looking toward the next decade. In particular, our Customers 2020 report sites a similar trend on #7 concerning the evolution of contact centers which will be interesting to watch. A summary of our findings can be found at http://www.walkerinfo.com/webcast/c2020.

    I also believe CXPA’s certification will accelerate the industry’s progress.

    2014 is here! Let’s dig in!

  9. Jon Borillo says:

    Great article. Watch out for these trends this year because it’s all about delivering the best customer experience. Better if we study them and see how they can work to help bring your business to the top.

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