Unwarranted optimism. Proactive service recovery overriding strategy. “A year of reckoning.” Forrester’s predictions for the world customer experience leaders will face in 2023 couldn’t be clearer – or more dire.
Based on a report developed by the market research firm’s customer experience (CX) analysts that was shared with 360 Magazine, Forrester said it expects that one in five CX programs will disappear next year. This will be largely due to a failure to demonstrate business value, the report suggested, as well as the impact of ongoing economic uncertainty and other headwinds facing many brands.
“Some of these companies will dissolve CX teams that can’t show numbers,” the report’s authors wrote. “Some of these teams will be split up and absorbed into other business functions, while other teams will see their influence dwindle.”
Forrester’s predictions included a few positive notes. Though it said only 20 per cent of firms can demonstrate CX to be part of their brand identity, those organizations are likely to see programs develop and thrive.
The potential risk of CX programs getting the axe could be a shock to many practitioners, however: Forrester cited survey data that revealed 54 per cent actually expect their budgets to increase.
Pulling back on CX investments may be just one of may difficult choices brands are forced to make over the next few months, according to Suzi Tripp, vice-president of insights at Raleigh, N.C.-based consulting firm Brooks Bell. In some cases, however, even well-intentioned CX professionals may have been setting themselves up for a fall long before some of the more recent challenges emerged.
“There are two common missteps of CX programs that could cost them everything – prioritizing activity over insights and failing to widely socialize their insights so they can make an undeniable impact,” Tripp said. “Things like counting up the number of times a project was completed and/or sharing data and impact to metrics is the easy part, and that’s where many programs stop. However, the C-Suite is looking for something more valuable, such as taking learnings that can be applied elsewhere to bring success throughout the organization.”
If a team is doing wonderful work, but doesn’t have a way to store and share the insights gained, meanwhile, they’ll likely sit stagnant in a shared folder not driving any value, Tripp added. “They should also make it their mission to understand how those insights are being used so they can clearly state the ways that these insights have helped the business and track that progress across the organization,” she said.
Besides the potential to lose focus on their customers’ needs and problems, companies that cut their CX programs and teams would also create adverse effects on their employee experience and sense of purpose, suggested Israel Gaudette, CEO of Flawless SEO.
“When you have a dedicated team of people who are focused on making sure your customers’ experience is exceptional, you are able to create an environment where employees know what’s expected of them in terms of customer experience—and it’s easy for them to understand when they’re doing well and when they need improvement,” he said. “When you take away that dedicated team, it can be hard for employees to remember why focusing on the customer is important. It can be easy to get caught up in the day-to-day work and forget about the big picture.”
CX programs and teams may be easier to justify in organizations and industries where digital transformation has been particularly prevalent following the outbreak of COVID-19. A good example is Airmeet, which offers a platform to host virtual summits, meetups and workshops.
Airmeet commissioned its own research from Forrester that found that only 23 per cent of event attendees consider virtual events unique, even though 77 per cent of CMOs say they are now a permanent part of the event mix. For Airmeet CMO Mark Kilens, that represents an opportunity to invest in CX where return on investment can be readily measured.
“The key to success is consistency and creating an immersive experience for audiences from start to end,” Kilens said. “Offering customers choice, convenience and customization are three critical items.”
Kilens also advised looking beyond simply removing friction and fixing bad experiences to having an ongoing dialogue with customers that allows brands to get ahead of issues earlier on. Though much debated, he cited chatbots as an effective tool, provided sales teams can ensure they are having relevant and valuable conversations with customers.
“It’s a huge part of our strategy, which focuses on building real-time, engaging relationships with buyers that produce rapid conversions,” he said. “Using these relationships to connect before they even need assistance will help long term.”
Gaudette offered similar sentiments, arguing that whether or not they use technologies like chatbots, voice of the customer strategies need to be run consistently, with brands acting upon the feedback. It sounds simple, but he said it’s often not put into practice.
“The number one reason companies scrap their CX programs is because they don’t hear from their customers,” he said. “They make assumptions about what their customers want and are surprised when those assumptions turn out wrong.”
Tripp noted that brands are still determining how much the economic downturn will affect consumer spending. If CX teams can ensure they have a pulse on both quantitative and qualitative data, they might be seen as more valuable by leadership teams who need to know what is going on in their business, and why.
“The teams that continue to drive insights, facilitate insights being used, and be known throughout the org as the hub for impact-driving customer insights will be here to tell us about it in 2024,” she said.
Companies should also be careful about making hasty decisions about the CX programs and teams, Gaudette said. Even if jobs get cut, there will inevitably be those left behind who need to manage some CX-related processes who lack the necessary experience or skills.
Kilens agreed, adding that business leaders need to remember that CX programs improve customer satisfaction, improve employee engagement, customer retention, and competitive differentiation.
“Connecting with individuals throughout the customer journey is the best way to retain customers, build new relationships and get feedback that will only help improve products, services and processes,” he said. “Parting ways with CX teams could impact the company and growth in the long run.”
Shane Schick tells stories that help people innovate, and to manage the change innovation brings. He is the former Editor-in-Chief of Marketing magazine and has also been Vice-President, Content & Community (Editor-in-Chief), at IT World Canada, a technology columnist with the Globe and Mail and Yahoo Canada and is the founding editor of ITBusiness.ca. Shane has been recognized for journalistic excellence by the Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance and the Canadian Online Publishing Awards.