2019: The year that Customer Experience becomes “do or die”

By Claire Sporton, SVP CX Innovation, Confirmit…

We are now firmly in the age of the customer. One lousy piece of customer service has never been desirable, but now it can become an internet sensation by lunchtime and have done serious damage to your reputation before dinner time. Expectations are high and it’s a foolish CEO that doesn’t understand that the customer experience (CX) is now a key battleground, both for attracting and retaining customers. A focus on differentiating through experience – particularly in people-focused areas like the contact centre – is vital.

There is no shortage of businesses making claims about customer-centricity, of course. But, sadly, slapping the words on your website is not enough. You need to actually take action. Just as importantly, you then need to monitor the action you’ve taken, and prove its value. Otherwise, your CX budget will be spirited away to fund the next shiny new thing that catch the board’s eye.

You can’t allow there to be anything ‘warm and fuzzy’ about the customer experience. It needs to be a cold, hard business focus. And up until recently, it’s been far too fuzzy.

However, we believe 2019 will be something of a turning point for the CX industry, where we’ll see greater clarity around the key drivers of CX success – and where we’ll be able to define what really constitutes CX best practice.

For us, the five critical changes that we’ll see in 2019 to propel clearer thinking are:

Securing wider buy-in by talking in the language people understand

People will only get on board with CX initiatives if they can understand why it’s important and how their role contributes. Too many CX practitioners are so caught up in CX metrics like Net Promoter Score (NPS®), that they don’t remember to focus on the needs of their internal audience. We’re starting to see a greater understanding of the need to consider the goals that matter to individual teams. For the c-suite, this often means talking about cold, hard financial numbers and explaining how driving change through CX can help to achieve them. In the contact centre, meanwhile, it’s about helping team leaders and agents meet their targets around First Call Resolution and other operational metrics through a better understanding of customer needs and expectations.

Focusing on business outcomes, not metrics

Of course, metrics are a way to measure different elements of CX and understand where changes have improved or adversely affected customer interaction with a business. We’re not suggesting that we do away with metrics, but the goal of a CX programme must never be to hit a particular NPS score. Yes, if you manage that, great. But to be relevant to the business, CX activities need to drive decision-making that improve business outcomes. In 2019, we expect to see more businesses approaching CX from a strategic direction: what are the issues that are keeping stakeholders awake at night? How can CX help identify the most appropriate course of action?

Sharing real-life stories that drive viral change

Numbers can never tell the whole story. Once we have people’s buy-in and delivered the metrics we’re measuring, we need to bring the numbers alive with real stories that demonstrate what success looks like. This means getting leaders and team members to understand the implications of the decisions we make as a business on real live human beings.

This goes deeper than simply sharing good news on the company intranet. It requires CX leaders to think like an evangelist and embed a process of enabling individuals to see things happening differently and to want to get involved. In the year ahead, we’d like to see more organisations giving employees the insight they need at their fingertips, then trusting them to try something new – whether it work or fails. If it works, the benefit is two-fold – CX will improve, and teams will be energised to do more and drive the cycle of success.

Understanding the impact of the employee experience on customers

Engaged employees not only drive more engaged customers, but also provide great insights into what is working and what is not – often deeper and more actionable than the feedback from customers themselves. Understanding the employee experience is very much like understanding the customer experience, and we’re seeing an increasing number of businesses aligning their Voice of the Employee and Customer programmes to provide a more holistic business monitoring capability.

In 2019 we hope this will go from strength to strength, with organisations asking employees the right questions at the right times, using additional business data to provide context, and proving that they are driving change based on what’s been learned. This isn’t all fluffy, nice-to-have stuff. Engaged employees stay in their positions longer, reducing the costs associated with staff turnover, and are more likely to go above and beyond when it comes to meeting customer demands.

Inspiring cultural change at every level

Being a truly customer-centric business requires a shift in cultural mindset across an entire organisation, not just its front-line employees, CX or marketing teams. To change a culture, we need to get people to start doing things differently. It requires a pragmatic approach, helping everyone to understand what being customer-centric means in their individual role.

Building this culture is a slow process, and for most companies it will take years. But for companies who aren’t already on this journey, we expect to see a huge shift in their mindset in 2019, beginning with a wider commitment to trusting employees to do the right thing. Demonstrating trust (and giving them the data they need to do their jobs), can deliver rapid and obvious change. Bolder employees will take this up faster, of course, but the nature of viral change is that other see what they’re doing, and get involved.

As you can see, we’re expecting a lot from 2019! But given the pace of CX change over the past five years, our expectations certainly aren’t unrealistic. Greater clarity will be the driver for individual businesses to make real strides in their CX programmes in the year ahead and beyond. It will ensure whole companies are committed to clear business goals, allow individuals to understand and play their role in change, and take the customer experience beyond the ownership of the CX team – becoming a truly organisation-wide endeavour.

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