I am in the final stages of drawing up our Potentiate 2022 CX Trends report, which we will be publishing soon. In preparing the report, I have found it useful to think about the forces that shape CX and give rise to the trends that we see.
In reviewing the forces shaping the use and future of CX, it is clear that there are three distinct elements:
The biggest component of consumer-led changes over the last two years has been those caused by the pandemic. In many cases, the pandemic has accelerated trends that were already happening, for example, the shift to online, mobile, click and collect and home delivery. The number of companies who can validly call themselves omnichannel providers has exploded. This has been a challenge for many customer experience programs, which had been envisaged in terms of the in-person experience (sometimes leaving the digital CX and UX to the IT department).
Another trend that has been accelerated by the pandemic has been the rise of a vocal, angry minority who are promoting anti-science, anti-authority, and a nativist blend of anti-vax, anti-climate change, anti 5G mobile etc. This group has caused many brands to re-consider ‘the customer is always right’, realising that a customer who abuses your staff for asking them to follow the rules is not a customer you want, as Seth Godin says “If the customer is wrong, they’re not your customer anymore.”
The pandemic-accelerated changes are, in many cases, at odds with trends that seemed dominant just two years ago, such as wanting brands to have a purpose. For example, consumers have shifted from despising disposable cups and straws towards single-use utensils, disposable masks, and plastic rapid antigen tests with their single-use nasal swabs.
Of course, the big question is how many of these pandemic-accelerated changes will continue when things go to whatever normal will be in the future?
One of the key company-led trends is the desire to link data systems together and to minimise siloes. This linking and silo reduction has in some cases led to turf battles. For example, does the customer experience of Martech belong to marketing or to IT – which is perhaps an additional reason for the growth in the presence and influence of Chief Experience Officers (CXO) and Chief Customer Officers (CCO). Another aspect of this linking data together is to enable its use by the widest possible number of people, a trend referred to as democratization.
A quite separate company-led change has been to emphasise the need to measure the ROI of more and more activities. This change brings the CFO into the family of people interested in CX and interested in integrating the CX measurements with other data.
The final trend that I want to highlight is the shift from outright customer-centricity, to a model that is also employee focused. Adopting the recommendation of Richard Branson, the founder of the Virgin group, who said, “I am convinced that companies should put staff first, customers second and shareholders third - ultimately that's in the best interest of customers and shareholders.” For this reason, many Chief Experience Officers are also responsible for the employee experience as well as the customer experience – and it is why they tend to report to the CEO or the COO, rather than the Chief Marketing Officer.
There are four key elements to the technology-led changes; improvements in data collection, integration with other systems, improvements in data access/sharing and the continued (slow) rise of Artificial Intelligence. Collectively these changes are represented by the large and sophisticated array of platforms, offering solutions from self-serve, through assisted serve, to full service.
A key thing to remember about technology is that it tends to have an impact only when it enables changes for which there were already demands. For example, better data collection does not make companies want to collect more data in more engaging ways. The organisation already wanted more data and it wanted the experience to be more engaging. Technology changes enable companies to achieve their aims
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