• February 16, 2023
  • By Judy Weader, senior analyst, Forrester Research

CX Leaders Need to Go Beyond Their Comfort Zones to Navigate 2023

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It’s been a rough year, and 2023 is only getting started. Economic instability is seemingly everywhere, thanks to a bewildering array of conflicting economic indicators. Inflation is starting to recede, but prices for some goods stubbornly remain high. Tech layoffs continue to dominate the news, but these announcements are sometimes followed by reports of those same firms touting record profits and plans for stock buybacks. Customer experience (CX) teams are under considerable pressure to help their firms deliver great financial results, but they aren’t necessarily well positioned to do so. In fact, Forrester predicts that one in five CX programs will disappear this year, with the biggest impact on teams that are unable to show the return on CX investment, as well as on teams in organizations with brand identities that don’t include great CX.

Over the past three years, CX leaders helped their firms become more resilient to weather the height of the COVID-19 pandemic—and this is no time to take their foot off the gas. Rather than retreat in the face of these challenges, CX leaders should look at the current downturn and courageously charge forward to meet these opportunities head on:

Differentiate with a bold CX vision and strategy. While one-size-fits-all or copycat strategies seem like the safest way to navigate choppy waters, they won’t help firms overcome the growing deficit of differentiated experiences. Firms need CX visions and strategies that help them identify their most important customers and how they’re going to serve them great experiences that align to the brand promise and customer needs. Rather than scrambling to copy competitors’ ideas, CX leaders should help their firms be their best selves by focusing on serving and creating more devotees: customers who reward great experiences with higher loyalty and lower cost to serve. This requires that CX leaders do the research (quantitative and qualitative) to understand customer needs and what turns someone from a regular customer to a devotee for their business.

Tighten focus on the emotional aspects of CX. When times get tight, firms often cut staff and services to control expenses, but the costs of these cuts far exceed the savings when customer journeys are sacrificed on the altar of financial convenience. In fact, Forrester’s research has found emotion to be the most important component of an experience, and while positive emotions can reinforce loyalty, negative emotions can erode it. CX leaders should focus on twin goals: reducing frustration and increasing happiness. Reducing frustration starts with removing the barriers that cause negative emotions, such as outdated, legacy technology that makes it hard for contact center agents to help customers. Increasing happiness begins with identifying the experiences that already create positive emotions and replicating that magic elsewhere, such as injecting a human touch into digital interactions, as Forrester’s research has found hybrid experiences to be more emotionally positive than purely digital interactions.

Become the ultimate utility player. CX professionals are their organizations’ multi-tools, possessing skills that are broadly applicable to many business challenges. For example, customer journey management skills can be repurposed to help with organizational workflow analysis and redesign. CX pros can also reorient their measurement skills and expertise to serve other organizational goals, such as helping the marketing team develop a comprehensive way of measuring reach, engagement, and outcomes tied to campaigns. CX professionals’ impact doesn’t have to be limited to just the things they touch directly, either. The most successful CX teams often have programs that enlist and train champions, ambassadors, or advocates (they go by many names). These programs mobilize skilled resources outside of the CX team, enabling a broader reach and providing professional development opportunities for individuals across the organization. This type of indirect support amplifies the impact of the CX team and embeds it throughout the organization for real-time distributed CX expertise.

To learn more advice about how CX leaders can help their organization navigate the downturn, check out Forrester’s “Navigating the 2023 Downturn” hub.

Judy Weader is a senior analyst serving CX professionals at Forrester Research. Based in Cambridge, Mass., Weader has more than a decade of experience in customer experience management, and her research focuses on how to establish, fund, and scale a CX function.

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