Housed in the British Museum in London is the earliest known customer complaint, dating back to 1750 BC. This near-4,000 year old Babylonian cuneiform tablet details an exchange between a dissatisfied copper ore customer, Nanni, and his supplier, Ea-nasir. It serves as a gentle reminder that man has been measuring the emotional, psychological, and physical elements of customer experience for quite some time.

Over the past hundred and fifty years, countless inventions and advancements have inadvertently raised the bar of customer experience, from the first modern mail order (Pryce Pryce-Jones, 1861), to the invention of the switchboard (Almon Strowger, 1888). Communication mediums have improved, resulting in elevated expectations of more hands-on, faster, and localized customer service. Customers now have access to a wider selection of goods/services and retailers/suppliers, which in turn has forced companies to make CX improvements to remain competitive.

Fast forward to the Digital Age, where companies are finding it increasingly difficult to deliver good customer experiences. Research has found that 51% of customers who left companies blamed their exits on bad online experiences.

Whilst customer experience is not a new mandate for business leaders, it has undoubtedly absorbed an increasing share of the limelight in recent years. 2015 saw a number of senior CX appointments across a range of industries, including the hires of Troy Warfield (British Airways) and Jacqueline Starr (ATOC /National Rail Enquiries).With respective backgrounds in FMCG and banking/telecommunications, hires such as these demonstrate that companies are willing to break the hiring mold to draw invaluable CX perspectives from other industries.

2016 is unfolding into a riveting year for those involved in CX, with eighty-six percent of companies wanting to excel at customer experience” but only 27% qualifying as good in Forrester’s 2015 CX Index. Thus, we expect to see a greater appreciation for CX from business leaders, and a real drive to gain a competitive advantage in this area. This post aims to open up discussions over some of the hot topics surrounding customer experience in 2016.

PUTTING DATA TO WORK

Customer experience is measured by the individual’s experience during all points of contact against the individual’s expectations. In a day of customer-centricity, businesses are thus led by these expectations. Human nature renders customer experiences subjective, complex, and emotional. Companies must collect, analyze, and correlate customer data in order to understand how to improve CX.

Analysts predict that in 2020, the volume of big data will be 50x what it is today. In 2016, as big data gets bigger, it is important for companies to seek out the right data from which to develop actionable insights.Machine learning can exploit opportunities from a wide array of data sources and large volumes of data. Contrary to traditional data analysis, the more data that is fed into a machine learning system, the better it performs. Cognitive analytics allow machines to identify hidden patterns in consumer data, and subsequently identify inefficiencies in customer experiences. Machine learning should thus support efforts and advancements in CX, allowing companies to be proactive instead of reactive through real-time data analysis and personalization. Salesforce, the world’s #1 CRM, is among the many companies investing in machine learning.

Qualitative data can be developed into powerful actionable insights. Since CX is largely subjective, it is crucial for companies to listen to their customers, whether that be through focus groups, social listening, or other methods. Companies should be looking at building a framework to transform soft (qualitative) data into hard (quantitative) data in order to develop actionable insights from customer thoughts, feelings, and emotions.

We expect to see further investment in data in 2016, with companies seeking to learn which segments of data are going to help improve their omnichannel CX, developing actionable insights through cognitive analytics and machine learning, and adapting a more considered approach when incorporating said insights into their customer experience strategy. This year, big data will be key to helping companies bridge the gap between business and customer.

THE OMNI-CHANNEL APPROACH

Customers now expect to be able to engage with companies across a wide range of channels. The expectations are of a timely, personalized, and relevant response, and for companies to ensure that their channels are communicating with one another. Customers want to open a conversation via one channel—web chat, for instance—and continue this via another—say, in-store or over the phone. It is important for companies to deliver a connected experience as customers expect continuous conversations. Channels should be talking to one another and companies need to understand which of their channels pair closest together.

Omni-channel analytics like that offered by OnviSource allow companies to optimize CX through <“channel-dependent actionable knowledge.” Essentially, this allows companies to take a customer-centric approach to improving customer experience by engaging an “outside-in” perspective, one within which processes are re-engineered based upon the perspective of the customer and what they deem to be valuable. Beauty, when it comes to customer experience, is very much in the eye of the beholder. Omni-channel analytics play a big part in understanding how different touch points come together to create good customer experience.

Customers experience different emotions with each stage of the journey they take, and companies must learn to create positive emotions across various stages and channels to increase customer retention and acquisition.  highlighted that many CX programs pay substantially more attention to functional experience over emotional experience. With the same study proving that emotions and feelings are the number one factor in customer loyalty, advancements in omni-channel analytics and the building of data frameworks will bring with them a raised understanding for customer emotions, and how to use these to further improve customer experience.

We believe that 2016 will see business leaders focusing on a customer-centric approach to re-engineering omni-channel customer experiences, understanding customer wants and needs across channels, and anticipating these to stay ahead of the customer and deliver the sought after experience.

TRANSFORMING DIGITALLY

2015 sawCEOs embracing digital transformation, resulting in an increased number of channels through which customers can interact with brands. The role of the CEO is in turn being transformed by digital leadership,according to Jeroen Hoencamp, CEO of Vodafone UK.Transformation needs to take place both internally and externally, focusing on an outside-in approach when it comes to redefining customer experience. Most companies understand the importance of delivering a good online customer experience, and in 2016 companies will aim to better align this with their omni-channel experience as part of their overall integrated CX strategy. Listening to customers and understanding customer value from their perspective will allow customer-centric transformation to take place.

Technological advancements pressure companies into evolving digitally to remain competitive, driven in part by changes in consumer behavior and the digital economy that we find ourselves in. Business leaders must embrace and invest in digital change, re-engineering processes from the outside-in, tackling the issues that legacy systems present, and disrupting business culture where necessary.

It has become increasingly common to have an individual within a business spearheading digital transformation. That person may be a CEO, CMO, CDO, CTO, CIO, CXO…the list goes on. A lot of time is spent procrastinating over who wears the trousers in the digital change relationship instead of getting the job done. IDC predicts that “by 2017, 60% of companies with a DX strategy will deem it too critical for any one functional area and create an independent corporate executive position to oversee the implementation.” Job title aside, it is important that the person ultimately responsible for digital change can unify the digital strategy, break down departmental silos, and work with the relevant business leaders to integrate digital change into the overarching CX strategy.

Change across digital, mobile, and social will continue to take place in 2016 (the Government Digital Service being a prime example of the changes to come), with an increased emphasis on how to incorporate these changes into an omni-channel customer experience strategy. Business models will also adapt as digital revenues grow, inadvertently demanding further evolution in order to remain competitive. The C-Suite will need to invest time and money, as well as face opportunity costs when it comes to further transformation this year. We expect to see companies re-engineering their transformation efforts so that the change is centred around CX and driven by the customer, as opposed to being product or purely technology-led.

IN SHORT

In this post we’ve covered just a few of the many topics surrounding customer experience in 2016, focusing on those that we believe will steal the show. Companies will deploy advanced cognitive technology to transform raw data into actionable insights and understand customer wants, needs, and behavior. Deloitte predict that by the end of 2016 more than 80 of the world’s 100 largest enterprise software companies by revenues will have integrated cognitive technologies into their products.We will see an increasing amount of customer driven digital and business transformations. Companies will develop a more integrated omni-channel strategy to increase retention and loyalty through a seamless experience throughout all channels.

Points that we haven’t covered but deserve a mention include how to best measure CX; the need to draw talent from sectors with strong customer experience; the creation of an agile working culture to facilitate change and allow rapid response to real-time data and insights; micro data and personalization; the change in customer generations; self-servicing; and mobile.

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