Customer Experience Trends in 2015: Predictions and How You Can Leverage Them
During 2015 customer experience became a core focus of CIOs and marketing professionals for gaining and retaining customers for businesses. It gained traction because of a fundamental shift in consumer expectations as they engaged with brands online through multiple-channels and across multiple devices.
As 2015 draws to a close, it’s time to look back on the challenges customer experience posed for customer-centric companies, look at insights, draw conclusion, and forecast the trends that companies must work-through and integrate into their business strategies during 2016.
Below I will discuss the top six trends in customer experience that I think should become the cornerstone of business strategies for every customer-centric company.
1. Customer Expectations Will Only Increase
As social interactivity increases, brands are witnessing a change in customer service expectations from their users. According to Zendesk, 87% of the customers believe that brands need to invest more in creating seamless customer experiences.
Customers are expecting practically 24/7 service from their brands. They want to have meaningful conversations with the agents and have shown a strong disliking when their communications are structured and overly scripted. As a result, customers want to engage in conversations from customer service agents who:
Are well-versed in common problems,
· Can readily identify the problems and issues that the customer has, and
· Can offer personalized answers to their queries in the shortest time possible
This is a call for an omni-channel support where the brands can readily access the interaction/visit history of the customer in real-time, and so are able to address their queries and resolve their problems across a wide range of devices (mobile to desktop) and through multiple communication channels (email, chat, social, etc.).
Understanding the new expectations of customers is crucial for creating a more streamlined and relevant customer experience. This is because social media has empowered customers. It’s easier for them to voice out their opinions, if not to the service agent, then to your existing customer based and the other target audience through social media.
Hence, the only way to create the right customer experience is to consistently remain abreast of their qualitative feedback (instead of the normal star-rated quantitative feedbacks) and progressively improve the experience.
2. Customer Experience Management will See Greater Investments
As customer experience becomes the defining differentiator in the online space, companies will invest in more robust tools and technologies, and professionals to enable a better, more streamlined, omni channel experience for their customers. In a phrase, they will increase their investments in customer experience management (CEM).
According to Deloitte, 63% of the organizations are investing in better customer experience through contact centers. Additionally, the 2014 Gartner report found that top marketers were focused on investing in a more streamlined customer experience, balancing their budget between retaining customers and gaining new ones.
This is because better Customer Experience Management (CEM) allows companies to differentiate themselves, establish brand value, and gain a market competitive edge. The Forrester Customer Indexhas shown a strong co-relation between performance gains and loss between customer-centric companies (43% gain) and those who neglected customer experience (33.9% decrease).
Hence, in 2016 as well, companies will invest heavily in customer experience to improve their customer satisfaction, loyalty, and retention rates. As the market landscape becomes more dynamic, customer retention will become volatile and retention strategies will heavily depend on creating a streamlined customer experience.
This will directly affect the professional niche for customer experience professionals who will be required to lead new customer experience strategies. Google Trends reports show a clear rise in the demand for customer experience professionals
Google Trends: Dramatic increase in customer experience jobs
This will be followed by an increase in search for qualified professionals for building, consulting, leading customer experience teams and the right set of technologies dedicated to improving customer experience.
Hence, companies will be heavily investing in hiring and retaining customer experience professionals, and deploying the technologies needed to streamline their efforts.
3. One-to-One, Personalized, Cross-Channel Interactions Will Gain Prominence
83% of online customers need some form of support in successfully completing their purchase. Hence, creating cross-channel communication and personalized experience for customers has been the cornerstone of CEM for several years now. Although companies have tried and managed to deliver a multi-channel customer support across Chat, web, mobile, and SMS, however, these channels are not integrated, and do not effectively share customer data across the channels.
As a result, they create separate experiences — sending the customer and the service agent to square one whenever the customer changes the channel.
For instance, a customer who has already stated and explained her/his problem through one channel (e.g. email or chat) often has to restate and explain the problem when they shift to another channel (e.g. social or call). This is because the customer’s data is not collected centrally nor available to the service agent in real time.
Hence, if a customer has been engaging with company’s content for a specific topic and turns to social media for an answer, the only way the support team can effectively respond to their query is if they can promptly bring customer data and use it to address their query individually.
Additionally, these channels do not offer a path for escalation to voice channel. As a result, companies are realizing the trend and moving towards “call-back” functionality where customers who want to avoid waiting and holding on call. A survey by SoftwareAdvice found that 63.1% customers preferred a callback in case of longer hold times.
Investing in call-back-functionality makes perfect business sense as they work on two fronts:
· Customer satisfaction — Customers feel respected and happy for getting their time back
· Business savings — Reducing customer bounce because of waiting times saves considerable money for companies by reducing wastage of precious employee hours.
Software device Survey: Customers prefer callback functionality
Hence, in 2016 companies will continue to strive to personalize communications and create one-to-one relationships with their customers across their preferred communication channels through technology and tailor the experiences to their individual needs.
4. Companies Will Merge Existing Marketing Technology With Customer Experience Technologies
A better customer experience requires that existing marketing automation and CRM tools, and CEM systems and tools can easily share data. This is only possible when marketing can be merged with new CEM platforms and tools. This is essential so that marketing efforts can are based on customer experience requirements instead of the other way around.
Companies have been searching for creating a holistic solution where Customer Experience Management (CEM) systems and performance metric can be tied to existing marketing tools and technologies currently being used by the companies.
Hence, during 2016, we will see companies finding and leveraging new integrate-able CEM technologies and tools to address various facets of customer experience.
5. Tracking and Measuring ROI on Customer Experience Management (CEM) Investments Will Gain Prominence
The Temkin group asked thousands of customers to rate different companies for their Net Promoter Score (NPS). NPS is a measure of how willing a company’s customers are in recommending the company’s products/service to others. The score’s range is between -100 and +100.
The survey reported that a strong correlation existed between customer experience and customer loyalty factors such recommending the company to others, overlooking mistakes, repurchasing/rehiring, and trying new offerings from the brand. The report differentiated between ‘detractors’ (unhappy customers that damage brand reputation) and ‘promoters’ (satisfied customers that evangelized the brand).
Companies need to assess the ROI their investments in customer experience are garnering by consistently tracking and measuring different metrics. Prominent KPIs include the impact they have on their NPS, the number of repurchases/rehires from customers, and the correlation between quantitative and qualitative feedback given by users.
6. Companies will Prioritize Mobile-First Policies
Mobile customer experience has become a core concern for successful companies. According to Vision critical, 84% of CIOs in customer-centric companies are focused on improving customer experience on mobile. They are prioritizing mobile experiences to cater the rise of smartphone devices and the increasing reliance of millenials on their mobiles for searching for information online.
Hence, we will see the trends towards mobile-first policy, i.e. working on the user experience on mobile first and then moving towards creating experiences for bigger screens. A clear inversion of the traditional desktop-first policy.
According to Google and ComScore, mobile search has overtaken searches from desktop. This clearly indicates a dramatic shift in customer preferences. Mobile offers immediacy in results, and unless companies adapt to these changes, they risk losing customers because of their indifference to their expectations.
Hence, a shift towards mobile-first will trend in the coming year. Companies will start with designing web experiences and marketing communications for mobile first (which allows them to better personalize their content for the individual) and moved outwards to bigger screens (tablets, laptops, desktops, etc.).
How Prepared Are You?
Customer experience management (CEM) has already become a core element of business strategy. Given the competitive market dynamics, competition, and changing consumer behavior, remaining abreast of evolving customer expectations is crucial to the success of your company.
By increasing, improving, and investing in customer experience you will not only increase customer satisfaction, but win new business, grow and retain customers, gain competitive advantage, and sustain your business’s growth in the long-run.