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4 CX Trends to Know About
If your organizational plans for 2019 include the development or refinement of a customer experience (CX) or service brand strategy, you’re not alone.
And if you’ve got a serious case of déjà vu as you consider the challenges to doing CX well, you’ll also find yourself with plenty of company. The majority of companies that identify with having a customer experience (81% according to a 2017 Gartner Study) say their customers will compete solely on their experience by next year, but the number of companies that have their CX tied to their business outcomes is far lower.
Since being brought into focus by Holbrook and Hirschman in the early 1980s, customer experience (and subsequently service branding) has been discussed, dissected and re-imagined by every major consulting firm, business publication, startup, internet darling and marketing mind imaginable.
But at its core, the tenants of that initial framework presented in the Journal of Consumer Research in 1982 still ring true. People are buying products and services not just out of necessity, but to make good on a dream, pursue a feeling and have more fun.
Lasting brands have always paid off on parts of that experience, whether it’s intentional or not. Look no further than the ecosystem of experiences that brands like Apple created for a lasting example.
The reason a user reports feeling a sense of panic when they lose their phone isn’t that they can’t live without the phone itself. The experience they have become accustomed to—having a personal assistant, a helpful navigator, an expert photographer, a library and an expert researcher—is what can’t be replicated. The device can be replaced, but the comfort and convenience of having these experiences cannot.
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
– Dr. Maya Angelou
The Framework of Good CX
No matter how many buzzwords or technological advances come into play, good customer experience still boils down to one thing that sums up a good experience: satisfaction.
At Simantel, we believe there are four key areas of focus that every brand needs to deliver against before they even consider getting to more advanced levels of CX or service branding. We call them the four Cs.
- Clarity: Defines where the customers’ wants, needs, desires and behaviors marry with the unique offering of the brand.
- Character: Enables the brand to act with intention on its unique point of differentiation to ensure that the brand promise carries through every experience with consistency and simplicity.
- Context: Marries the customers’ situational need states with the organization’s ability to deliver against them in a programmatic fashion, allowing customers to act on or fulfill their situational need.
- Commitment: Empowers and activates the entire organization on the service and experience model, ensuring the brand can act, learn and pivot in an agile way.
For us, the four Cs create a framework that any brand, no matter how big or technologically-sophisticated, can start from when presenting their offering to the world. When coupled with a long-term customer experience vision, they will provide actionable plans for gathering feedback, experimentation, iteration and learning that strengthen the commitment of the brand to its customers.
Now that you know how we view customer experience strategy and service branding, let’s cover four more significant trends we’re watching closely this year.
1. Continued Focus on Personalization
With rapid adoption of personal assistants like Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri and Google’s Assistant, plus the saturation of machine learning and personalized algorithm services, customer expectations for a more personalized experience have never been higher.
And while we know that most brands don’t have the spending power of Amazon, we do know that being intentional about investments in technology and data strategy will help them stay one step ahead of competition. Doing so lends the same power to personalize parts of their experience, ultimately leading to stronger brand satisfaction and a clearer articulation of their four Cs.
These customer expectations require brands to understand that CX and service start well before the sale and that any data they ask of a customer must be put to use. For some companies, this may require a significant investment in software that helps build a profile of known and potential customers. For others, this means optimizing their communication strategy to be reactive to a customer action or behavior.
As disruptors like Amazon, Netflix, Nest and Spotify continue to solve for “problems” consumers never knew they had, pressure to deliver on known information in a personalized way will become more of the norm in 2019.
2. Shift from Omnichannel to Intended Outcomes and Customer Journey Management
A few years ago, omnichannel was all the rage. Brands were advised to have their message everywhere and to pass customer data from experience to experience seamlessly. That led to a lot of brands being oversold on channel-based marketing, implementation of cloud-based solutions to message in those channels and massive internal headaches to meet the demand.
While the intention to deliver a seamless experience across as many enabled channels as possible is still a noble one, many organizations remain too siloed and fractured to deliver on the promise of being truly “omnichannel” and lack the clarity component needed to understand the most important problems to solve for the customer.
By shifting focus from solving the omnichannel problem in one massive transformation to managing the customer journey, brands can focus on delivering delight in the moments that matter, while meeting the goals of the brand.
In short, omnichannel shouldn’t mean every channel. In 2019, we hope to see more brands focusing on what’s valuable to customers and the organization instead of overextending themselves to boil the experience ocean.
With a focus on intended outcomes that meet the behavioral, emotional and situational needs of the customer, brands can identify service models and experiments that deliver the most value and offer the greatest potential for business success.
3. Data Management, Science Becoming More Difficult
Most organizations can point you to a treasure trove of data coming from a variety of sources. Because of the sheer volume of data brands are collecting, managing it within the organization can, often times, paralyze the team trying to activate against it.
A shortage of data scientists and technologists is making acting on data collected more and more difficult, forcing organizations to consider managed service models that require significant onboarding.
For brands to succeed, it’s become more crucial to determine a data strategy that’s optimized around a customer journey prior to pulling the trigger on technical investments. The priorities and the moments that matter should drive how we determine what data to collect and how it should flow through our technical systems.
As organizations attempt to make sense of the reams and reams of data at their disposal, governance and analysis will become more crucial to executing against automation needs.
Understanding customer context provides the lens to act on the data and allows an organization to set metrics for all of its content, enabling automation and personalization.
4. Focus on the Human Factors
So much of the conversation around CX lands on data and automation. Many brands still don’t understand how critical employees and cross-departmental communication and empowerment are. Not only in improving customer satisfaction, but also in creating memorable experiences that build lasting loyalty.
Look for larger brands with dedicated Chief Customer Officers or Chief Customer Experience Officers to see less siloed reporting structures. This in turn enables greater influence across the broader organizational strategy.
It takes a conscious, cross-organizational effort to align business objectives with experience and improve how customers interact and connect with the brand. The first step is to gain more data and insights into customer preferences and trends and then gain the commitment to align organizational roles. Customer service and delivering on a CX vision can’t be done through technology and automation alone.
The Year of Listening
2019 will be the year of a greater focus on listening and an intense focus on understanding data to power automation. The important thing to remember is that a unified metric is key to measuring the success of these efforts, as well as building that metric into cross-organizational goals—and the business plan itself.
Good customer experience brands don’t just expect the promise of experience to happen naturally, they proactively create forward-thinking customer solutions. They experiment, measure and adapt. They learn as much from the customers that they didn’t win as they do from the ones they did.
Strong service brands make customer experience part of their culture and empower more than just a handful of people to act. These brands are focused on delighting not just those who purchase their products or services, but anyone who may consider them.
Do you know where your customer experience or service brand strategy stacks up? We can help you assess your CX and service brand readiness.