• January 17, 2023
  • By Rick Parrish, principal analyst, Forrester Research

2023: A Year of Reckoning for CX Programs

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THE CHALLENGES OF 2022 will create an inflection point for customer experience (CX) programs in 2023—and many will not survive.

Last year was a rough one for CX programs as companies lost their focus on customers. The percentage of companies that put customers at the center of their leadership, strategy, and operations —which Forrester Research calls “customer obsession”—dropped from 10 percent to 3 percent.

As a result, overall CX quality fell for the first time since 2017, according to Forrester’s U.S. Customer Experience Index. What’s worse, digital CX quality fell too, despite companies’ unprecedented emphasis on digital during the depths of the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result of these widespread declines in CX quality, companies took big revenue and profitability hits from lost customer loyalty.

In 2023, CX programs that help companies restart the CX growth engine—and have the data to prove it—will thrive, despite corporate belt tightening. Programs that don’t will wither in an economy that is no longer strong enough to buoy them. As we look forward to a year of challenge and opportunity, Forrester makes the following predictions:

• One in five CX programs will disappear—and one in 10 will be stronger than ever. The estimated 80 percent of companies for which great CX is not part of the brand identity will finally demand proof that CX improvement is necessary. Some of these companies will dissolve CX teams that can’t show numbers. Some of these teams will be split up and absorbed into other business functions, while other teams will see their influence dwindle. In contrast, the 20 percent of companies that embrace CX as part of their brand identity will reward CX teams that can show positive ROI. The leaders of these teams will enter the C-suite, gain direct control of teams like customer success and the contact center, and earn larger budgets.

• Four in five CX teams will lack critical design, data, and journey skills. Most CX teams already lack crucial skills in inclusive experience design; design thinking; survey design, data literacy, and storytelling; and journey mapping, analytics, and management. CX teams without these skills will remain stuck on basic find-and-fix work, unable to help their organizations innovate to thrive in 2023’s challenging business environment. The skills gap will be most acute for CX teams that are smaller and less well funded, since they won’t be able to compete with the greater support and compensation that larger and better-funded CX teams can offer. However, smaller teams can help employees build these vital skills and highlight the entrepreneurial opportunities that a small team offers.

• CX differentiation will erode in three-fourths of industries. The range between the best and worst CX in many industries will narrow as below-average companies improve and above-average companies decline or stagnate. Differentiation has already narrowed in at least one industry in eight of the 11 countries for which we have year-over-year data, including 10 of 13 industries in the United States and five of the nine industries in Canada. Why is differentiation narrowing across so many industries? Lower-performing companies are solving basic CX problems, while top companies are struggling to embrace transformative CX improvements that ensure their differentiation. To stand out from the pack, companies must embrace customer obsession and pursue CX innovations that differentiate their brands rather than relying on CX strategies that consumers perceive as similar.

To dig deeper into these and other predictions for the coming year, check out Forrester’s Predictions Hub

Rick Parrish is a principal analyst serving customer experience (CX) professionals at Forrester Research. Based in Washington, D.C., Parrish has more than 14 years of experience in government analysis and developing successful and innovative customer experiences.

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