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!

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!

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