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

7. Privacy by design

And don’t forget about privacy. According to Forrester Research, data deprecation will force companies to collect more data directly from customers to offer individualised experiences in 2022, creating the need for privacy or consent journeys designed “with the customer in mind”.

For example, while 37 per cent of global security decision-makers consider privacy to be a competitive differentiator, one-quarter to one-third of US and European consumers use privacy and security tools to prevent firms from tracking their online activity.

“CX pros at firms looking to reduce reliance on third-party data should work with their firm’s marketing, IT and security and risk teams to carefully design and measure journeys based on compliance standards that vary by industry, business type and individual customer,” Forrester advises. “In the spirit of ‘you can’t manage what you don’t measure’, these firms should include privacy-related KPIs and metrics in their CX measurement programs to monitor journey performance.”

Neuro-Insight CEO, Peter Pynta, agrees the pandemic has slingshot the importance of privacy and says the security of personal information is a very real concern for consumers. According to the tracking by Foreseechange, privacy ranks higher than issues like climate change.

“Apple has never forgotten this and spent the best part of the last two decades fine-tuning its privacy offering, first on its hardware, more recently with its software updates (iOS14). The Cupertino-based tech giant understands that the 'real seat of human truth', can reveal a huge advantage,” Pynta comments.

“We've seen headlines from political parties trying to woo voters in the lead up to the election with policies addressing the other big priorities like housing, employment and costs of living. Privacy is rarely discussed, which leaves an opportunity for brands that are willing to tie their values to consumers' demands around data privacy. This is not a digital-first or technology-first CX strategy, it should and always has been a consumer-first approach.”

Read more: COVID-19 and the privacy problem

8. Long lens on CX returns

The pandemic has been an impetus for plenty of innovation and digital acceleration, but the constant adaptability required has inevitably led to short-term, reactive thinking. According to Soprano Design VP of global marketing, Matt Thompson, 2022 will be a year where communication technology initiatives finally stop being driven by short-term needs and start looking further into the future.

“Short-term thinking has been king when it comes to communication design. The pandemic necessitated a burst of creativity to address real near-term challenges, and because communication technology was able to address many of those pains, the communications platform-as-a-service [CPaaS] industry saw a rapid growth over the last two years,” he says.  

“Unfortunately, the pandemic has also meant many brands have not been thinking very far into the future, the primary objective of adapting and reacting to the pandemic has created habitual near-term thinking. A study by McKinsey Global Institute backs this up, showing most customer experience initiatives are lagging within organisations.

“2022 will be the year when the pendulum swings back to a long-lens outlook and brands will begin exploring how to engage their entire organisation in exercises about how to deliver better communication experiences to customers.”

For Thompson, the most visionary firms will work to improve their use of tech capabilities and reveal new use cases during 2022 that drive better customer experiences. Yet one challenge that’ll need to be overcome for this to happen is wider input into communication technologies beyond development or IT departments.

“2022 will be the year c-levels awaken to this problem and step in to get the business thinking holistically about designing communication experiences into everything the business does,” Thompson predicts. “The effects of the pandemic have revealed to c-levels how communication experiences are always coupled with any digital transformation initiative, workflow or process that a business engages in.

“C-levels will begin getting their direct reports working together upfront to deliver more meaningful communication experiences to customers and employees. They’ll begin insisting on integrating communication into their design thinking for all digital transformations projects to ensure customers and employees are engaged meaningfully at the most opportune moments. 2022 will be the year when the goal becomes elevating the communication experiences and leveraging technology to do it right.

“For the firms that get this right, improved communication experiences will lead to more revenue, brand loyalty and category leadership.”

Forrester Research is going further, predicting 2022 as the year when companies will “make the grand pivot from reactionary to revolutionary”. This will see many designing long-term solutions that right-size their CX projects and investments, it predicts.

“We’ll see organisations leveraging the now chronic disruption as a catalyst to reinvent and reinforce experiences that delight customers and empower employees,” Forrester’s Predictions 2022: Customer Experience report states. “In the new year, CX teams will also hone their focus to make a targeted impact in areas such as accessibility and privacy, instead of seeking merely to grow their teams and influence through land grabs.”

ActiveCampaign APAC regional marketing manager, Natalie Ng, also sees brands prioritising customer experience as a sustainable investment in 2022.

“When approached with truly one-on-one experiences and combined with authentic customer advocacy, customer experience management will give brands a leadership position because these are things competitors can’t go out and buy,” she says.

“In 2022, businesses of all sizes will rethink their CX strategies and drop ‘personalisation’. Instead, we’ll see the creation of one-to-one experiences with customers. These are truly unique experiences where brands reach customers at the right time, on the right channel and with the right content throughout their entire customer journey – from acquisition to purchase to support and advocacy. Approaching CX this way allows businesses to develop strong relationships with their customers, making personalised CX and customer centricity a true differentiator for business.”

Alongside the more strategic business imperative, CEO of Gongos consultative agency, Camille Nicita, sees traditional marketing metrics taking a backseat to truly understanding the ‘why’ behind customer values. This will trigger new requirement for solid metrics tying customer-centric outcomes to business outcomes. “Customer performance indicators [CPIs] will find their seat next to KPIs,” she suggests.

9. AI and bots address the need for speed

Artificial intelligence (AI) is a significant technology advancement everywhere, so it’s no surprise to find it’s also instrumental to enriching customer experiences in 2022. SugarCRM chief product officer, Rich Green, says one crucial way AI will improve things next year is by addressing the need for speed.

“Popular online ‘speed-to-serve’ masters such as Amazon and Uber have conditioned us that we should never have to wait. Today, speed is a critical customer experience issue,” he says. “In 2022 and beyond, Australian organisations will increasingly feel the pressure to respond to a lead in minutes, time to complete a Service Level Agreement will need to be highly accelerated and responding to a customer support question must be sufficiently quick to prevent wait times that evolve into a poor review.

“Organisational models and technologies need to evolve to keep up with increasing speed-to-serve expectations. Sales, marketing and service will need to operate as one team, with handoffs in seconds and back-and-forth responses in minutes. Data must be shared, and data-driven processes, priorities, next steps and outlooks automated via AI.”

For Green, this will lead to sales, marketing and service bots becoming the frontline for ‘hyper convenient’ engagement before getting routed to a human. “Bots will handle tedious tasks and increasingly offload significant amounts of manual, repetitive work, freeing humans to focus on more inspired, value-added work, while meeting the need for speed in 2022,” he continues.

Cyara’s Kulkarni says expectations around AI are high going into 2022. “Any company that has chatbots needs to ensure they do what they are supposed to do otherwise it’s going to be very deflationary and frustration-inducing for customers,” he says.  

“We’re currently going through a period where customer expectations and chatbot performance do not align. There are so many chatbots out there but sadly some are not that smart. If you don’t offer customers a seamless experience of moving from one digital channel to another with context, there’s a high risk of losing that customer.” 

Read more: When brands make chatbots too personal  

Report: Artificial intelligence driving best customer service

Regardless of channel, however, speed will be imperative as Australian companies experience a transient boom, Kulkarni agrees.  

“I say transient because a lot of people have saved money through lockdown, interest rates are at record low and demand for talent went up through border closures, so people have had pay rises. I think we’re going to see a huge surge in spending as people feel wealthy,” he adds. “However, when people get busier, demand increases, supply dwindles and customers get less patient. Expectations are going to be at an all-time high. If people get held in a queue for a long time it’s going to end up being very challenging and uncomfortable for contact centres.”  

8x8 senior marketing manager A/NZ, Pablo Munoz, says IT will play a critical role here. “The global pandemic and subsequent government restrictions, particularly in Australia and New Zealand, placed a great deal of pressure on organisations to become more agile, maintain business continuity by deploying remote workforces, and also remain available to their customers, all the while continuing to deliver great customer experiences,” he says. 

“In this newly distributed operational environment, information and organisational silos must be eliminated in order to foster communication and collaboration in a way that helps agents quickly and successfully resolve customer issues. And all of this needs to be done in a secure, reliable, disciplined way that supports the new, stringent and unique requirements of an operate-from-anywhere workforce model.”

10. A battle only winnable through loyalty

For Salesforce Digital 360 area vice-president, Jo Gaines, loyalty programs will become even more important to brands’ customer experience programs in 2022.

“These are critical in create ‘stickier’ customers at a time when consumers’ digital habits formed during the pandemic mean it’s easier than ever to switch brands,” Gaines says. “To make the most of any loyalty program, brands need a single view of customer data to better understand the preferences of their customers, stay on top of their expectations, create connected and personalised experiences, and drive business value by creating loyal, life-long customers. “It’s never been more important to do this with the pandemic heightening customer expectations for connected experiences across every touchpoint with a brand, alongside a desire for personalised and relevant communications. Those brands that fail to do so run the risk of losing customers to their competitors.” According to Salesforce’s State of the Connected Customer Report, a key challenge standing in the way of delivering great customer experiences is the proliferation of disconnected systems to manage customer experiences.

“This puts customer loyalty at risk because 40 per cent of shoppers say that it only takes two bad experiences for them to abandon a brand,” Gaines says. “In 2022, the savviest marketers will establish unified platforms that provide a single view of the customer experience. This will enable them to make data-driven decisions, deliver personalisation in real-time, and create seamless customer experiences across channels whether that’s online or in-person.

“Those marketers that do will also be better placed to address the unique expectations and desires of customers, helping to build rapport and importantly foster stronger customer loyalty.” 

Read more: Customer loyalty in the time of COVID-19

11. Advanced co-creation with customers  

While it may not be a new concept, SugarCRM senior VP and general manager APAC, Jason du Preez, more Australian organisations will realise co-creation is the “secret sauce” to building buy-in in 2022.

“Co-creation can transform customer experience as organisations and customers can have an equal part in learning to ride the digital wave to create and capture value,” he says.  

“As more organisations start listening and embracing the feedback and views from customers, value-creation becomes more progressive. Customer alignment will lead organisations towards better ideation, problem-solving, performance improvement as well as product innovation. In addition, customers develop a healthy brand preference and loyalty and become advocates extending your brand's reach.” 

Read more: What brands like Burberry are learning through co-creation with customers

12. The past is key to the way forward

But even as technology and metric advances promise a new era of CX for brands, Tourism NT executive general manager, marketing Tony Quarmby, says the past is key to the way forward.

“The biggest customer experience trend we will see across the travel industry in 2022 is a desire to return to the past and back to the uninterrupted holiday experiences we have all been reminiscing and yearning for,” he says. “For almost two years, holidaymakers have either been wary of catching Covid-19, or more recently, on edge regarding travel restrictions and complications with their holiday booking. The constant anxiety from the ever-changing border restrictions, outbreaks and new strains have wreaked havoc on how people have viewed their upcoming holiday experience.

“To return consumer confidence in travel back to pre-pandemic levels, the industry needs to create a seamless customer journey that instils confidence and offers travellers peace of mind. Having clear, consistent and seamless processes when travellers start to plan, book and travel will be the first step in doing this before the on-ground holiday experiences of escapism, relaxation and leaving the cares of the world behind can return. Only then will we see decision makers cycle back to eco-sustainability and responsible tourism as key travel trends.”

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