14 Customer Experience Trends for Marketers in 2014

I recently released my annual list of customer experience (CX) trends. As you’ll see in the last item, I’ve labeled 2014 as the “Yearof Empathy.”

Collectively, these trends point to a robust set of CX activities in 2014.To help make these trends as relevant as possible to marketers (hopefully “empathy” is already relevant), I’ve added “my take for marketers” to each item.

1. Renovation of VoC programs: Large organizations spend millions of dollars each year on collecting customer feedback. Yet, too few of them gain the value they could—or should—from those investments. Only one out of five organizations has reached Temkin Group’s two highest levels of voice-of-the-customer (VoC) maturity. In 2014 we expect many companies to scrap their overly burdensome customer surveys in favor of more targeted feedback. They’ll rely less on multiple-choice surveys and more on topic-specific surveys and text analytics of unstructured content (like comments on surveys), calls into the contact center, social media conversations, and chat sessions with agents.

My take for marketers: Market research is often inside of marketing, which means you’ll need to renovate your operations. It’s time to rethink your entire approach to this effort.

2. Lots of customer journey mapping: One of the most effective tools for customer experience professionals is customer journey mapping (CJM). These tools identify key areas of improvement and opportunities for innovation. They also can help build organizational empathy. In 2014 organizations with CX ambition will most likely develop their own CJMs. However, despite all this activity, many companies will still misuse CJMs by mistaking touchpoint analysis with CJMs and by forgetting that a CJM is merely a means to an end—not the ultimate goal.

My take for marketers: Your marketing efforts will be stronger if you understand how your customers truly want to interact with your organization. Use CJMs as an input to your marketing plans.

3. Integration of customer behavioral data: While feedback is a form of customer insight, it’s by no means the only form—or even the best form. Companies can glean a lot of insight by understanding what customers have done, what channels they’ve used, what products they’ve purchased, and what service interactions they’ve had. These data sources provide the rich content required to fuel predictive models. In 2014 we’ll see this 2013 trend continue with more companies blending together customer feedback data, CRM data, and data from customer transactions and other value systems. This will enable companies to accurately target experiences to reduce churn, improve metrics (e.g., satisfaction, NPS), and increase customer lifetime value. Consequently, data scientists—especially those who can speak with businesspeople—will continue to be in high demand.

My take for marketers: Every element of marketing will need to more effectively connect customer datasets to fuel predictive analytics.

4. More anticipatory service: As companies gain a deeper understanding of customers through research and analytics, they’ll develop more individualized customer experiences. Look for companies to route callers to the phone agents who are most likely to help them based on the anticipated reason for the call. Companies will also train frontline employees with different scripts based on anticipating customers’ needs/interests/emotional style. Businesses  will even teach employees how to proactively recover from service issues before customers can complain by detecting potential changes in customer loyalty.

My take for marketers: Your brand is probably more affected by how your company responds to service issues than the content you put into marketing campaigns. Partner with your service organization to promote great service experiences.

5. Experience infused into 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 using a CX scorecard that determines the level of customer experience risk involved in a proposed project. Its “Customer Lens” process delivers more customer-centric experiences by incorporating standards and checkpoints into business cases and new product development methodologies.

My take for marketers: Make sure that you identify specific audiences and goals for their experiences as an input to all of your development efforts.

6. Consolidation of CX process methodologies: Large companies often have several efforts focused on creating customer-centric processes. As CX efforts highlight the need to redesign more operational processes, companies will combine CX efforts with other process improvement efforts, such as lean sigma and design thinking. These combinations—like GM’s effort to bring CX and product quality together—will merge process-centric tools with the power of deep customer empathy. We’ll also see more companies following firms, such as Intuit, that embed design thinking across their organizations.

My take for marketers: Don’t allow process efficiency to dilute the focus of understanding the needs of target customers who drive your marketing efforts.

7. Contact centers morph into relationship hubs: For years companies have relied on their contact centers to deal with customer interactions—from technical support to requesting medical coverage. But contact centers are on the verge of a major change. Driven by shifts in technology, capabilities, and consumer behavior, leading companies are refocusing the primary purpose of contact centers from handling individual calls to building customer loyalty. These changes will morph contact centers into what I’ve called Relationship Hubs. In 2014 Relationship Hubs will establish success metrics tied to long-term customer loyalty. Belgacom, a Belgium telecom provider, changed its key call center metric from average handle time to a combination of two metrics: first-call resolution and likelihood of customers to recommend the company.

My take for marketers: Contact centers provide a wealth of untapped customer insights for marketers, and the value will grow as Relationship Hubs emerge.

8. Deeper appreciation of employee assets. Companies are beginning to see the deep connection between employee engagement and customer experience. Engaged employees are more than twice as likely to stay late at work, help someone at work even if they’re not asked, and do something good for the company even if it’s not expected of them. In 2014 we’ll see more employee surveys, executives developing employee engagement goals, and managerial training focused on employee engagement.

My take for marketers: Marketers need to engage employees within their organization and drive internal campaigns to translate the brand promise into something meaningful for all employees.

9. Mobile, mobile, Mobile: Personal health monitoring takes off: This isn’t about mobile phones: It’s about digital experiences integrated into everyday life. More consumers will have smart phones and tablets, and these devices will have more apps and sensors that will enable consumers to do more things wherever they go. We’ll see a surge of personal health monitors, such as Nike’s FuelBand and Sleep Cycle Alarm Clock. In 2014health plans and healthcare providers will begin integrating these remote monitors into their offerings.

My take for marketers: Start examining what it means to your marketing efforts ifconsumers monitor their health on an ongoing basis.

10. Mobile, mobile, mobile: Retail-digital integration: Mobile is such an important area that it generates two of the trends. Companies will increasingly integrate mobile into their product offerings and service experiences. They will integrate mobile with other channels, particularly combining desktop applications with mobile apps  used in-store. In 2014 every major retailer will need to have a strategy for putting customers’ mobile phones to use when they’re in-store.

My take for marketers: It’s time to more aggressively integrate mobile with your traditional media campaigns.

11. Software as an experience continues: The initial rise of cloud-based software (a.k.a. SaaS or software-as-a-service) focused on renting access to software instead of selling licenses. That makes sense, considering that Net Promoter Scores for tech vendors are more correlated to customer experience than product performance. As cloud-based software expands, we’ll see these offerings cater more explicitly to the needs of customers. How? Simpler, more focused, more specialized applications (like smart phone apps), more emphasis on quick initial usability, more sharing of best practices (usage, not technical), and more customization based on the behavioral analysis of users.

My take for marketers: If you’re in the technology industry, this should be obvious. For others, there are 13 other trends to focus on.

12. Resurgence of purpose: As 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 organizations focus so intently on their operations that they lose sight of their raisons d’être. I expect more companies to articulate and recommit to a core set of values, like those of Zappos and Whole Foods; customer promises, like that of TNT Express; and mission statements, like that of the Dallas Cowboys.

My take for marketers: What organization is best positioned to help an organization reestablish its purpose? The answer is marketing.

13. CX certification accelerates CX education. The Customer Experience Professionals Association will be launching its Certified Customer Experience Professional (CCXP) certification in 2014. This industry-wide certification will help solidify the role of CX professionals and create demand for more CX training. In 2014 look for a surge in companies offering CX training aligned with the categories in the CCXP test.

My take for marketers: If you’re in a CX role, you may want to consider trying to get CCXP certified.

14. The rise of “empathy:” As companies increasingly focus on CX in 2014, they’ll recognize that their organizations lack a deep understanding and appreciation for their customers. It’s not a flaw in the people, just a natural result of an internal focus on day-to-day operations. In 2014 we’ll hear more executives talk about the need to build empathy for customers, making “empathy” the CX word for 2014.

My take for marketers: Take the lead in helping your organization better understand customers.

The bottom line: Marketers need to put CX on their 2014 agenda.

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