I’m already seeing it: people are starting to talk and write about customer experience trends for 2019.
It’s only the start of Q4! We haven’t even made it through 2018 yet! Still lots of time to make things happen. (Right?!)
Regardless, I’m not big on talking about customer experience trends for the new year any more. I have in the past, but I gave up a couple years ago.
Because I’m finding that a lot of companies are still trying to figure out the basics. Sadly.
They can’t begin to focus on omnichannel, digital, personalization, AI, AR, and VR, oh my, when they can’t even get their executives to commit to putting customers at the top of the priority list (right after employees, of course).
So, when I’m asked about customer experience trends for the next year and what customer experience strategies will look like, I say it’s a bit like this:
You know that episode! Lucy and Ethel struggled to keep up with the chocolates on the conveyor belt and ended up using whatever was at their disposal to catch the chocolates and keep them from over-running the conveyor.
Unfortunately, that’s where a lot of brands sit today: trying to keep up – if they’re even focusing on the chocolates, er, customer experience. Innovation isn’t even in their vocabulary.
In a world where products and services are becoming more and more commoditized, customer experience is the only true differentiator. That means that brands need to fight to stay relevant yet truly struggle to not get Blockbuster’d. It means that brands need to shift the focus onto the customer – and on keeping the customer.
So the trends I’m focusing on for next year are really the same as this year (and last year, and the year before that, and… ): ensuring that companies successfully design and deliver a better customer experience by first having several foundational elements in place.
First and foremost, there must be CEO and executive commitment for the work that lies ahead; without that, the transformation journey ends pretty quickly. Beyond that, there must be a well-defined customer experience vision and strategy, a governance structure to provide guidelines and oversight for the work ahead, a focus on improving the employee experience along with recognition that employees drive the customer experience, and a people-first culture. And finally, companies must take the time to understand both employees and customers, act on what they learn and embrace outside-in thinking, weaving the customer and her perspective into all they do.
Where to begin? With customer understanding.
- It feeds the customer experience strategy
- It is the cornerstone of customer-centricity, and
- Quite simply, without it, you cannot put the “customer” into customer experience.
Without doing the work to understand your customers, your customer experience strategy will fall flat and fail to outline a plan to deliver an experience that not only meets your customers’ needs but may also delight them.
What does the future of customer experience look like? Good question. No one really knows. What we do know is that companies have their work cut out for them. And until then… customer experience professionals must continue to fight the good fight, helping executives understand the importance of putting customers at the center of all they do.
The trend that should definitely die is following trends. -Kemp Muhl