Customer Experience Predictions for 2017

Customers are leading businesses by their noses into the new year. Some companies are going kicking and screaming into 2017 while others have geared up to meet the demands of a customer-driven marketplace and are sliding more comfortably into the future.

Arm-in-arm with keeping up with customer demands, organizations primed for ongoing success have delved into everything digital. From banks to retailers to manufacturers to utilities, businesses are ramping up digital efforts to maintain or grow their customer bases.

A new Forrester report, “2017 Predictions: Dynamics That Will Shape the Future in the Age of the Customer,” expects one-third of companies in the business-to-customer space to change their business structures to enhance the customer experience. This is to counter the ease with which today’s customers switch brands when they experience a negative interaction with any one company.

The Forrester report indicates that 40 percent of customers have a high willingness and ability to shift spend, with an additional 25 percent building that mindset.

What was once considered just a millennial trait—rewarding or punishing companies based on just one experience—has become universal. Forrester says it’s now the norm for all generations of consumers. The research and advisory firm predicts that revenue risk—from customers shifting spend to a competitor, and from brands’ inability to enrich—will increase by 25 percent to 50 percent.

This outcome will drive companies to speed up their customer experience initiatives, as well as widen efforts to compete in a customer-led market, as follows:

Emotions will drive process transformations: Adequately measuring the impact of human emotions on buying decisions has been a challenge for companies, meaning their core processes and experience designs are missing key components. After all, brand loyalty and spend have long been governed by how customers feel about a brand.

Forrester anticipates that a few companies will make important inroads in 2017 into what drives consumer decisions to better guide experience design and operations. Some are currently piloting emotion-recognition techniques to measure physiological responses, as well as employing old-school ethnographic research. The latter is the systematic investigation of a culture through in-depth study of the members of the culture.

Microdesigning the customer experience: In 2017, marketers will be pushed to deliver experiences that delight customers, as well as boost revenues. Yet engaging modern day customers—who are in a constant mode of multitasking and distraction management—is a trick and a half. For years, marketers have mapped the customer journey from initial touchpoint to purchase to gain insights into customer needs. This practice has proven fruitful, but in 2017, customer experience professionals will need to develop new ways to differentiate their brands.

Forrester believes that marketers will drill deeper into the customer journey in the upcoming year to identify those micromoments where customers are paying close attention, most anxious to resolve a pain point, and clearly appreciative of the solution’s value. This sort of detailed research will require many organizations to first integrate disparate analytic tools and processes. Only then will they be able to design and deliver an optimal brand experience.

To prepare for 2017, take a good look at your organization’s processes for engaging and satisfying customers. That’s your ticket to success in the age of the customer. Identify what needs to change to ensure your profitability next year and beyond. To offset revenue risk, prepare to make those changes as soon as possible. Best wishes for a secure and plentiful future.

From a Customer Experience to a Customer Journey

Years ago, a company’s interaction with customers was largely limited to two points of contact. A consumer interested in a product would come into a brick-and-mortar store location and speak with a sales representative. If the consumer made a purchase and had a question or problem down the line, he or she would call a contact center for assistance.

In an age of rapidly developing technology and new channels, however, providing a top-notch customer experience requires a 360-degree approach. In many cases, the customer experience begins far in advance of the consumer’s first contact with a company and, for the most successful businesses, carries on far past the first purchase. In other words, the customer experience is now an ongoing journey.

For instance, research reveals that today’s buyers wait until 57 percent of the purchase process is complete before contacting a company. Studies have also repeatedly shown that consumers increasingly expect proactive customer service from companies they patronize.

But for many companies, providing this kind of 24/7/365 quality of customer service is a foreign concept; a comprehensive strategy for building and maintaining strong customer relationships simply isn’t part of their core competencies. For these businesses, teaming with a multichannel marketing partner may be a wise decision.

Industry-leading marketing and service organizations have the experience and tools to help acquire, retain, upsell and restore customers. These partners can help take some of the burden of providing great customer service off an organization with solutions like:

  • Top-of-the line inbound and outbound call center services
  • Demographically targeted direct mail campaigns
  • Email and text marketing and service
  • Web chat

Although the emergence of new channels creates added complexity for businesses, it can also be advantageous. For instance, research shows that the majority of customers are more likely to share customer experiences than they were five years ago and that consumers increasingly rely on consumer reviews to make purchasing decisions. That means that if a business is knocking its customer service out of the park, other people are going to hear about and be impacted by it.

So…are you ready to lead your customers on a journey?