12 CX predictions for 2022

More human, ethical experiences, AI and mixed reality advancement and contact centre rethinks some of our predictions on customer experience in the New Year

However much technology we introduce into the way brands interact with customers, human connection remains an absolute must in delivering great experiences. And if this year’s CX predictions are any guide, Covid-19’s lasting impact is a greater need to humanise every engagement, digital, physical or otherwise.

As we usher in 2022, CMO asked the industry to share their top predictions around customer experience capability and culture, from the tech innovations driving its advancement, through to communication trends, measurement and the very human elements required in every CX approach.

1. A more human customer experience

Impact.com managing director for Asia-Pacific, Adam Furness, is one of many leaders expecting more ‘human’ experiences in 2022.

“One of the key consequences of the global pandemic has been the ‘humanisation’ of brands and businesses,” he says. “Consumers are paying much closer attention to what they buy and where they buy it from, with a greater emphasis on supporting local business and those with shared values. This will see brands develop their focus on customer experience to embrace a more holistic human experience [HX] approach by putting the customer’s whole experience of a brand at the heart of all marketing activities.”  

Driving this change are customer perceptions of a brand’s digital, social and physical presence, its employee experience, brand values and environmental, social and governance (ESG) policies, Furness continues.

“Marketers will need to find more ways to ‘sell with’ versus ‘sell to’ their customers as authenticity and trust take centre stage,” he says. “We expect to see a significant upswing in content commerce; instead of monetising the space around content, publishers will be monetising the content itself via deeper brand partnerships. In fact, all forms of content - across owned channels, user generated content, influencer and partner content - will become key to customer acquisition strategies in 2022.”  

Kantar partner for consulting, Colin Macarthur, cites a similar shift towards more holistic, human-led thinking, describing it as customer centricity morphing into “corporate imagination”.

“The pillars of customer centricity laddered to putting consumers at the centre of marketing – and business – decision making, making sense of the glut of data that had become available to business and ensuring better analytics were at the forefront of actioning this data,” he says. “This led to marketers looking to emphasis an advantage from mastering the ‘what’ – knowing what was happing in their market at a level of detail never seen before and activating against this. 

“The pillars of corporate imagination are more about putting the ‘human’ at the centre; not just the customer, but the ‘whole’ person that they are. We are also seeing a shift to making better sense of the glut of change most markets have gone through over the last decade or so, both pre, during and eventually pos-Covid. We are seeing better activation of ‘human insight’ coming to the forefront of ideas. What we now see is marketers looking to emphasis an advantage from better mastery of the ‘why’ which is leading to disruptive thinking and strategies.”  

2. Employee experience becomes the next battleground

Genesys VP A/NZ, Mark Buckley, is predicting employee experience (EX) will become the new normal in providing differentiated customer experiences in 2022.

“Over the years, organisations have shifted focus from putting customers at the centre, then employees, and swinging back and forth between the two. But if recent times have taught us anything, it’s that the two are intrinsically linked, and one cannot exist without the other,” he says. “Accenture found organisations can increase year-on-year profitability by six times when focusing on not just CX, but on how experience ties back to every aspect of a company’s operations.

“With many organisations adopting remote workforces since the pandemic, coupled with challenges brought about by ‘The Great Resignation’, a focus on employee experience has never been more important.”

For Buckley, better EX comes from superior workforce engagement tools, providing greater flexibility on how employees want to work, encouraging collaboration through availability of digital platforms, and employing modern technologies such as AI.

“By focusing on the engagement and satisfaction of their own employees, businesses will find this becomes a leading indicator for differentiated customer satisfaction by default,” Buckley adds.

It’s the desire to balance CX and EX that has Forrester Research suggesting one-fifth of retail and consumer goods firms will stop aiming for ‘better CX at all costs’ next year.

“The pandemic brought a sharp focus on the human cost of convenience, including the poor working conditions of employees and contractors around the globe,” the analyst firm states in its Predictions 2022: Customer Experience report. “Forrester’s Consumer Energy Index Survey, US Consumers, May 2020, backs it up. In this survey, 39 per cent of consumers said concerns about companies’ labour practices influences their purchase decisions.

“2022 will see more companies factoring ethical responsibility to their employees into their customer journeys and offering products and services that balance conscience with convenience.”

Read more: Why employee experience and emotion are key to customer experience success

How Nestlé improved employee experience to better serve its brand

3. Two-way, personalised communication

That doesn’t mean leaving the digital tech tools behind of course. Podium marketing director for Australia, Thibault Roumagoux, sees two-way communications as key to tailoring marketing to suit an audience’s needs in 2022.

“Just as SMS revolutionised the way we interact with family and friends, two-way SMS conversations will do likewise for business-to-consumer interactions in 2022,” he says. Roumagoux notes SMS has a 209 per cent higher response rate than emails, Facebook and phone. In addition, four in 10 Australians would switch to a business if it offered text communications.

“While SMS marketing is already an established trend, SMS conversations will grow because it’s centred on convenience and provides greater customer experience at every stage of the journey,” argues Roumagoux.

“Today, the delivery is as important as the message itself. No matter how good an offer, most of us don’t wish to be cold called by a telemarketer or have our social media taken over by adverts. But when that message is conveyed through the convenience of SMS, the impact is far greater. There might be shinier, more hyped digital marketing tactics next year, but there will be few more effective for local businesses connecting with their community.”

Along a similar delivery line is Lenovo ISG Asia-Pacific CMO, Sachin Bhatia’s prediction that conversational nurturing will become a mainstream strategy for many brands in 2022 even at the very top of the funnel.  

“Consumers are depending more on virtual conversations that can help them reach decisions faster,” he comments. “Marketers spend too much time getting leads in the door and giving them all the information they need to make a purchase. They then abandon them. Instead, by leveraging conversational nurture techniques, one can continue the journey and direct them to purchase.  

“Integrating conversational experiences into nurture campaigns enables marketers to kickstart the relationship with the prospect saying: We don’t just talk, we listen. Since the system is conversational, users are much more likely to share a plethora of data they would not be willing to share in a lengthy form.”

Automation allows for real-time personalised treatment for each and every lead, Bhatia says. “And, even if a lead becomes disengaged during the conversion process, you can track their movements and identify the moment of friction to the dot. Every industry from product to technology services, manufacturing and deep tech industries will adopt this in 2022.”

4. Next-gen tools for communicating

Loom SVP marketing, Rebecca Kline, expects further adoption of asynchronous communication tools to manage customer experiences as we step into 2022.

“This includes async video, which is quickly emerging as a powerful channel for marketers to communicate with their audiences,” she says. “Whether you’re reaching customers to source testimonials, showcasing new product features or collaborating within your internal team, async videos are a more flexible, expressive channel for growing audiences and accelerating team execution. It’s also proving invaluable for productivity and collaboration when marketers are required to deliver nuanced feedback to brand and design teams, as well as external agencies.

“When paired with critical marketing tools like linked CTAs, performance insights and viewer reactions, async video is an even more impactful tool for boosting open rates, responses and engagement.”

Bhatia also envisages growing use cases for augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR).  

“With bold creative thinking, the use of AR and VR is turning to mainstream strategy. VR and AR are now supporting the sales process by providing differentiation and positioning one’s brand as an innovator. With these technologies, marketers can create an impressive, immersive experience that goes far beyond anything that can be achieved with traditional forms like a blog, brochure or infographic.  

“Use cases in multiple industries spanning industrial construction, energy, manufacturing, transportation and professional services have been seen on product demos, training, conferences, sales meetings and more, with uptake set to skyrocket in 2022.”  

5. Contact centres will be realised as the source of customer truth

Genesys’ Buckley also expects contact centres to gain further prestige as brands strive to understand customers and the experiences they want to have.

“During the uncertain times of the past few years, customers have turned to the contact centre for help, guidance and reassurance. In 2022, we’ll see this continue as it becomes the centre for all inbound customer interactions, thus playing a critical role in both operations and marketing as well as revenue generation and customer service,” he forecasts. “With this, the power of the contact centre will be realised as it becomes the source of all customer feedback and insights.”

According to Genesys’ research, 48 per cent of Australians interact with customer service teams at least once per month, and 29 per cent do every week. One in 10 say it’s just to hear a human voice.

“While we still often see the contact centre operate in silo within businesses, this is set to change in 2022 and beyond, as shown by how businesses are increasingly seeing CX as a main driver of customer trust and loyalty. So much so that it has become a board-level priority for more than half of companies. As a result, we will also likely see this shift reflected in roles, as the head of CX continues to grow in value and importance within a business.

“By encouraging cross-functional collaboration and breaking down silos, businesses will quickly realise the value of the contact centre as the source of truth, and its overall impact to the bottom line.”

As well as being a source of insights, the pandemic has created ‘boundary-less’ contact centres. In turn, this is changing the way these teams interact with customers, says Cyara co-founder and CEO, Alok Kulkarni. “They will be able to realign the workforce to deal with customer related enquiries at specific times of the day, rather than only when the branch or office is open,” he points out.

6. Ethics take centre stage

Ethics will also escalate in the CX space next year and beyond, Buckley says. Again, Genesys research found Australians ranked an empathetic experience as of the highest importance when interacting with an organisation (58 per cent).

A key element of expressing empathy is through an organisation’s social, ethical and environmental values. A number of research projects, including one from Genesys, show consumers are increasingly preferring to buy from companies that align with their values and exhibit purpose.

“When businesses create engagements based on empathy, customers feel remembered, heard and understood. This in turn leads to better connections, customer loyalty and ultimately hits the bottom line,” Buckley says. “However, to get there it’s important to strike the balance between the right combination of technologies, and human touch, to deliver customer empathy at scale.

“It has become possible for organisations today to deliver a higher level of personalisation, while still being efficient in delivery. By implementing the right technology to enable a personalised, contextually relevant experience to each customer, companies will be able to better orchestrate customer journeys to lead a culture shift towards empathy.”

Read more: The holistic sustainability picture L'Occitane is pursuing

Report: Corporate reputation, ethics, transparency and control vital to digital data exchange

Co-founder of strategy consultancy Untangld, Danish Chan, sees the triumvirate of accessibility, safety and well-being as cornerstones of CX in 2022.

“As customer and brand experience remain a top priority for CMOs and marketing departments alike, part of that push will be looking at how your brand is enabling accessibility, driving inclusivity and championing a better state of well-being,” he says.

Up next: 6 more CX predictions for 2022

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