What’s Ahead for CX in 2019?
David Turner recently outlined his thoughts on 2018, in particular the recent highlights for Webhelp and some of his ideas on the road ahead for customer experience in 2019. I also want to look ahead to 2019, but taking a slightly different angle to the usual ‘top trends to look out for’ as featured in many business journals.
At present, most of the pundits’ predictions focus on technology. That’s easy to understand because every industry you can think of is currently facing an unprecedented wave of digital transformation. Individual technologies such as Robotic Process Automation (RPA), Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning, Virtual Reality (VR), and natural language voice recognition have all been advancing quickly and brands are using all these developments in their quest to get closer to the customer.
But as every good business student knows, when thinking about any business process or strategy, it’s worth thinking about People, Process, and Technology and how they all interact. Your new AI system is useless if it doesn’t connect to the other processes in your business, and people need to know how to get the best from it – i.e. none of these developments work in isolation. In fact, an interesting observation that I have from 2018 is that many executives have realised that many of these technologies need to be combined with each other – RPA and machine learning for example. How can you maximise the investment in automation if the system cannot learn from what it is doing?
But if we step back a little from all this talk of innovative technology, what is really interesting as we move into 2019 is the way that brands are re-evaluating the value of the customer experience (CX). Industry analysts have said for the past few years that CX should be the number one strategy for every CEO – even ahead of reducing costs or creating new products. It’s really that important. However, there feels like a change in the marketplace, as if we are moving just from analysts saying this to a general acceptance of the importance of CX to all companies.
Consider these three dimensions that I believe have changed dramatically in the past year and will continue to develop in 2019:
- CX is at the heart of corporate strategy; it’s easy to see this with start-ups today – they build a service entirely around what the customer needs. However, I am convinced that major industries with huge incumbent companies will finally realise that they can’t separate customer service from marketing or sales or PR – every point at which the brand interacts with a customer adds to the customer experience. Companies may need to reorganise their internal teams to truly achieve a customer-centric approach.
- CX now requires greater skills; 2019 will be when it becomes cool to be working in customer service. Instead of the general public thinking about customer service jobs as someone handling complaints in a contact centre, I believe we will finally start to see a more general acceptance that great CX is actually very complex and requires highly skilled people, emotionally and technically. When we start seeing general media coverage of this then I’m certain it will be more appreciated – working in CX requires skills.
- CX is driving technology investment and research; think about the most exciting technology developments taking place at present, such as 5G, AI, Machine Learning, VR, Augmented Reality, voice recognition, self-driving vehicles and so on. The technology industry is investing in all this research because there are CX-related benefits from the use of these technologies. Customers demanding an improved CX are in turn ensuring that technologies are developing faster than they would if we could not see such direct applications.
This is all incredibly exciting because it is becoming clear to many that a career in CX is exciting, challenging, and has a real road map for advancement. CX is now pulling the entire technology industry along and companies are reforming their entire structure to focus on customer relationships.
I recently heard a Google executive talking about these changes and he summarised it really well by saying that what we are really changing is the length of time that a brand has an interaction with a customer. Instead of thinking about customer interactions as calls that last a few minutes, we should be thinking about a lifetime of interactions, a relationship built over 50 or more years. During that time there will be conversations and questions, but both brand and customer will behave as if they are in a relationship, not just handling a customer service question.
That’s a great way to describe such a fundamental change to the way that companies are structured and managed. Customer service is no longer just a department or function; it is an integral part of what every company needs to do just to justify their existence.
I’m personally very excited because I think that in 2019 we are finally about to see some of these changes in corporate strategy… CX has arrived and is now top of the CEO agenda globally.
Have a great 2019! Get in touch if you’d like to find out how to put CX at the heart of your corporate strategy – I’d love to talk. E: firstname.lastname@example.org
Author: Helen Murray