COVID-19 made the few businesses that did not have an online presence acutely aware that they need one – yesterday! We have seen at least 4 years of digital growth squeezed into six months of 2020. And this is only the beginning. While in 2020, the focus was primarily on eCommerce and digital payments, there will now be a huge demand for new platforms to be able to interact digitally with the customer, not just to be able to sell something online.
Digital customer interactions with brands and products – through social media, online influencers, interactive AI-driven apps, online marketplaces and the like will accelerate dramatically in 2021. The organisations that will be successful will be the ones that are able to interact with their customers and connect with them at multiple touchpoints across the customer journey. Companies unable to do that will struggle.
Digital Engagement Will Expand Beyond the Traditional Customer-focused Industries
One of the biggest changes in 2020 has been the increase in digital engagement by industries that have not traditionally had a strong eye on CX. This trend is likely to accelerate and be further enhanced in 2021.
Healthcare has traditionally been focused on improving clinical outcomes – and patient experience has been a byproduct of that focus. Many remote care initiatives have the core objective of keeping patients out of the already over-crowded healthcare provider organisations. These initiatives will now have a strong CX element to them. The need to disseminate information to citizens has also heightened expectations on how people want their healthcare organisations and Public Health to interact with them. The public sector will dramatically increase digital interactions with citizens, having been forced to look at digital solutions during the pandemic.
Other industries that have not had a traditional focus on CX will not be far behind. The Primary & Resources industries are showing an interest in Digital CX almost for the first time. Most of these businesses are looking to transform how they manage their supply chains from mine/farm to the end customer. Energy and Utilities and Manufacturing industries will also begin to benefit from a customer focus – primarily looking at technology – including 3D printing – to customise their products and services for better CX and a larger share of the market.
Brands that Establish a Trusted Relationship Can Start Having Fun Again
Building trust was at the core of most businesses’ CX strategies in 2020 as they attempted to provide certainty in a world generally devoid of it. But in the struggle to build a trusted experience and brand, most businesses lost the “fun”. In fact, for many businesses, fun was off the agenda entirely. Soft drink brands, travel providers, clothing retailers and many other brands typically known for their fun or cheeky experiences moved the needle to “trust” and dialed it up to 11. But with a number of vaccines on the horizon, many CX professionals will look to return to pre-pandemic experiences, that look to delight and sometimes even surprise customers.
However, many companies will get this wrong. Customers will not be looking for just fun or just great experiences. Trust still needs to be at the core of the experience. Customers will not return to pre-pandemic thinking – not immediately anyway. You can create a fun experience only if you have earned their trust first. And trust is earned by not only providing easy and effective experiences, but by being authentic.
Customer Data Platforms Will See Increased Adoption
Enterprises continue to struggle to have a single view of the customer. There is an immense interest in making better sense of data across every touchpoint – from mobile apps, websites, social media, in-store interactions and the calls to the contact centre – to be able to create deeper customer profiles. CRM systems have been the traditional repositories of customer data, helping build a sales pipeline, and providing Marketing teams with the information they need for lead generation and marketing campaigns. However, CRM systems have an incomplete view of the customer journey. They often collect and store the same data from limited touchpoints – getting richer insights and targeted action recommendations from the same datasets is not possible in today’s world. And organisations struggled to pivot their customer strategies during COVID-19. Data residing in silos was an obstacle to driving better customer experience.
We are living in an age where customer journeys and preferences are becoming complex to decipher. An API-based CDP can ingest data from any channel of interaction across multiple journeys and create unique and detailed customer profiles. A complete overhaul of how data can be segregated based on a more accurate and targeted profile of the customer from multiple sources will be the way forward in order to drive a more proactive CX engagement.
Voice of the Customer Programs Will be Transformed
Designing surveys and Voice of Customer programs can be time-consuming and many organisations that have a routine of running these surveys use a fixed pattern for the data they collect and analyse. However, some organisations understand that just analysing results from a survey or CSAT score does not say much about what customers’ next plan of action will be. While it may give an idea of whether particular interactions were satisfactory, it gives no indication of whether they are likely to move to another brand; if they needed more assistance; if there was an opportunity to upsell or cross sell; or even what new products and services need to be introduced. Some customers will just tick the box as a way of closing off a feedback form or survey. Leading organisations realise that this may not be a good enough indication of a brand’s health.
Organisations will look beyond CSAT to other parameters and attributes. It is the time to pay greater attention to the Voice of the Customer – and old methods alone will not suffice. They want a 360-degree view of their customers’ opinions.
In the ‘Top 5 Customer Experience Trends for 2020’ that I authored with Tim Sheedy, we had spoken about the need for businesses to understand the end-to-end journey of each customer and to evaluate how to personalise it. To be able to personalise customer experience (CX), organisations need to get feedback from their customers. However, today’s customers are experiencing survey fatigue! Surveys are always the best way to measure how customers feel after they have interacted with a brand. Already, many will not participate unless there is a discount or incentive, which eats into future margins. Smart businesses will begin to use AI to detect emotions and mood, and analytics to measure experiences.
The challenge for years has been that customer teams have focused on the traditional inbound and outbound customer interactions. Ecosystm research finds that while organisations are investing in improving customer self-service, not all of these organisations focus on customer journey mapping and analysis (Figure 1).
Brands now need to understand and personalise the experience before the customer interacts with the brand and after they are done interacting with the brand. The ability to apply machine learning and AI to offer insights to predict the movement and journey of the customer will be a significant focus – and challenge – for customer teams. Customer Journey Analytics will allow brands to deliver that “frictionless” service.
Detecting the problem earlier in the CX loop or before the call is placed to the contact centre has significant benefits. The emotion of the customer at every part of their journey and not just when they call the contact centre needs to be captured in real-time and analysed to address the problem as soon as it arises. For example, if it can be identified prior to the customer calling the airlines to complain about a booking, the agent can call the customer preemptively to inform the customer the problem will be fixed and even go the extra mile to give the customer a discount or a good seat. Another scenario is when a hotel customer has had a bad experience with the meal they ordered, their feedback to the frontline staff earlier in the loop can be passed on and before they check out of the hotel, incentives such as free vouchers can be used to improve the CX. When such measures are taken earlier in the CX journey, the customer will go a long way to buy more products and services from the organisation. This can have an impact too on post-experience surveys or Net promoter scores (NPS).
As organisations design, customer feedback platforms for customers such as simple surveys through an app or as a prompt on the mobile device or laptop, the look and feel of the platform combined with simplicity cannot be ignored. The design has to be carefully thought about and should be intuitive and also easy for the customer to enter the feedback.
Niche Vendors will play a crucial role in connecting the missing dots in CX
There are niche vendors emerging in this space and we can expect more players to emerge that will develop applications that can address CX issues very early in the journey of the customer. For example, Australian vendor Local Measure’s solution is used to capture feedback during the different points of a customer’s journey, especially in the tourism, hospitality, retail and entertainment industries. One of their solutions, Pulse is a real-time feedback tool to help improve satisfaction while customers are still on site. The company works in collaboration with Cisco and when customers log on to wifi on a site, a pop up appears on their screen to ask customers how their experience has been so far. By rating the experience using emojis (happy, sad, etc), the front desk staff or personnel within the premises, can see the feedback in real time. This can send alerts that will trigger that something has gone wrong to frontline staff or the contact centre team. The idea is to drive a positive outcome for the customer, identify problems early in the journey and address the problems immediately for higher customer satisfaction.
Figure 2: Local Measure’s Real-Time Customer Feedback Tool
The company has clients such as Dubai-based Majid Al Futtaim that includes 13 major entertainment and retail-focused hotels, serving 1.6 million guests annually. Instead of giving feedback only at check-out, the Pulse feedback screen displays on guests’ computers or mobile devices as they log in to the hotel’s Wi-Fi, asking them to leave feedback on their experience. Novotel Bangkok Sukhumvit 20 has also implemented the solution so that staff can view feedback immediately as responses come through on their mobile devices, and after addressing the issues they can mark each response as ‘actioned’, providing visibility to the whole team.
The Local Measure solution integrates into Cisco’s Wifi offering and when the customer opts a pop up will appear on their screen to lead the customer to the Local Measure platform. Products such as this help fill the gaps where the complaint by the customer can be escalated to the contact centre very early in the journey of the customer. Contact centre vendors have not addressed this space in a dedicated manner and we can expect more niche vendors to make their mark in this space. The data collected include real-time feedback, social media alerts, post-event experience and location analytics. When this data is further integrated into CRM and with the data gathered from the contact centre channels, organisations will be able to gain a better understanding of the customer journeys and analyse what should be done better.
As larger contact centre solution providers realise the value of such niche offerings that help connect the CX dots, they will look to acquire some of these niche solution providers in the customer experience segment. Cisco’s acquisition of Cloud Cherry last year, is an example. The solution allows organisations to listen to their customers across 17 different channels (e.g. email, chat, web) along the entire journey and leverage the Cisco’s contact centre solution to drive better. NICE acquired Satmetrix two years ago, to further enhance its presence in the CX management space.
CX is becoming a company-wide initiative
Technologies across customer journey analytics and CX management have often been sold to the marketing and sales teams. As companies look to complete the full loop of understanding the customer journey, the solution must be integrated into the contact centre teams. Based on the global Ecosystm CX Study, the marketing, sales, product, customer service, digital and UX teams are becoming influencers in CX (Figure 3). The Board and CEO are starting to play an important role in decision making. As organisations look to further drive greater CX, more teams across the organisation are starting to realise the need to collaborate to deliver on the vision.
Moving the needle from being Reactive to Proactive in CX will be important
The traditional way of getting feedback after the customer has had the experience or after the customer has spoken to the agent is one of the reasons why organisations are finding it hard to deal with customer frustrations. Being proactive rather than reactive is how customer journey analytics and CX management technologies can help organisations address these issues. AI and machine learning will play an important part in this area moving forward as after the call is placed to the customer, data around customer emotions, sentiments, tone of the voice and keywords used in the discussion, can help in better understanding of how to provide a solution or solve the customers’ challenges.