Asking for an investment 'because X will no longer happen' is fraught with risk - learn about the biggest four and how to get your money anyway.
The Customer Experience community is not susceptible to fads. We are a diverse, passionate spread of people with a common interest in delivering better customer experiences to enable resilience and sustainable growth for businesses and other organisations.
Our diverse backgrounds mean we test and challenge what is working and what could be better. As a result, Customer Experience is continuously evolving. In the words of Yogi Berra, I don’t predict the future and I never will. But if I had a crystal ball, I would expect it to show many macro and micro advances in the management of Customer Experience.
One of the most exciting trends is the continuation, even acceleration of the introduction of new loyalty measures. These metrics use questions that are more in tune with the way customers think, they are easier for customers to score, and they give a clearer insight for the all-important development of action.
Well, I say new, the Walker Loyalty Matrix has a great pedigree. It not only measures the attitude of customers. It covers the ‘so-what’, by understanding how that compares with behaviour. They call this the stability of the customer base. The Temkin Loyalty Index dates back to 2017 and now Bruce Temkin suggests we replace NPS with his True Loyalty Metric. It moves away from ‘likely to recommend’ to ‘likely to do business with’ and replaces the 11-point scale with a four-point Likert scale.
I am sure there are many others and encourage everyone to look out for them, for example I heard James Dodkins talk about better ways of asking about loyalty a couple of years ago. Similarly, Trust measures are becoming increasingly important.
From the start of the pandemic, we were able to split businesses by those who reached out to customers to meet their needs and those that saw a marketing opportunity. The cost-of-living crises has had a similar effect. In the summer of ‘22 we saw expensive brands launching sales, by Christmas the tone had changed and ads focused on family and community.
But empathy is more than looking after the vulnerable. It is about understanding another person’s position and seeking to help them. Empathy helps us go beyond imagining what another person is feeling. It helps us deliver their needs. We need more empathy at every touchpoint.
I wrote a lot last year about the balance between CX and Marketing. My favourite example is booking events. To give organisers the opportunity to email attendees the booking process is convoluted and disruptive to attendees. If providers recognised number of attendees and attendance rates as the key measure and put the attendee first, they would design booking processes that make attending as easy as possible. In turn making both attendees and organisers happier. This is empathy.
Listening (Voice of the Customer)
On my New Year list every year! We will see more customer listening and action taking – the little black dress of CX.
I am a huge advocate of the Voice of the Customer (VoC). I see it as the gateway to CX and the least every business should do to manage their customer experience.
I judged at the International CX Awards in November and the value businesses gained when they introduced VoC was remarkable. I’ll touch on ROI shortly, but here I want to mention the cultural benefits of listening to customers and taking action.
We all know actions speak louder than words. When we set up VoC ways of working, encourage collaboration, and support and reward our employees. We are doing so much more than improving customer experience. We are proving customers are important. We are living our vision and building the culture, skills and tools to take the next step in our CX maturity.
I hope to see more about behavioural feedback outside websites where UX is teaching us to listen with data. Rage clicking anyone?
Good customer experience gives a competitive advantage. Not because we wow our customers, we can discuss that another day. But because good CX helps us differentiate, set ourselves apart.
In 2022 I led a workshop about Brand Management and CX. I loved how the delegates responded to the concept that Brand is a promise and CX is the delivery of that promise. When I think about differentiation, I often come back to the tools of Brand Management, because if a brand is created with empathy and promises customer value, then we already know the differentiation we need. All we have to do is deliver!
So, let’s consider an example. Aico make smoke detectors. As a consumer you could be forgiven for thinking they are commodity items. But Aico doesn’t see it that way. They sell safety, they sell reliability and they sell confidence. And they differentiate themselves from the stack it high, sell it low purveyors of smoke detectors by training customers, supporting building developers and communicating clearly. They use VoC to improve their products, services and journeys. They empathise with all the people involved in the purchase, fitting and use of their products, and they deliver the needs of each party.
You could even say differentiation helps us make micro disruptions. Another name for this is ‘the one percent’. Put simply, differentiation need not be huge. It could be a better way of letting consumers browse your e-commerce site, engaging a delivery company that lives your values or providing one stop support.
ESG and DE&I
Our approach to Ethics, Sustainability, Governance (ESG) and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DE&I) can attract customers. But, in difficult times, it is too easy to hunker down into ways of working that focus inwardly and reinforce outdated cultural attitudes.
I believe we will see businesses review practices and policies to grow their culture and align with changing expectations. And those businesses will succeed.
You may not be able to deliver the whole of your ESG and DE&I plans for 2023. But don’t put them to one side. Figure out what you can do and when you will review again. Then communicate to your team, emphasizing that you have not forgotten these subjects or have stopped believing in them. This is key to retaining trust.
Return on Investment
I worry about the evangelical members of our community. Those that seem to see CX as a goal. I don’t think we can be taken seriously as a profession if we evangelise.
Of course, it would be nice if all businesses naturally recognised the importance of customers and treated everyone with respect and dignity. But the simple fact is we have to demonstrate value. We can see historic examples of this in other areas such as Health and Safety, website accessibility, Environmental Protection and the new Consumer Duty in the UK.
So, what does ROI mean? Well, it is often about business case, the value we deliver when we intentionally manage customer experience. It doesn’t have to be financial in the short-term. Cultural change and employee experience can be valid and compelling arguments for change.
If we want our CX programme to be one of the 4 out 5 Forresters predict will survive 2023, then we have to, as a minimum, focus on the activities that bring business benefits. We also have an opportunity to recast our roles to support our colleagues in difficult times. CX must be collaborative, if we are to reduce costs. It must be collaborative, if we are to reduce churn. It must be collaborative, if we are to understand opportunities to differentiate our businesses.
What do I mean by micro trends? Many commentators predict trends in their CX niche. Some are quite specific, such as personalisation (more please, so long as it is based on genuine human listening and empathy; not the desire to earn a quick buck at the expense of trust and loyalty). Other are critical success factors for the six trends I have outlined, such as data integration (telling stories and generating actionable insights) or always balancing people and technology when automating.
Tech gives us opportunities too. How about conversational customer service? Or orchestration technology which tells support staff the next best action to take. Are these trends or technologies which support the trends I outline?
If I could only pick one?
Forbes is going all out on its prediction that customers will choose where to buy based on experience – I suspect this has always been the case (even in Pompeii some bars were clearly more popular than others).
But the difference today is the speed of change in customer needs and preferences, and the creativity of our competitors. Underpinning your customer experience management with a firm and updated understanding of customers is the only way to delight customers and deliver sustainable growth. So go out, listen, act with empathy and deliver amazing business results.