CMO's top 10 CX predictions for 2023

As part of CMO’s prediction series, we asked businesses, marketing and CX leaders, vendors and analysts to share their top CX predictions for the new year

Economic headwinds as well as heightened scrutiny to ensure CX programs deliver business value will have hefty impact on the customer experience management landscape in 2023, several industry thought leaders believe.

As part of CMO’s prediction series, we asked businesses, marketing and CX leaders, vendors and analysts to share their top CX predictions for the new year. While there’s no doubt experience is the critical component to retaining customers and exhibiting respect, it’s clear the bar will rise even higher in terms of how experience needs to be delivered in 2023. As a result, more artificial intelligence (AI), digitisation and integration are on the cards.

Yet the human element – both externally and internally – remains paramount. And it’s brands both recognising the individual need, as well as responding to it proactively and seamlessly, which will best differentiate.

So here are our top 10 CX predictions for 2023.

1. Every penny in CX will count

At a top-line level, Cyara co-founder and CEO, Alok Kulkarni, sees the experience economy continuing to grow in 2023 as companies pull out all the stops to avoid customers going elsewhere. He points to PwC figures showing one in three customers will walk away after just one negative shopping experience, as well as Qualtrics research indicating 9.5 per cent of a company’s revenue on average in at risk from such experiences.

“While it might be tempting to start cutting budgets as we enter a turbulent year, brands that make every penny count on experience will be best-positioned to secure customer loyalty, repeat business and positive word-of-mouth,” Kulkarni says. “Customer behaviour is going to change next year as unemployment, interest rates and the cost of living continue to rise. Businesses that are close to their customers, take feedback onboard and are ready to pivot will be the ones to identify new revenue opportunities that fulfill their customers’ needs.”  

2. Businesses get serious about the total experience

As a result, many of contributors to these CX predictions expect businesses to get more serious about a more total, end-to-end experience in 2023.

According to Gartner, organisations providing a total experience will outperform competitors by 25 per cent in satisfaction metrics for both CX and EX (employee experience) by 2024. Which means required changes must happen in the next 12 months, says RMIT Online director of marketing and student acquisition, Anshu Arora.

“At RMIT Online, I have seen this pivot towards customer centricity firsthand as my role grew from marketing director to director of marketing and student acquisition. The two elements are simply too intertwined to separate,” he comments. “Prioritising customer experience is no longer a nice-to have, it’s fundamental. Businesses must foster personal, human connections to win customer loyalty. The customer experience is no longer the four Ps of marketing, it also includes personalisation, integrity, expectations, resolution, time and effort and empathy.

“This is what creates a ‘total experience’ approach to understand the customer journey and how to best interact at each stage. In response, we’re going to see the teams involved in marketing shift to include working closely with customer experience specialists and 2023 will see a rise in customer centric roles like chief customer experience officer.” industry lead marketing, creative and advertising, Gavin Watson, describes this as an increased focus on omnichannel engagement. “The boundaries between online and offline are blurrier than ever, meaning the in-store experience needs to complement what is being delivered online and vice versa,” he comments.

“Against the backdrop of the pandemic, brand managers have focused on delivering a best-in-class ecommerce experience, and omnichannel will be a strong strategy to balance the scales in 2023 to keep consumers engaged in an increasingly competitive market.”

For Sana Commerce CMO, Jeroen Kuppens, evolving buyer behaviour witnessed this year makes it imperative for B2B brands to better connect the dots between product information and online experiences.

“Web stores integrated with a company’s ERP can combine data from both offline and online sources, which makes this a great metric to track for organisations looking to make more informed strategic decisions surrounding customer experience management,” he advises. “Research online, purchase offline can give you clues about the reasoning behind cart abandonment, what roadblocks your buyers come across when using your store, and which features, information, or data you should include to make your Web store a success.”

WLTH head of marketing, Marco Zande, sees ‘total experience’ thinking reflected in thinking digital plus human connection, not one or the other.

“We cannot forget the importance of the human elements that enhances the experience. We may be a digital lender at WLTH, but that doesn’t mean we remove the crucial process of having our experienced lending specialists guiding our customers throughout the process,” he says. “Nothing turns a potential lead off more than dealing with impolite, unknowledgeable staff. The pandemic introduced us to a more digital world, but we have learned consumers still respond well to that personal interaction.”  

Verint VP marketing Asia-Pacific and Japan, Martyn Riddle, echoes this sentiment. “While Covid forced organisations to ramp up their digital-first initiatives, it hasn’t eroded the societal desire for human connection – in fact, it has probably heighted the need,” he says.

“Brands must ensure they provide a fluid and frictionless experience across all channels in order to attract and maintain cross-generational customer loyalty. This will mean a step-change in various technologies including real-time analytics, social listening, AI and automation if they want to drive real-time customer journeys and offer genuine one-to-one personalisation – whether in-store, on the phone or via WhatsApp or chatbots.”

Behind all of this is of course data, and CMOs and CX leaders require easy access to customer insights from structured and unstructured data across the organisation, from in-store to ecommerce channels, social listening, contact centre, website, messaging, email, finance, mobile, workforce and bots, continues Riddle.

“Expect to see CX point solutions consolidated or replaced by whole-of-business CX platforms that can stitch all operational data together,” he says. “This, in turn, will demand new operational ways of thinking about budgeting and technology procurement and data and governance practices – with CMOs in the driving seat.”  

3. Digital self-service is preferred

Nevertheless, digital customer and employee enablement remains a huge priority in 2023. With consumers increasingly wanting to address customer service issues themselves, Cyara chief marketing and strategic officer, Linda Chen, sees more companies relying on self-service digital capabilities and Web chat as customer support options next year. It certainly helps these are usually more cost-effective too.

“Fifty-nine per cent of customers prefer self-service tools for simple issues, with Gen-Z at the forefront,” Chen says. “Increased reliance on self-service and Web chat customer support options serves as a great example of where company and customer priorities meet when it comes to striving for efficiency. In the next year, we will see a stronger convergence of the qualitative and the quantitative coming together across agent experience, customer experience and total experience.

“Not only will customers solve their problems more efficiently on their own, but companies will also increase their customer satisfaction without human intervention further helping to reduce costs.”

As a result, Cyara senior director of digital, Christoph Borner, predicts more large enterprises getting on the chatbot journey as an employee tool.

“Designed to improve employee experience, boost productivity and reduce costs, employee-facing chatbots will also allow businesses to test and optimise the technology before making it customer-facing,” he says. “Customers are going to experience more chatbot failures and frustrations before brands start to get it right. Companies should be spending around a third of their project budget on testing conversational AI in chatbots but we’re still seeing less than 2 per cent of enterprises spending anywhere near that.”

4. Conversational AI advances

Also expecting more conversational AI and chatbot uptake is Ogilvy chief experience officer A/NZ, Jason Davey. He predicts 2023 as the year conversational AI comes of age, both because of its connection into more seamless experiences, as well as cost considerations.  

“As consumers have better and better experiences with chatbots and conversational AI, we will see a significant uptake in conversation AI as businesses look to lower the cost of customer service, while maintaining customer satisfaction scores,” he says. “However, brands who have not integrated their systems and data across product portfolios will suffer as customers get frustrated with siloed experiences and customer service dead-ends.”

Tecala marketing manager, Jemma Healy, also believes intelligent automation will pave the way for better customer experiences in 2023. It’s particularly time for SMEs to catch up and implement technologies that help streamline experiences, she says.

“This may support strategies to increase first-case customer resolutions from bots assigning appropriate staff members to resolve issues, to more streamlined and seamless online communications and purchase experiences,” she says.

Another AI use case in store is AI testing. Cyara vice-president of product, Max Lipovetsky, sees this becoming prevalent as the technology catches up to advanced AI and complexity across the customer experience ecosystem increases.

“CX complexity is increasing because the technology underpinning customer experiences, customer expectations and interactions is evolving,” he comments. “As contact centres move to the cloud, complexity shifts from technology-driven to business-driven such as processes, integration with APIs and channels. The nature of the complexity is changing.  When complexity becomes too great, manual testing is no longer sufficient. The only way to test this level of complexity is with AI coming to the delivery of CX. As CX business applications become more complex and increasingly utilise AI more, automated testing will keep pace by leveraging AI to keep up with the scope and pace of testing.”  

5. Multi-dimensional personalisation comes to the fore

Hand-in-hand with total customer experience is personalisation. For Wunderkind country manager for Australia, Jamie Hoey, maximising CX and revenue are two sides of the same coin. And this is the opportunity for CMOs and brand managers in 2023.

“Only by meeting customers where, when and how they want to be engaged with, will brands be able to provide individualised interactions to cut through the chatter and lay the foundation for sustainable post-recession growth,” he says.

N3 Hub business development director, Stephen Schwalger, is another spying the beginning of truly individual customer experiences. “In 2023, we can expect to see industries such as banking and finance, large retailers and online first businesses start to implement and test multichannel, variable response customer experiences and journeys tailored to the individual,” he predicts.

“This will be facilitated by early adopters of CDPs [customer data platforms] and first-party data platforms that enable the creation of a true single view of the customer across every interaction with the organisation’s touchpoints. With the growing sophistication of journey builder style applications in a number of these platforms linked to real-time messaging and communications to the customer, marketers can now test multiple scenarios for their consumer personas across a multichannel/omnichannel environment.

“Given this capability, we expect to see a strategic change in CX planning and a move away from simply building journeys for customer groups and tasks to a multi-pathway journey that can be tailored to an individual alone and which will align with ongoing engagement and interactions with the company over time.”

Forrester takes this concept of individual value further, arguing for a greater focus on proactive service recovery as overriding strategy as the focus in CX and retention work. PSR is an umbrella term for actions that try to turn around bad experiences for individual customers, usually in as close to real time as possible. An example the analyst firm points to is an airline detecting when the first leg of a customer’s two-leg journey is delayed then reaching out in-app to offer alternate flights and a meal voucher.  

“Although technologies making PSR scalable — like customer journey orchestration, AI-powered contact centre agent assistance and real-time feedback — are now realities, companies’ reasons for putting PSR centre stage will vary,” Forrester’s 2023 CX predictions report states. “Companies with strong CX strategies will use on-brand PSR to help fulfil their strategies efficiently. These companies should keep PSR efforts aligned to strategy or risk diluting the brand.  

“Companies without strong CX strategies will use PSR to fix basic CX problems quickly. These companies should avoid mistaking PSR for a real CX strategy or risk missing out on big-picture CX differentiation.”  

Up next: Five more hefty CX predictions for 2023

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