Love it or hate it, when December hits there’s one thing as sure as mince-pie overload – it’s also the time of year we all get our crystal balls out and start predicting what’s on the horizon for the coming year.
The last ten years have seen a rate of change in customer service faster than the last 100 years combined. Salesforce have dubbed it the ‘fourth generation’, where boundaries between the physical, digital, and biological worlds have started to blur. It’s fundamentally changed what consumers have come to expect from brands. No wonder that 80 percent of customers consider their experience with a company to be as important as its products.
However, despite these raising expectations, only 49 percent of U.S. consumers say they’re getting a good customer experience from companies. This disconnect was echoed in Forrester’s Customer Experience Predictions 2020, which warns “consumers continue to move faster than businesses.”
The upshot here is that businesses are still clearly missing a trick in how to differentiate their brand and delight their customers base – but will next year be any better? Well there’s huge scope for improvements, but ironically the ones that may fair best are the ones that focus on the basics over buzzwords.
And we all know the buzzword of the moment – artificial intelligence (AI).
It’s had by far the lion’s share of the word of mouth this year but there is still confusion as to the role it can play, especially in complex environments, as well as the consumer acceptance of it.
There’s also lessons to be sought given the changes taken place in the cyber security market. Even the least savvy of Internet user has seen the furore over election manipulation, foreign state hacking and increasingly credible phishing and social engineering attacks. This has influenced strategy because providers operating online channels have had to enhance the protection of data with pin numbers, confirmation codes, captcha boxes and two factor authorisation. The problem is that these things make for a terrible customer experience.
I can also see huge scope for improvement when it comes to receiving customer feedback, which is instrumental for CX programmes to succeed.
According to Microsofts’s 2018 State of Global Customer Service Report, nearly all customers (90 percent) have a more favourable view of brands that give them the opportunity to provide feedback. However, less than a quarter (24 percent) of customers are given the opportunity to provide feedback regularly.
In 2020, I think that the traditional ‘long format’ survey will become largely obsolete. I was speaking to a major retailer last week who said they had sent out 3,000 surveys and had just two responses.
Social media listening is useful, but they are a very self-selecting audience in terms of response. Forward-thinking brands will need to embrace the concept of “react with a gif”, “react with an emoji” and seek out more seamless ways of embedding feedback options into their day to day customer interactions.
Lastly, I believe the concept of gratitude from providers towards their purchasers and audiences will be really important. The “got to have this” type out outbound and social marketing we see has led to a purchase frenzy especially amongst beauty and fashion and lifestyle brands, but I often wonder if many consumers do not feel that their loyalty is rewarded.
Forrester’s report explains this well: “Consumers will evolve from recipients of a brand experience to participants in it.”
As we look ahead, deeper relationships between brands and consumers, with genuine rewards for staying loyal, feel like they will become important. It’s the modern equivalent of the corner shop throwing an extra item in with your shop because they know you – personal service, to delight and reward each customer.