13 Customer Experience Trends to Watch in 2013

Bruce Temkin

Bruce Temkin is a managing partner of customer experience consulting and research firm, Temkin Group, and helps large organisations improve business results by changing how they deal with customers. His focus includes strategy, marketing, interaction design, customer service and leadership practices. He is also the co-founder and chair of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA.org), a non-profit organisation.

2012 was a very active year for customer experience management. I expect 2013 to be an even more robust year as we move deeper into the Era of CX Professionalism.

Here are 13 CX trends to keep an eye on as these efforts gain maturity:

1. Decline of surveys. As more companies thirst for customer feedback, the number of surveys has escalated. But there is a limit to customers’ willingness to complete surveys. As completion rates get more difficult to maintain, companies will become more efficient with the questions they ask, target questions at specific customers in specific situations, and stop relying as much on multiple-choice questions. Tidbit: When we asked large companies with VoC (voice of customer) programs about the changing importance of eight listening posts, multiple choice survey questions were at the bottom of the list.

2. Rise of text analytics. Companies are learning that some of the richest insights from customers come from unstructured content like comments on surveys, calls into the contact center, social media conversations, and chat sessions with agents. Companies will shift more of their focus towards collecting and analysing these types of feedback. Tidbit: Nearly three-quarters of large companies with VoC programs are using or considering text analytics.

3. Big data predictive insights. It’s hard to talk about trends without discussing big data (in order to be fully buzz-word compliant). But what will this term mean for customer experience in 2013? Companies will blend together customer feedback data with troves of other data they have in CRM and other systems about customer transactions and value. Using this large dataset, they will predict customer satisfaction levels and Net Promoter Scores across their customer base. Since analytics requires more than just technology, we’ll see a surge of demand for data scientists. Tidbit: More than half of large companies with a VoC program are using or considering predictive analytics, but only one-third of large companies feel they are effective at integrating CRM data in their VoC efforts.

4. Anticipatory service. As companies gain a deeper understanding of customers through research and analytics, they will use that information to develop more individualized customer experiences. Look for companies to route callers to phone agents most likely to help them based on anticipating why they are calling, train front line employees with different scripts based on anticipating a customers’ needs/interests/emotional styles, and proactively recover from service issues before customers even complain about them based on detecting potential changes to a customers’ loyalty. Tidbit: When companies responded very poorly after a bad experience, 47 per cent of consumers stopped spending completely with the company. When they had a very good response, only 6 per cent stopped spending and 37 per cent increased their spending.

5. Experience-infused product development. We’ll see more companies create products with customer experience embedded throughout the entire development process. What will this look like? Product teams will define usability requirements, set minimum experience thresholds for product launch, and design the entire service lifecycle. Fidelity Investments evaluates all new product and experience efforts via a CX scorecard to determine the level of customer experience risk involved in a proposed project. Its ‘Customer Lens’ process incorporates standards and checkpoints into business case and new product development methodologies to deliver more customer-centric experiences.

6. Design-based process improvement. As customer experience efforts highlight the need to redesign more operational processes, companies will combine customer experience efforts with other process improvement efforts such as lean sigma and design thinking. These combinations, such as GM’s bringing together of customer experience and product quality, will merge process-centric tools with the power of deep customer empathy. We’ll also see more companies follow firms such as Intuit that are embedding design thinking across their organisations. Tidbit: 74 per cent of CX professionals think that customer experience design is important for their company, but only 34 per cent think that their firm is good at it.

7. Loyalty-focused contact centres. As companies more fully understand the link between customer experience and loyalty, especially with customer service, they will increasingly view contact centres as value-creators and not just cost centres. Some of the effects in 2013: less focus on average-handle-time and other productivity metrics, more focus on customer feedback and quality metrics, more on-shoring of previously off-shored interactions, and more investment in agent training and coaching. Tidbit: Consumers satisfied with customer service interactions are more than four times as likely to repurchase than those who are dissatisfied.

8. Appreciation of employee assets. Companies are beginning to see the deep connection between employee engagement and customer experience. So many firms will focus on their employees in 2013. We’ll see more CX programs develop internal ambassador programs and an initial wave of HR organisations leading employee engagement efforts across what we call Five I’s of Employee Engagement: Inform, Inspire, Instruct, Involve and Incent. Tidbit: Highly engaged employees are 5.8 times more committed to helping their companies succeed and 3.5 times more likely to do something good for their employers that is not expected of them.

9. Mobile, mobile, mobile. Consumers will have more smartphones, more mobile apps, more tablets for them to do even more things wherever they go. Companies will increasingly integrate mobile into their product offerings and service experiences while integrating mobile with other channels, especially when it comes to combining desktop applications with mobile apps being used in physical stores. Tidbit: 31 per cent of US consumers use apps on their mobile phones on a daily basis.

10. Software as an Experience. The initial rise of cloud-based software (SaaS, or software-as-a-service) focused on renting access to software instead of the historical approach of selling licenses. As cloud-based software expands, we’ll see these offerings cater more explicitly to the needs of customers. How? Simple, highly-focused, specialised applications (like smartphone apps), more focus on quick initial usability, more sharing of best practices (usage, not technical), and customisation based on behavioural analysis of users. Tidbit: Net Promoter Scores for tech vendors are more correlated to customer experience than product performance.

11. Resurgence of values. As more companies push forward on their CX journeys, they’ll find that there’s nothing holding their efforts together. The desire to improve customer experience will fall victim to other priorities if the effort is not tied to the core values of the company. But many organisations are so heavily focused on their operations they’ve lost sight of their raisons d’être. I expect more companies to articulate and recommit to a core set of values.

12. Rethinking risk-experience trade-offs. Customer experience is often constrained by rigid requirements imposed by legal, compliance and risk management teams. As a result, companies are forced to collect additional information from customers, add additional steps in processes, and eliminate valuable self-service options. In 2013, given the increased emphasis on customer experience, we’ll see companies push back on and successfully eliminate many of the most egregious experience roadblocks.

13. Continuing CX education. Some customer experience practices are becoming standardised enough to create educational curriculum. In 2013, we’ll see more corporate training departments rolling out CX training, MBA programs incorporating more CX content into service and marketing courses, and the creation of standalone CX academic courses. Tidbit: The percentage of CX professionals that see training as an important professionals development goal increased from 52 per cent in 2011 to 57 per cent in 2012.

The bottom line: 2013 is a busy year for CX professionals.

- Reach Bruce at:

Tags: customer insights

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