The January Roundup: Looking ahead at 2016 CX Trends
As always, the first month of the year brought with it numerous “trends reports” summarizing 2015 and making predictions for 2016. As we close January and look ahead, some observations stand out as common denominators to improve customer experience in the year ahead. And remember, even though everyone’s beating the CX drum, it’s not a subject you should tune out due to overuse. Gartner Research notes that in 2016, 89% of companies will compete mostly on the basis of customer experience.
According to the experts behind the latest trends reports, the foreseeable future holds greater emphasis in the following aspects of CX:
- More powerful personalization: The 2016 CX Trends Report cites “the personalized experience” as the number one trend for the year. Countless companies are working on finding the perfect balance between automated personalized communications that don’t feel overly contrived, and context-rich, human-to-human interactions. Balance is the key word here as “Consumers will have less tolerance for online and mobile advertising that is too highly personalized — which may be seen by them as creepy” (Entrepreneur.com). Getting it right requires strategic, omni-channel use of technology and data to customize the buying experience to suit individual consumer profiles, which of course, is much easier said than done. This year we’ll see organizations gearing up to do a more convincing job of creating personalized interactions that enhance (rather than damage) the experience.
- Digging deeper into data: With the proliferation of data comes figuring out how best to extract real value from it. This sounds like an obvious point, but for even the most successful companies, data presents a paradoxical mix of opportunities and struggles. According to CRM Magazine, a shocking 76% of companies report being extremely challenged by data integration and data quality initiatives. This year, companies will increase their focus on building data strategies that meet varying needs across the business for Sales, Service, Marketing, IT, and beyond. Organizations will “…need the ability to collect, analyze, and present data efficiently from various systems, channels, and sources in a meaningful way — either to customer service staff as they deliver assistance, or to customers in self-service channels” (Mega Trends in CRM).
- Creating conversations: As an increasing number of companies strive to hear the voice of the customer, we’ll see sharper attention paid to capturing, responding to, and analyzing customer comments. CRM Trends to Watch says: “To use data to their advantage, savvy organizations will harness advanced technology in speech analytics, text analytics, and journey analytics to hone in on the drivers of customer effort and dissatisfaction, increased costs, and risk or non-compliance.” Look for opportunities to apply these solutions across various channels (web, phone, email, chat) and an increasing number of open comments fields in surveys. The 2016 CX Trends Report states, “These comment fields, whether static or dynamic, instinctively turn surveys into conversations. Customers frequently use these fields to simply thank brands for listening. Not only do consumers appreciate the ability to speak freely, they use it to provide invaluable qualitative insight.” Even if responses to comments aren’t real-time yet, companies will start to leverage actual customer language to improve the overall experience.
- Employee empowerment: Over the past several years, we’ve watched customer service and customer
experience overtake price and product as competitive differentiators. As a result, companies have invested big-time in empowering customers with new ways to engage, offer feedback, and share experiences. This year, however, watch for a shift in putting better solutions and information in the hands of employees. According to IDC, “44% of the time employees can’t find the answer or information they’re looking for, and 61% currently have to access four or more systems when looking, resulting in frustration and dissatisfaction all around.” In 2016, companies will seek to hear the Voice of the Employee in order to improve customer service and satisfaction, as well as employee retention and recruitment. The Mega Trends in CRM Report states, “Leaders in 2016 will give customer-facing employees access to key customer insights to drive more personalized, proactive and predictive engagement.”
- Transparent feedback strategies: Today’s customers feel entitled to know how you plan to use their feedback. Telling them upfront will increase survey response rates because they’ll feel that they’re contributing to a specific purpose, such as improving a particular product or service. Consumers rated “transparency” as their second highest priority in the 2016 CX Trends Report, which clearly indicates that they expect to know what effect their input will have your products, services, and processes. A new best practice is overtly stating how you plan to use the feedback and crafting more personalized responses to address comments, depending on the channel.