Forrester predictions 2020: Link CX metrics to money or lose your job

Analyst firm sees attritution in lower-level customer experience ranks even as high-level executives are brought on to put CX front and centre

One in four customer experience (CX) professionals will be out of a job in 2020, according to the latest Forrester 2020 predictions. But don’t read that as a sign interest in CX is waning: On the contrary, the level of c-suite and high-level CX managers is set to increase.

Speaking at the analyst firm’s 2020 Predictions event in Sydney today, Forrester senior CX analyst, Ricardo Pasto, said CX professionals continue to struggle to show hard results directly correlated to company revenue and return. The reasons are two-fold: They’re coping with ever-high customer expectations, and they’re facing ever-tighter resource constraints within their organisations around skills and operational capability.

“CX professionals are waking up to the fact they have to make the business case for customer experience if they want to get the buy-in and keep developing the business,” he said. “In 2020, the ROI of CX will take centre stage in businesses.”

It’s for this reason Forrester expects one out of four CX professionals will be out of a job next year globally.

“The folks who can’t prove their value to the business will be on the street. Those who can carry out their job will do by linking CX metrics to something that has a dollar sign in front of it,” he told attendees.

But this doesn’t mean we’re seeing the demise of CX professionals. Forrester’s second prediction is we’ll see rising numbers of c-level and one-step below CX positions in organisation in the region of 25 per cent. This is because CX continues to take centre stage in organisations.

According to Forrester, there’s been a 10-fold worldwide increase in number of these positions since 2014, lifting from roughly 900 high-level CX positions worldwide to 10,000 in 2019. Pasto noted a number of high-level chief customer officer appointments in Australia that highlight this trend, including NAB GM of marketing and customer experience, Suzana Ristevski; Zip’s recently appointed chief customer officer and former Uber CMO, Steven Brennen; and NSW Government’s minister for customer service, Victor Dominello.

With the pressure on individuals to better link CX efforts to hard dollars, Pasto raised concerns desperate CX professionals will take to ‘dark patterns’ and trickery to prove their worth, pursuing weak practices to try and take money from customers. Privacy and data protection is also a crucial part of this picture.

“It’s not a clear cut thing – customer experience involves ethics,” Pasto said. “The pressure to retain customers for example and always be upfront in terms of information sometimes makes it very difficult for customers to unsubscribe from your newsletters.

“The pressure to convert visitors into users or customers will result in even lying to customers and instilling a fake sense of urgency, something I’ve seen in the online travel agency world.”  

To combat this, Pasto advised CX leaders to look at where they sit on the scale between dark patterns, and tricking people into doing things, versus ‘nudging’ customer towards an action, by encouraging beneficial behaviour that’s based on value for them.

“My question to you is: Where is your line? What is acceptable and not acceptable?” Pasto asked. “We encourage our clients to design for emotion, and to think about the impact on the customer.”

A third and complementary Forrester prediction for 2020 is employee experience (EX) transformations will be bolder and more insight-driven.

“We’ve seen this with front-line employees, where CX professionals and IT teams are trying to support these staff, enabling them to do better job with technology. For example, by surfacing critical content to be able to deliver better customer service,” Pasto said.

“But the same technology will be employed by HR and EX professionals to answer important questions, such as: What kind of behaviour drives success? How can we remove certain biases to make better decisions? How can we reduce burnout risk? How can we reduce the cognitive load for employees? How can we enable a growth mindset or even better, a customer-centric culture?”

In part, these questions are expected to be answered by artificial intelligence, automation and robotics. Pasto pointed out AI can, for instance, nudge employees to focus on what matters most and help reduce burnout risk by recommending they attend less meetings, foster cross-functional collaboration, or by encouraging staff to take holidays.

But Pasto also noted the most successful organisations tend to have really strong, unique cultures and engaged employees, highlighting US-based shoe company, Zappos, as a standout example. In Zappos’ case, these unique values include “to create fun and a little weirdness”.

Read more: The experience factor and the retail challenge

“We have seen CX quality stalling over the past four years, but next year, we predict there will be greater divide between leaders and laggards,” Pasto concluded. “CX leaders will finally see some breakthroughs in quality, and will be able to differentiate. It goes back to corporate culture, using technology and really understanding customers. Crucial is also journey management and applying it to measurement.

“Because you want to be able to link those CX metrics and customer behaviour to money.”  

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