Digitisation has led to the democratisation of the customer experience like never before. Its impact was already felt in 2019 but going forward it will show a huge delta change. A great experience is not necessarily compared to your category competitors or regular, premium or luxury brands. There is no such categorisation now. Brands and Services will have to be much more agile and will have to deliver a ubiquitous customer experience in 2020. According to a Cisco report on Global consumer trends in 2020, brands and services will no longer be experienced in siloes. Connectivity will enable more brands to work together to deliver quality engagements, building upon each other’s digital platforms to ensure uniformity and interoperability. The ecosystem will evolve to experience platforms that will form around user lifestyles where brands will work together to deliver a superlative customer experience. Of course, we in India are sometime away from this reality but none the less we are staring at it. From reactive to predictive mechanisms. From transactional interactions to loyalty programs to ownership of the relationship. From inputs to actionable insights. The changes are dramatic. I am not sure how many Indian companies are ready for this transformation. I call this a transformation because for me it is looking at the business of customer experience management from a very different lens. Let’s have a look at some of the trends that I envisage will become mainstream in 2020.
- Re-calibrate CRM to CXM:
I have been saying this for some time. But this transition has not yet happened, and Organisations are finding it extremely difficult to make the move because it requires them to fundamentally change the way they operate. However, the customer is king, and he will drive the experience management change for the brands. In the new customer world how will brands calibrate the incremental revenues generated by CXM campaigns will be a huge challenge. The KPIs, the measurement metrics and the experiential support required to deliver success will be one of the biggest challenges of 2020.
- Empower people:
Employees will need to be empowered to deliver a superlative customer experience. There is no other way. Organisations will need to equip their front-end employees with tools that provide in-the moment access to insights and analytics and streamline communications between co-workers. A great customer experience depends heavily in the ‘moment’ary response. According to a Cisco survey, more than a third of the companies are developing ways to retrain and reskill their workforce, and 33% of the companies already have a roadmap to make sure that their corporate culture and growth plans focus on people. As I keep saying, changing and evolving organizational culture is the only way to drive digital transformation.
- The onus of loyalty has moved to Brands and Organisations:
Organisations and Brands will have to demonstrate customer loyalty and not the other way around. The collapse of the Telco’s is a classic example. Beyond the regulatory issues another important reason for their collapsing value proposition for customers is that they just milked their loyal customers. Never offered automatic shifts to lower priced plans when usage was less. Never warned customers if they were overusing data while traveling and many more such reasons. Customer faith in brands and services is at an all-time low. The customer is in control now. The brands/services better respond accordingly. It is not a growth strategy; it is a survival strategy. The biggest challenge facing marketers in 2020 is to retain customers or convert one timers into multi-timers. In order to do this, organisations must replace current technology and infrastructure. It starts by accurately defining customer lifecycle stages, arriving at customer lifetime value ad then developing a strategy to deliver on the potential. This and only this will drive growth moving forward.
- In 2020 Automation and human intervention will be 50:50
Well not literally, but conceptually it will happen. Technology mature organisations are discovering that automation is overrated. For years now the mantra has been automation, automation, automation. “So where are the people?” the customer is asking. “Do you expect the bot to solve all my problems? Sorry, I disconnect!”. We at Hansa Cequity are already seeing a move towards a more human engagement/experience. Brands will have to make this more deliberate and a part of their customer experience management strategy. A service that has taken a lead in this space is Stitch Fix, the online personal stylist subscription service. Admittedly, it does have great wardrobe selection choices, driven probably by the best AI. But its growth is primarily led by the personal relationship that customers are developing with their stylists.
- Be prepared to be held accountable:
At one end of the spectrum are the laws and regulations being put in place by countries – GDPR in Europe, CCPA in the US, the Data Protection Bill in India and at the other end even the consumer is becoming more and more conscious about security, privacy and blatant misuse of data. Going forward they will hold brands and services responsible for any misuse. Consumer are sharing more and more information in the hope of getting a better and customised experience, not for their data to be misused. Organisations will have to take cognisance of this and act responsibly. This will require stringent data governance policies. Brands like Apple are already touting this as a brand differentiator. If you have seen their latest iPhone campaign which says – “These are private things, personal things,” the ads say. “And they should belong to you, simple as that.” It is clear which way the winds are blowing.
- Do things on behalf of customers; make their decision-making process easy:
Customer expectations are fast evolving. They are bench marking services and products against what they are experiencing with Netflix, Spotify and Amazon. The AI and ML based algorithms might be powering this move for the big three, but the task is much more complex when one has to integrate offline and online. It looks like an almost insurmountable challenge for many organisations with legacy systems. The customers not only expect brands and services to anticipate their needs but also expect them to offer just-in-time services and solutions! It is now a routine expectation from customers that brands are seriously incorporating their feedback, communicated through social and other channels. Organisations will have to go beyond transactional statement-based interactions to contextually rich experiences to enable customers to achieve their goals.
- The way companies use tech will evolve dramatically:
Contrary to my old belief, going forward technology will not just be an enabler, it will have to become differentiator. Both back-end and front-end will be digitised. Leading brands and services in the future will also be technology leaders. To stay ahead of competition, they will need to stay ahead in the technology game. Towards this end, organisations have already started acquiring start-ups at exorbitant valuations. Most of them will fail but nevertheless, CXOs need to show that they are making some headway to the stock markets. There are better ways to do this, but that is a topic for another day.
- Providing a multi-platform journey with platform-specific messaging:
The future is all about omnipresence. Amazon is setting up stores in Shoppers Stop and Shoppers Stop wants to succeed online. We live in times of contradictions! But that’s because the consumer thought process is no longer linear. It’s not only multi-device, but multi-platform. Consumers swing from Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat to email, to contact centre to SMS. The task will be to achieve multi-channel synergies, not an easy ask.
- ‘Try-before-you-buy’ and ‘One-time contact resolution’ will become legit customer expectations:
Customer experience is transforming at both ends of the spectrum – before the purchase and after the purchase. Some online players like Amazon, Lenskart, etc have already mainstreamed this. Newer technologies and AR technologies are driving this change and redefining customer experience. In 2020 it will be a perfectly mainstream expectation. Subscription based services drove this change early on. The advent of 5G in the US and shortly in India, will reduce entry barriers based on the shift to cloud and enabling of smartphones to be AR devices. From a ‘One-time contact resolution’ perspective, customers now expect brands and services to solve their problems in one connect and not a merry-go-round experience. This will require big time collaboration and empowerment of front-line solution providers and customer experience staff at organisations.
- Conversational UI, smart customer journey analytics and augmented voice will substantially drive the omnichannel experience:
The omnichannel experiences includes new platforms, channels and technologies — all of which need to work seamlessly together. Organisation in my opinion, to use a popular phrase will have to get used to ‘twinning’. Which means -move seamlessly from digital to physical experiences. Going forward, voice will be a big differentiator. The use of voice has quadrupled after the Telco price wars. At one end, it is about the sheer number of people who are unable to type their needs on a mobile at the other end it is the sheer convenience, where the teenagers are saying – “Why type when one can just ask?”
Initially I thought that I will include collaboration as one of the trends but on introspection I reached the conclusion that this is not a trend. It is an underlying business requirement that is not going to change in the future – The need to collaborate is all pervasive and timeless. The ecosystem needs an alignment between the consumer, marketer and technology. To use current lingo, CTOs, CMO, CSO, CIOs and other CXOs will need to become BFFs. Instead of operating in siloes, organisations will have to evolve to a more collaborative style of operating ensuring that technology resources and budgets are fungible to drive growth and generate value. Organisations that manage to achieve this seemingly impossible feat will not only survive but thrive in the future. So, lets brace for impact and be ready to dance in the eye of the storm in 2020!