As we approach the end of 2018 it’s always good to look back and see whether any of the Customer Experience (CX) predictions made by analysts and commentators (such as myself) came to pass. Most of my own predictions were accurate, in particular I have been talking for the past couple of years about how CX specialists and contact centre companies will start earning greater respect as the complexity of modern CX becomes clearer to major brands. This really is happening and with customer expectations going through the roof, it’s no surprise that the specialists are being treated with more respect – they are no longer just suppliers of contact centre services.
My own major mistake was to keep talking about Virtual Reality (VR). VR has been one of those technologies that has been improving and becoming more useful since the 1990s. I predicted that the easy availability of VR on games consoles, such as the Playstation 4 and Xbox One X, would mean that millions of homes would have the systems needed and therefore brands would start creating VR content to take advantage of this. However, VR has yet to really break out of the gaming world and there doesn’t seem to be a groundswell of customers saying ‘let me see my hotel room in a VR environment before I make a booking’ yet.
VR may still happen. The infrastructure is now out there, so it just depends on whether enough people get used to it inside games and start asking brands why they cannot experience their products in a VR environment. We can only watch and wait on that.
What about the year ahead? Forrester Research just published their 2019 predictions and they cover a wide array of business and technology trends, including the Internet of Things, Venture Capital funding, and Blockchain, but several of the 15 or so trends they advise watching are related to CX.
Looking back at 2018, Forrester suggests that CX performance was flat and around half of all digital transformation projects failed or stalled. They believe that this reality check may lead to more pragmatism in 2019, such as improving the metrics used to measure CX so a genuine Return On Investment (ROI) can be calculated.
Here are some of the other predictions included in the Forrester research paper looking ahead to 2019:
- CX remains under fire; 89% of CX professionals still don’t believe that their company is measuring the ROI on their CX investment effectively. Forrester predicts that around 20% of brands will focus on price-cutting instead of CX in 2019, although (as they state) this can only ever lead to short-term gains. This is concerning for anyone involved in the business of CX, but some management teams are getting tired of investing in CX and not seeing an immediate return. Smart executives will improve their metrics and others will just cut costs.
- Digital goes surgical; reality has often destroyed digital transformation goals that were more about using cool technologies, rather than redesigning the business. In 2019 it will become clear that if you stop thinking about digital transformation then the competition will take market share.
- CMOs rebrand; brand equity and purpose has taken a backseat in recent years, but this will become the top priority of marketing teams once again. This is partly driven by an urge to build relationships between brands and customers – customers don’t just want to buy your stuff, they want to identify with your brand values too.
- AI builds a foundation; brands that have been confused by Big Data and have lost track on their AI initiatives because they have too much data to manage will finally start seeing their patience pay off. Often the mistakes have been because executives expected AI to be like a magic bullet. AI can create new insights, but you must feed it the right information to work with first.
- The world goes to Zero (trust); Forrester predicts that at least one major company will lose over 25% of their value because of a single cyber attack. Security will become essential for all brands in 2019 and this is an extremely important factor in customer satisfaction now because customers must have faith in brands to protect their data.
What Forrester is saying about digital transformation is urgent and essential. In short, your competition in 2019 may not even exist today. Digital transformation is not a way of cutting costs or reaching more customers, it is the difference between Kodak and Instagram. If you stop exploring what is possible then your brand may only exist in the history books.
The focus on security is also vital and has been in the news a lot during 2018 because of GDPR, however I would go further than the Forrester analysts. I think that if a major brand loses all their customer data in a security breach then it could lead to an existential crisis, not just a dip in the share price. Companies will vanish because of security flaws.
Let me know what you think about the key CX trends for 2019 by leaving a comment on this article or get in touch with me on LinkedIn here or tweet me here. You can find my CX Files podcast on iTunes, Spotify, and all the leading podcast apps or click here to listen online.
Author: Mark Hillary
Mark Hillary is a British writer and analyst based in São Paulo, Brazil. He has written 16 books on globalization and technology, often with a focus on customer experience. He writes industry analysis on CX and journalism for the Huffington Post and professional journals such as Engage Customer. Computer Weekly magazine twice featured him in their shortlist of the best business bloggers in the UK. He has worked for the UN advising several developing nations on technology policies, was the first ever professional blogger hired by the British government, and was one of the official London 2012 Olympic bloggers. Use @markhillary to find Mark on Twitter or Instagram.