One year later and we’re still in the thick of it. The pandemic has not only continued to accelerate the shift to digital customer experiences, but also pushed organisations to adopt and implement technologies in hopes of gaining a competitive edge. Customers today no longer base their loyalty on price or product. Instead, they are loyal to companies based on the experience they receive. It sounds severe, but the truth is, if you cannot keep up with their increasing demands, your customers will leave you. It’s as simple as that.
A lot has happened since last year, and while many trends have continued and evolved, such as the improved online experience, and optimised customer journeys, there have been several more noteworthy trends popping up in digital CX.
In this post, we have identified 5 key digital customer experience trends (as seen in our State of Customer Experience 2021 report) that are shaping customer experience priorities in 2022; trends which will continue to evolve and transform the meaning of CX now and in the future.
This overview of Digital Customer Experience (CX) trends covers everything from:
- The Adoption of AI
- Emphasis on CX Agility
- Data & Privacy matters
- Humanity & Automation
- Empathy in CX
Let’s take a closer look at each of these.
1. The adoption of AI will be deemed ‘extremely significant’
This past year we saw an increased confidence and comfort in AI. In our State of CX 2020 blog post, we discussed that, in the context of the current crisis, AI has been helping CX teams meet unusually high demands. We also noted that once organisations started turning to AI technologies to boost their CX, they were able to meet these growing demands.
Since then, the need and expectation for around the clock customer experience has, unsurprisingly, stuck around. In fact, 40% of customer experience centric companies believe the adoption of artificial intelligence technology to be extremely significant for usage in decision-making and recommendations to employees.
To create value, AI in CX must be viewed as long-term assets requiring investment to scale. The more you invest now in AI to deliver a meaningful and memorable CX, the more customer engagement you will have.Greg Cross, Co-founder and chief business officer at Soul Machines
Though there are still some hurdles to overcome, such as competing brand priorities and difficulty adapting to AI technology itself, there are plenty more benefits to the adoption of AI and machine learning technologies.
According to this report by the CX network, brands must build a culture where AI receives enough focus for it to develop, whilst ensuring they stay up-to-date with the latest in AI or machine learning technology. That is if they intend to deliver a service that meets customer expectations.
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There are all kinds of mergers and acquisitions happening in the CX software market
2. Businesses will strive for CX agility
Ever heard of the term ‘experience economy’? As Forbes so nicely puts it, the experience economy is where ‘a company intentionally uses services as the stage, and goods as props, to engage individual customers in a way that creates a memorable event’. In other words, customers value the overall purchasing experience as much as the service or product they’re buying.
Source: Pine and Gilmore
And if there was anything to take away from the past year, it’s that being adaptable to change is something that businesses should really focus on, especially when it comes to the customer experience. Businesses today must offer high-quality interactions to provide a valuable opportunity for competitive advantage.
In fact, we saw the need for this at the beginning of the crisis, as companies quickly shifted to working from home models. Adapting to the same changes your customers are dealing with is key for businesses in the post-covid era.
Without question, agile, adaptive change will be sustained and in fact is likely to continue becoming more and more significant. The key is that agile is seen as an approach to ALL change – behavioural and process – not just technological change.Ian Golding, CX Specialist
However, as noted in the quote above, the key takeaway here is that agile must be seen as an approach throughout the business both in technology and behaviour as well as within processes, both internally and externally.
3. Data & Privacy matters
This one may not come to a surprise to you but with the shift towards digitisation (as a result of the ongoing pandemic), we’re seeing increased interest in online data and security measures. In fact, this year customers have really done their homework when it comes to data and privacy.
Source: Data Privacy Manager
Customers today know more about how their data is being used, and therefore don’t like to give unnecessary details without good reason. When creating surveys, we always say that, if you don’t need to know, don’t ask. Previously, marketers were gathering whatever data they could get their hands on, and the average consumer was left in the dark as to how their data was being used.
Have you heard about Schrems II?
As cyber risks continue to intensify, consumer demand for data privacy is escalating at an impressive rate. In fact, since the arrival of GDPR, many other global regulations are also being reconsidered and redrafted. Just last year, another ruling was added to the mix: Schrems II – the legal verdict issued in July 2020 declaring the EU-US Data Protection Shield invalid.
Learn more here.
Nowadays, with news stories breaking like the Cambridge Analytica Scandal, it’s hard for customers or users to ignore the importance of protecting their data. So it’s no surprise that 40% of consumers would no longer shop with a business if they are unable to deny access to their personal information.
4. Harmonising humanity and automation
This year brands will need to find a way of harmonising their automation efforts with humanity. While marketing automation is a great way for organisations to lower costs and boost resolution time, it isn’t necessarily a favorite when it comes to CX.
Source: Sourcing Industry Group
The more technologically-advanced brands become, the more people crave human interaction. But two-thirds (64%) feel that brands have lost touch with the human element of the customer experience.Annette Franz, Founder and CEO of CX Journey Inc.
For example, most of us have likely encountered a chatbot by now. However, the thing is, when organisations use chatbots to, let’s say respond to customer FAQs, some customers still would prefer speaking to an actual person. Whether that’s because the chatbot doesn’t quite grasp the question or the customer is simply reluctant to trust the response, it lacks humanity. Now this doesn’t necessarily mean that organisations should drop these kinds of technologies entirely, but rather it presents an opportunity for these organisations to improve upon their existing technologies and find ways to make them more human, more conversational.
5. Empathy will drive customer experience
If you want to provide a good customer experience, you have to understand how the experience you’re providing makes your customers feel. It’s pretty simple. Empathy, which is defined as “identification with and understanding of another’s situation, feelings, and motives” is pivotal when it comes to delivering a top-notch customer experience. And this is especially true in this post-covid landscape.
Even after more than a year, the pandemic has added a significant cognitive load to customers of all types. That increases the need to increase both ease and emotional connection in the customer journey. Customers won’t take the time to read complicated communications and work through hoops. We need to be easier to work with and to find ways to engage customers emotionally.Jim Tincher, Founder and CEO of the Heart of the Customer
Note: this is by no means a definitive list of the current trends in the market. It’s just a few examples of trends driving these movements in customer experience. There are many more out there and many more to come now and post COVID.
Here’s to a successful 2022!
As you can see, managing the customer experience is becoming quite complex. The last couple of years have sped up the evolution of CX, and we are seeing that more and more customers are demanding personalised yet frictionless experiences. No surprise there, as the pandemic meant that companies and customers had to change their behaviour, probably forever. Now, if companies want to survive, they must invest in the right technology and solutions to deal with the ever-changing nature of customer behaviour, such as user feedback.
As we look to 2022, we predict lots of changes in CX with multiple factors coming into play such as the rapid digitisation of organisations and their service offerings, as well as providing a sense of human interaction, and emotionally resonant experiences.
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