Get Ready for the 2020 Customer

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We live in the age of customer experience where anticipating the needs of customers is a mainstream strategy for many enterprise companies. Forward-thinking organizations, however, know that in the future, their responsibility to serve customers on a one-to-one basis will come to bear as customers will come to expect more impactful, individualized, and seamless engagement from brands.
These expectations will require companies in the future to create an unrelenting focus on the customer throughout the enterprise. The leaders will continuously introduce new skills, align their workforces around customer metrics, introduce new products and services from customer feedback, and be fearless of change and innovation.

For the 2020 customer, customer experience will be the competitive differentiator and the centerpiece to an enterprise’s success. Looking ahead, here are four imperatives for growing your business along with your customers:

1. Put yourself into your customers’ shoes.

Companies that want to innovate shouldn’t waste time analyzing market research reports. Instead, they must put themselves in their customers’ shoes.  Listening to customers can revolutionize business; and actions speak louder than words. There are numerous ways to capture customer feedback. But for the 2020 customer, surveys and focus groups may not do the trick, as these traditional methods will have less impact. Companies of the future must gather insights on the customer’s terms. Going forward, extracting customer sentiment through voice analysis, monitoring social media, establishing customer communities, and collecting geo-location data will all be common methods in which companies will gather insights from customers.

2. Align the organization to serve customer needs.

A few years ago, you could count the number of customer-aligned large companies on both hands. Today, there are many more, but most of the new arrivals have endured some measure of organizational upheaval. The companies that want to exist, and be relevant in 2020, must reorganize now to align themselves with their customers.

Aligning organizational performance to customer-focused objectives is perhaps one of the toughest challenges, even for world-class organizations. Some factors to consider include: designing internal functions and processes to balance both customer relationship development with achieving high operational efficiencies, developing departments and technologies that are scalable to expand or change with the customers, and putting long-term customer goals ahead of short-term gain.

Organizations that can navigate the rough terrain involved in aligning customer strategy with business operations, systems, and product development will thrive in 2020.

3. Use the cross-channel customer journey as your guide.

Mapping a cross-channel >customer journey is a key step in improving efficacy and efficiency of customer interactions. Customer journey maps can target improvements, as well as gaps in the customer experience. For example, journey mapping can help to pinpoint redundancies in current marketing practices that may overwhelm the customer or identify inconsistent information that’s being delivered across channels. It also can also highlight gaps in the customer experience that lead to missed opportunities to connect with a customer who is signaling for contact with the brand at certain points in the journey but is not presently being helped.

4. Establish customer experience metrics.

Organizations that aren’t measuring their service delivery are missing key opportunities to improve and even grow their businesses. Deciding on, and implementing, the right set of customer metrics will ultimately help move the needle on improving the customer experience. By 2020, metrics like average handle time will be distant memories from a time where frontline employees were rewarded for how little time they spent with customers. Forward-thinking companies have shown that some customer-focused metrics actually correlate to financial performance. Metrics like Net Promoter Score™, customer retention, share of wallet, and even time spent with customers will be commonplace. Some organizations may even consider using single individualized scorecards that bundle all of these customer metrics and serve as a gauge for frontline employee performance. Innovative companies will even hold employees accountable for the metrics—good or bad.

The customer experience is rapidly changing. Today’s customers will look different tomorrow as they become more tech savvy, brand knowledgeable, and demanding of great customer experiences. In this new era of digitally focused, knowledge-hungry consumers, the company of tomorrow must transform or risk extinction.