Top Customer Experience Lessons From 2018…Plus Looking Ahead

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In February I predicted this was going to be the year that companies would re-commit to customer centricity. AI innovation and the expanding omnichannel environment made everything more connected, but the customer experience needed to be simpler and more personal. We needed leaders to watch out for those who did personalization best while paying close attention to the automation trends that made service easier…not more complicated as new technology tends to do.

Now as we approach the end of 2018, I can really appreciate the effort companies and leaders have put in to juggle digital innovations and genuine customer relationships. But of course, there’s always more to improve and reflect on. So, let’s look back on some key initiatives in 2018 and how to make them even better next year.

Lesson #1: Digital transformation of the customer experience (CX)

Businesses have always tried to differentiate themselves on price or product quality. This year we saw that many customers were frequently looking for something more: A rewarding experience that leads to a long-lasting relationship with a business. Customer interactions are no longer stand-alone activities, and this year customers demanded a more comprehensive and consistent experience.

Digital transformation, the application of advanced technologies that have completely restructured the modern business environment, was a big part of this. With advancements like unified omnichannel communications and machine-to-machine communications via the Internet of Things (IoT), a forward-looking digital transformation strategy was key for businesses who want to stay competitive.

To survive this year businesses considered the whole of the customer experience: a truly digital contact centre redefines the customer experience from start to finish. And it wasn’t just about using the right channels to interact with customers where they are; the smartest businesses (of all sizes) integrated technologies across their business to provide full customer context with each interaction and leveraging system data to provide proactive service.

Next year: Connect CX to your business objectives

While it may seem obvious that companies attempt to modify customer experience in order to improve business outcomes, many professionals believe it's difficult to make this connection explicit. One of the most significant ways CX data can be a driver of increased sales, exposure, and loyalty is as a predictor of future consumer behaviour.

Therefore, the more competitive brands will make personalisation a top priority. The data companies use to improve CX will allow them to personalise products and services more effectively than ever before. Consumers increasingly expect brands to provide them with experiences that are tailored to their individual wants and needs. And they believe that for brands that have access to their data, the power has somewhat shifted to the customer.

Customers expect brands to give them relevant and timely promotions, products, or services based on their personalised data. In other words, consumers expect brands to know them. And in 2019 that needs to be a must.

Lesson #2: It’s all about customer analytics

2018 showed that the days of relying on supervisor skill and know-how to get the most out of a contact centre agent are gone. Now, even smaller businesses are taking advantage of sophisticated analytics to turn data—like call and screen recordings, chats, SMS messages, and more—into truly useful feedback for their agents.

It’s not enough to rely on manual observation and monitoring—there’s just too much information. More omnichannel contact centers are starting to rely heavily on analytics programs to build dashboards with the statistics that affect their businesses. We also saw more and more businesses display these kinds of statistical dashboards on user interfaces, so that call agents and managers get real-time updates on customer experiences.

Next year: Meaningful customer data wins

At present, CX is mostly post-mortem. Through cross-functional collaboration enabled by technology, we are attempting to give companies the information required to do a pre-mortem in order to better ensure outcomes. But this shift to predictive CX is difficult for many brands, and the industry, to accept.

Companies that use predictive analytics are almost twice as likely to generate year-over-year customer lifetime value. But they also need to start interpreting predictive customer data in the larger context of their brand's image and reach: Understanding the power of voice and sentiment about your offering versus competitive offerings will be foundational to more highly predictive churn and renewal modelling. When a company can anticipate what its customers want, it can adopt proactive measures to keep them satisfied instead of constantly scrambling to respond to complaints and shifting attitudes.

This also means better understanding your company’s culture and philosophy. While businesses will be left behind if they don't have the ability to collect predictive data about their customers, technology alone isn't enough to provide customer experiences that lead to revenue growth, more market share, loyalty etc. CX needs to be an integral part of a company's culture—the technology will only be effective if it's part of a broader effort to improve customer experience at every level.

New Year, better experiences

One of the biggest challenges of the year was identifying exactly what customers want and how to deliver it. CX isn't about luxury or more service—it's about making it the right experience for what the customer is asking for. This is an old principle, but it remains the best guide for navigating the new era in customer experience.

Although many companies recognise the vital role of CX in customer retention, there's still a disconnect between their CX goals and what's being done to accomplish them. CXOs should recognise that we're entering a uniquely difficult era for companies trying to distinguish themselves with superior customer experiences. 2018 was a great year. Let’s build on that to make 2019 truly innovative and unique.