Here is the reality: A poor (or even worse, unmemorable) customer experience (CX) has led to a resounding “Game Over” for many businesses in the last few years. In 2018, becoming a winning company with a devoted fan base is no easy feat. With a crowded online marketplace and so many variables at work (be they social media, evolving digital tools, emerging AI, employee turnover, cutbacks, or the increasingly discerning consumers in the global market), developing a workable strategy to engage with – and win over – the hearts of customers can seem impossible. No need to feel defeated, though: Certain trends are emerging that businesses should set a course to follow this year to vie for the number one spot. Achieving a top CX strategy is an integral part of this journey, and remains the number one priority for companies across the globe. Many are already wise to this fact: According to Forbes, as of last year, 75% of companies suggested that their prime objective was to cultivate an outstanding customer experience game plan in the future.
Put your hands firmly on the controls and press ‘Start’ on the top CX trends you need to be watching in 2018. Among them, one thing is certain: It’s time to invite your customers onto your team, and win.
1. Adapt or Perish: Be Agile with Your CX Offerings
Any professional team knows that every game is different, and winning is never a sure bet: Each comes with its own surprises, curveballs, and setbacks. In these scenarios, success is possible where players are deeply prepared; where the movements of the opponents are predicted; and where players remain agile and adaptable under pressure. In the CX game, similar principles apply. But instead of opponents, companies must increasingly consider the customer as the pivotal point for the success or failure of their business in 2018 and beyond. In fact, brands should be focusing less on their logos and products as the crux of their identities; the customer should be the number one brand ambassador instead. Some are already on top of their game: “50% percent of organizations have already adapted their business model around the customer experience.”
‘Adaptability’ in ensuring stellar CX is multifaceted, and applies to multiple parts of a business model. This year, companies must consider the following questions to set their CX levels high:
1) What is the best possible experience we can provide for our customers?
2) What kind of technology can we implement to ensure the best possible CX?
3) What technologies are hindering us and complicating the lives of both agents and clients?
4) How can we adapt to the customer, now and going forward?
Businesses are remaining quick on their feet and answering the above questions through several key CX solutions this year:
- Providing a diverse customer experience by offering digital solutions and interactions with live agents: both serve different purposes, as well as different age groups and lifestyles. According to Medallia, “Companies that embrace the digital customer experience are 50% more likely to perform in the top quartile on CX”.
- Overhauling company infrastructure to provide a more ‘personal’, intimate customer experience: Companies who have seen success in both online and in-store sales continue to reach the customer at every turn, via pop-up shops, alerts, and other innovative means.
- Offering technology that eases the lives of customers, and acknowledges their increasingly mobile, digital lives: Providing online self-service; the ability to review your business efficiently via short online surveys; and offering chatbots for Q&As are a handful of ways to adapt your business to emerging digital channels.
- Incorporating a CX cloud system as part of the business infrastructure: These systems synthesize every step of the customer interaction journey, taking into account all relevant channels. Not only does this lessen the chance of customers having to repeat themselves, it also provides rich consumer data to agents ahead of time. Customer experience clouds, which amalgamate rich customer data and make for a seamless digital experience, are the “pinnacle for businesses trying to achieve the ultimate, contextual customer experiences across the total buyer journey.”
One key factor in staying at the top of your customer experience game is remaining nimble in an increasingly demanding consumer marketplace, and ensuring that customers are able to positively experience your brand using the controls and platforms relevant to
them. Remember: How agile and adaptable you are will determine whether your brand wins or loses.
2. Say “Hi!” to A.I.: Bots Shake Hands with Brands
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is certainly not a new player in the CX strategy game. In 2018, AI will continue to be a viable tool for improving CX and engaging with customers on a deeper, faster, and winning level. AI is useful on many levels. It:
- Frees up agents’ time by resolving minor inquiries that may not require human interference
- Provides a quick’n’dirty form of outreach for mobile users who may balk at the idea of placing a call, and
- Offers valuable data on the customer experience including FAQs, peak times, complaint resolution timelines, and even purchasing habits.
These uses certainly apply to chatbots, which brands have embraced at a dizzying speed. In the past, few customers knew of their existence, but according to Marketingland.com, chatbots will become a major focal point due to a significant investment in improving them for customers and market researchers alike. In a discussion on Facebook Messengers’ 100,000+ chatbots, Facebook VP of Messenger David Marcus says the social media giant and advertising tool has focused on ways “for people to bring bots into conversations with friends and the ability … to invoke bots when making recommendations to people.” Adding to this personalization, chatbots can also field frequently asked questions.
Working to improve chatbot technology is a trend to consider this year. In addition to providing customers with another channel for resolving product issues, it also delivers useful data that, if listened to and analyzed, could have a tremendous impact on the restructuring of a CX strategy. According to a study by Customer Think, AI and machine learning will become vital to a business’s success or failure in the marketplace. In fact, 94% of respondents suggested that “advanced technology” like AI is already a monumental factor in “helping their organization to overcome complex CX challenges.”
3. Maximum Velocity: The Need for Speed
The critical aspect to any ‘race to the top’ is speed. However, speed must be applied with skill and experience, while knowing the nuances of the journey one is taking. Whether your gaze is firmly fixed on customer service or the overarching customer journey, timeliness combined with efficiency is one of the most important, universal, and constant pieces of a good client experience. Your business depends on it.
But as AI, digital offerings, and business models begin to expand and grow, speed is a much more complex business than in the 1-800-only days. Speed and stealth on all channels is an absolute must for ensuring that customers are receiving the ideal experience at all times and in all mediums. Especially for businesses trying to corner competitive markets, speed remains a serious competitive differentiator.
The studies continue to do the talking on this well-discussed trend: For instance, Dynatrace conducted a global study revealing that “73% of retail organisations say the need for speed in digital innovation is putting customer experience at risk.” The study also highlights that the increased speed desired in a customer experience has meant an immense pressure on businesses to improve how often they update their own technologies, as they attempt to reach the high bar set by “soaring consumer expectations”. But this increase in speed on an organizational level comes at a cost: Almost 60% of those surveyed “admitted they are forced to compromise between faster innovation” and the need to provide a winning customer experience.
In 2018, companies must take a step back and examine the landscape and the way to navigate it using both stealth and speed, carefully rethinking their own journeys as well as the customers’. To put the pedal to the metal and accelerate speed (and CX) on all levels, they may consider:
- Investing in more agents to support all the channels a business has in place
- Implementing AI technologies to offset case volumes for those working in customer support
- Making optimal use of all customer data collected by multiple channels. Organizations are making a concerted effort to address the massive customer insight data that often goes unanalyzed. According to Customer Think: “One of the biggest roadblocks to exceptional CX is dealing with customer data. Around one in three respondents highlight a lack of real-time customer insights as something holding them back from CX optimization, making it the most frequently experienced CX challenge”
- Growing product development teams and analysts who can carefully review the rich information about customer experience that can be mined from the data collected from all channels, and
- Considering the use of products (like call-back software, messaging, and chat-based tools) that minimize case volume, improve customer experience, and prevent agent-burnout.
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