It’s 2020! How Did Our CX Predictions Work Out?
It's a new year. But not just any year; it’s 2020! It’s like the beginning of a new era. OK, it’s not quite like the turn of the century, but the repetitive sound of this year is alluring, and for those with a flair for prognostication it has been tempting, if not irresistible, over the past decade to make predictions about the year 2020. (Perhaps also because it echoes the term “20/20 vision.”) Indeed, I was enamored with this back in 2013 when I was involved in one of the studies published to predict how customer experience (CX) leaders will need to respond to rising demands of customers and what that might look like in the year 2020.
Well, 2020 is here. Let’s consider how history has unfolded.
WE’RE MAKING PROGRESS
Clearly, we have seen CX evolve in several areas.
- Differentiating on the experience. One of the most prominent predictions over the past decade was that customer experience would outpace products and price as the most important way for a company to stand out. Companies recognize not only that delivering a better customer experience has great value, but also that it is difficult to replicate. Product features can be copied. Prices can be quickly adjusted. But an exceptional experience is hard to quickly match.
- Becoming more personalized and proactive: Led by a high bar set by Amazon and other leading retailers, customers now demand ease and speed when selecting, purchasing, and receiving products and services. Companies have responded with fast shipping, personalized shopping, delivery options, and customized preferences. It’s not just the consumer brands either. Ease of doing business is often a driver of customer loyalty, so B2B companies have latched on to this trend.
- Roles for CX leaders: Predictions about the increase in opportunities for CX leaders have proved true. Ten years ago the term “customer experience professional” was virtually nonexistent. Today, the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA) boasts more than 4,000 members—and nearly 1,000 of them have attained a CX certification. What’s more, the former role was narrow, focusing primarily on the gathering of feedback from customers. In 2020, you see CX leaders involved in experience design, corporate strategy, branding initiatives, and much more. It’s good news for those developing a career in customer experience.
AND WE’RE FALLING SHORT
We can be proud of the progress made. And yet companies have not risen to meet customer demands in a number of areas.
- Delivering a seamless experience: The phrase “outside in” was popularized in 2012 when a book by that name was authored by analysts at Forrester Research. It refers to a deliberate process of defining the desired experience for customers and then developing the right processes to deliver it. Unfortunately, too many companies still seem to be “inside out,” focused on developing processes that work for them but might be cumbersome for customers.
- Leveraging customer data: Companies have come a long way in gathering data. But they haven’t lived up to the expectation of integrating data and putting it to use. Today, we speak in terms of experience data (X-data) and operational data (O-data) and companies now have plenty of both. What’s more, people see the logic of aligning this data to drive better decisions. Too few companies do it well.
- Getting digital right: Many predicted the growth of the digital experience. And it’s great that I can deposit a check, call for a ride, or open my hotel room with my phone. But I’m not fond of using a kiosk in a doctor’s office or waiting for chat messages from a contact center when I want some real interaction. Companies have recognized the efficiency of digital transformation, but sometimes they have done more harm than good with the experience that results.
WHERE TO GO FROM HERE?
A recent report from the Qualtrics XM Institute shared input from more than 200 large companies (more than $500 million in annual revenues). It was surprising to me that more than three-quarters of them rated themselves in the lowest two stages of CX maturity. But it tells me that we are at the beginning of an upward trend. Organizations will continue to transform by making better use of customer data and insights. They will continue to develop and deliver better experiences for their customers. Those that do it best will emerge with a sustainable competitive edge that will be critical to their success.
Patrick Gibbons is a principal at Walker, a leading customer experience services firm. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.