Guest Blogger

By Leonie Brown, Customer Experience Strategist

Customer experience (CX) has become the key differentiator for today’s brands. Companies are striving to become leaders in this space, not only for the bragging rights in such a competitive market, but, critically, because they understand the intrinsic value of superior CX in growing their customer base, increasing brand loyalty and driving sales.

The key is where to spend time and effort to get maximum results, but how should brands shape their CX strategies?  With 2017 now underway, these are the trends that will determine the future of CX.

  1. Customer expectations will accelerate, but companies will struggle to keep up

Advances in customer experience awareness will put consumer expectations at an all-time high, but this belies the lack of uniform customer experience management and innovation in the market. Companies will continue to need to be ‘always on’, omnichannel, fast, personal and easy. Yet private, everyday customer expectations will become immense.

Amazon is pushing the boundaries of CX with its new Amazon Go checkout-free shopping experience. While this venture is likely to establish a CX standard that is unachievable for many other companies, customers will sense that every other retailer could do more to emulate this approach, prioritise their importance and create a similarly effortless shopping experience.

The companies that are going above and beyond are setting a high benchmark for 2017 and rival brands must keep up to remain competitive.

  1. Service failures will require abundant recovery – but it’s worth it

Consumer expectations will rise around a company’s ability to detect dissatisfaction. Customers are now fully sensing the power of word of mouth and the potential to grow consensus at a magnitude, and want companies to react to their issues.

Poor service can impact brand perceptions, but interestingly it’s what happens next that usually shapes our opinion and behaviour more permanently. In fact, a service failure provides the opportunity to build stronger customer relationships – but only if handled with speed, empathy and excellent service delivery.

Recent Qualtrics research reveals that, in the eyes of the customer, how businesses recover from mistakes is a fundamental factor to increasing brand loyalty. Fast resolution of a problem results in almost half (48%) of consumers liking the retailer more than before the incident, with 48% confirming no change to their view.

Recover well from a poor customer experience and retailers will not only get the customer back onside, but potentially create a new brand advocate. An effective CX resolution can be even more powerful than the initial experience.

  1. It’s the beginning of the end for data gazing

Collecting data on customers to gain insights is a long-established practice. This year, there will be more activity around turning that collected data into action. Rather than wading through reams of operational data, customer experience professionals will look to the data that really matters to CX.

Dashboards will be reduced to only the most critical components, as organisations become tired of tracking KPIs and instead focus on business outcomes, turning those KPIs and research into business plans.

  1. Data strategy becomes paramount

Your data strategy will be as important as the data that is collected. It will become increasingly difficult for companies to do this themselves, so we’ll see a move to hire talent to make retroactive upgrades.

Experience data will start to sit at the heart of these strategies, to drive decision making for CX professionals. This human-factor data, which focuses on customer beliefs, emotions and sentiments, will take the onus away from what has happened to allow brands to predict what is going to happen next.

  1. AI will continue its upswing

The continued development of artificial intelligence (AI) solutions will begin to allow increasing identification and analysis for photos, videos, voice analytics, text analytics and anomaly detection. This will help to make data that is currently considered qualitative (long-form video and voice recordings) quantitative, opening up a new opportunity to gauge consumer reactions and build a deeper, more contextual understanding of customers.

AI will also help to drive the rise of service bots –  intelligent, applications-based messenger services designed to speed up customer wait times. While some customer service experts are still sceptical about the role that automation and “chat bots” will play in improving customer satisfaction, it’s hard to deny that they will drastically improve wait times, providing customers with an immediate channel to resolve an increasingly wide variety of day-to-day problems.

Leaving behind outdated resolutions

Customer experience teams must move to be effective, but many are still focusing on the resolutions for 2016: optimising the website, activating social listening and connecting the dots between customer sentiment and customer behaviour. If this sounds like your organisation, then you’re already behind. Action, change and momentum are the key to successful CX programmes in 2017 and beyond.

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