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  • Richard Shapiro

2020 Customer Experience (CX) Trends

Updated: Dec 9, 2019

Our customers’ expectations are growing exponentially. Although technology helps companies facilitate CX strategy, without the human touch our customers and our employees are vulnerable to poaching. Keeping abreast of the following nine trends being monitored by The Center For Client Retention (TCFCR) will help your business thrive in 2020 and beyond.

An Engaged Workforce Delivers Exceptional Customer Experiences

While we’ve known for years that happy employees are key to delivering an exceptional customer experience, it’s hard to retain our best people in such a competitive labor market. While high compensation is a strong inducement, it’s no panacea. According to the workforce management experts at Inward Strategic Consulting, Millennials–the largest generation in the U.S. labor force–are demanding a more engaged workplace. They want to work for organizations that are ethical and, further, that are willing to invest in technology to enhance the employee experience. Look for increased investments in AI that reduce busy-work in order to allow more time to focus on the customer, financial wellness programs to reduce stress and increase productivity, and employee experience portals.

Put Superfans to Work for Your Brand

Shoppers on social media want instant gratification and fast, accurate information from advertisers, but how can a brand respond 24/7 without sacrificing the human touch? Tech firm Chatdesk has a solution: recruit “superfans”–students, stay-at-home parents and others with a passion for your brand–to provide after-hours support. With Chatdesk Teams, brands can quickly and affordably augment their customer support with engaged human agents who are paid on a per-ticket basis. Not only can superfans select answers from pre-approved responses, but Chatdesk’s software connects them with AI to generate personalized messages, dramatically increasing conversions. Superfans are motivated to grow the customer base and promote the brand, and putting them to work–works!

Decentralized Structure Provides Better CX Outcomes

The days of CX being solely owned by a CMO or CXO are coming to an end. Because the customer experience is impacted by every single department, customer-facing or not, organizations are realizing the need for inter-departmental CX teams and accountability across all staffing functions. This concept goes beyond Amazon’s bringing an empty chair to meetings to symbolize the customer; it includes empowering employees to do what’s best for the customer, decentralizing communications, and rewarding those who challenge the status quo. Experience-driven businesses have recently enjoyed average annual revenue growth of 15%, compared to 11% for other firms. As more organizations restructure to include CX goals and objectives in everyone’s roles, watch for a rising top rate of growth as well as a widening gap between firms that “get it” and those that don’t. And observe a related trend affecting corporate marketing departments: by 2023, 51% of marketing organizations expect to have decentralized their marketing operations.

Voice-Enabled Shopping Expands Rapidly

U.S. voice commerce sales are projected to reach $40 billion in 2022. We’ve already shared a significant 2019 trend that saw voice assistants conveying more warmth and personality–we’ll see this shift into high gear in the year ahead as brands rapidly expand their voice commerce options. Argos, a British retailer, is utilizing Google Assistant to let customers reserve product through voice shopping before picking up at the local store; during the call, the client can engage the application in conversation and even ask for advice on choosing the right product. As consumers grow increasingly comfortable interacting, consuming content and shopping via voice command, demand will lead to increased product availability across a plethora of new voice-enabled platforms and kiosks. In 2020, brands that are paying attention will invest heavily in voice commerce–literally putting their money where their (customers’) mouths are.

Social Media 2.0

When it comes to interacting with our customers, a basic Facebook page or Twitter account is not only no longer enough but can make us look positively medieval. As consumers increase their use of social media, brands must keep up by adding new support channels and continually refining how they use established tools. An estimated 87% of companies utilize Twitter DM and 51% use Facebook Messenger to connect with customers and prospects, but to fixate on these options is no recipe for success. In the next 12 months, 94% of organizations plan to implement WeChat and 79% WhatsApp–channels that offer tremendous value across marketing, sales and customer support functions. (In just one example, eco-friendly furniture retailer, Big Brain, utilized WhatsApp to recover 70% of its abandoned checkouts.) Although firms are eager to exploit social media’s latest and greatest, and should make bold strides, a word of caution: consumers expect any new platform to provide accessible and reliable customer-focused service from Day One.

Kids Learn Life & Career Lessons at Age Four

Remember the excitement of going to work with mom or dad? Today, parents can go to work with their kids. KidZania, born in 1999 in Mexico City and now found in 22 countries, is making its U.S. debut with a children’s-size town in the Dallas‒Fort Worth area. Supported in part by Industry Partners, the 55 buildings in KidZania City will include a bank, podcast studio, recording studio, hospital, university and various shops and salons, giving kids from four to 14 the opportunity to immerse themselves in adult role playing. The goal is to expose children to different professions and industries, providing a foundation for life and career choices through the power (and fun!) of experiential learning. Participants gain financial literacy, too, conducting commercial transactions using “Kidzos” currency as part of a four-hour experience that should bring young visitors back again and again. According to KidZania CMO Susie Tsai, “It’s a safe place to learn, a safe place to fail and to just be you.” Keep an eye on this and similar innovative, large-scale projects designed to help children succeed in an unpredictable future. If they herald a true trend–time will tell–it’s one made to order for our times.

CSAT Surveys & Analytics Make the Perfect Marriage

After years of debating whether Net Promoter Score (NPS), Customer Effort Score (CES) or Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT) is the best metric for measuring the customer experience, organizations are coming to understand that it takes more than just one number or method to determine success. Even Frederick Reichheld, the father of NPS, is forecasting data and text analytics as the new way to uncover customer sentiment and satisfaction since he feels that, in many cases, surveys have become “less meaningful,now that they’ve become inescapable.” Do not, however, count on AI as a one-size-fits-all CX solution; without follow-up surveys the satisfaction or loyalty effect of certain transactions cannot be accurately assessed without taking this additional step. And remember: don’t ask customers to document their satisfaction if you don’t have the mechanisms in place to satisfy them in a timely fashion.

Customer Experience is Determined by Best-in-Class Companies

Best-in-Class firms such as Amazon, Nordstrom and Apple drive consumer expectations and impact every interaction we have, no matter the size of our business or the type of widget we sell. As we enter 2020, companies that strive to understand how expectations are developed will realize that customers don’t care about their policies and logistical limitations: the customer experience is universal and consumers expect the same level of care and connection whether they’re shopping in a local clothing boutique, a big-box store, or online at Amazon. In other words, when developing our CX strategy, strategizing around what our direct competitors are delivering is no longer sufficient–we must emulate Best-in-Class.

The Internet of Things (IoT) is the New Frontier

There were reportedly 14.2 billion connected IoT devices in 2019; in 2025 we may be looking at 25 billion. This explosion of connectivity provides businesses with opportunities to enhance the customer experience as never before. By 2020, we will produce an annual data volume of 45,000 exabytes, which will enable vastly improved personalization of our interactions through AI and machine learning. A worthwhile example can be seen in the healthcare industry, which is significantly embracing IoT through the development of new wearable devices that bridge the gap between patient behaviors, needs, treatments and outcomes. One victim of IoT and all this data sharing, of course, is our privacy. Companies will increase the security of customer data through stronger policies and blockchain-like technologies, but can’t stop hackers and data thieves from exploiting personal and proprietary information. Data security and privacy will always be concerns, but we need to continue making strides in building outstanding CX programs while remaining vigilant at every step of the journey.

Many of today’s companies continue to confuse customer service with customer experience. While a critical element for any business and a component of CX, customer service tends to be transactional. Customer experience, on the other hand, begins at the initial touchpoint where marketing entices our customer to engage. The CX strategy requires a long-term commitment.

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