6 CX trends for 2019: Place your dollars on these bets

Shad Foos | Dec 18, 2018 Shad Foos 12/18/18

It’s time to stop planning for 2019 and start living it. Who’s with me? This blog provides an overview of important customer experience (CX) trends that competitive brands will explore and act on in 2019. Customer expectations continue to evolve. How is your customer feedback management (CFM) program innovating to keep pace?

Every customer is different. Every brand is different. That said, these 6 CX trends seem to be (or will soon be) top of mind with progressive CX professionals and industry thought leaders:

  1. CX business case

    Which initiatives get funded at your company? Most likely it’s those that show the most return on investment. As the practice of CFM matures beyond the ability to listen well (across all channels), it’s important for CX pros to help the entire enterprise interpret customer data, act on insights, and monitor the outcomes.

    Build an annual plan for your CX program. Set your goals and strategies in direct alignment with your company’s overarching business goals. Understand which short list of metrics your c-suite is monitoring—and with what frequency—and then directly align your CX program reporting to those business KPIs. That which gets measured gets managed. And that which is well-managed gets funded. If you’re not familiar with building a business case, reach out to other leaders within your organization for a template. It’s likely others are already building business cases to help your c-suite make future investment decisions.  

  2. Hyper-individualization (personalization)

    Segmentation is good. Individualization is better. But what in the world is hyper-individualization? In a nutshell, progressive brands are moving away from providing a uniform positive experience for all, in favor of a unique experience tailored to the individual.

    Consumers know brands are collecting their data at every turn. So they’ve come to expect that brands know them well enough to deliver on their specific wants and needs. “What’s my favorite menu item? What’s my workout routine? Let’s talk about me.” And the truth is, we can build detailed customer profiles based on data submitted in the past. The key is to shine a light on that dark data and create processes that put those individualized insights into action. Creating unique, personal customer relationships will drive retention, frequency, and loyalty. And it will pay off across every area of your enterprise—product development, marketing programs, operational processes, and more. You’ll find that this trend is fed by trend 6 (Technology everywhere), and feeds trend 1 (CX business case). Funny how that works.

  3. Instant gratification

    Let me get right to the point. People don’t like to wait. Get laser-focused on all steps of customer interaction. Even the “hidden steps” that might not be front and center for your frontline teams, but are still very visible to your customers. Go beyond checkout lines and drive-thru times—do people have to hold when they call your location or call center? How long do customers wait for a confirmation when they order online? Are you sluggish with shipping and refunds? Make sure you’re handling—and getting credit for—all customer interactions. It will keep you in good standing with loyal customers, and keep new customers coming back.

  4. Episode management

    Most of us are getting pretty good at listening to customers and collecting data for specific products or transactions. How did our LTO perform? How was the checkout experience? The next wave will be episode management. Ask yourself, “How well are we helping our customers achieve their goals?

    At the heart of it, a customer journey is a series of connected episodes. Break down a possible episode of an online exchange. Your customer orders a sweater online. It arrives and it doesn’t fit. What happens next? They first must decide if they will return or exchange. That requires another online visit. Then they must complete the new transaction online, submit the request, print the shipping label, repack the box, ship it, and wait for the refund or exchanged item to show up. Lots of single transactions (touchpoints) that go into that one episode. Let’s stop thinking about CX as a single transaction and start thinking of it as an episode our customer is having with us in order to accomplish a goal. How might that change the way we measure experiences and interpret or act on insights?

  5. Predictive analytics

    A solid CX program identifies opportunities to correct missteps and make improvements so we can “do better next time.” When gaps are identified, there are also processes in place to close the loop with customers for service recovery and customer retention. With predictive analytics, brands can now study that same data—not just to understand what happened in the past, but to predict what might happen in the future based on past behaviors.

    Analysts are leaning on technology (machine learning, artificial intelligence, modeling, etc.) to help study customer data and get smarter about patterns and possible future scenarios. Armed with this information, brands can make changes faster to try and prevent future missteps from happening in the first place. This means less time putting out fires and more time resolving issues before customers ever notice.

  6. Technology everywhere

    In the CX world, technology is evolving on three fronts—and it’s happening at warp speed. There are new technologies to enhance the customer experience itself; new technologies to collect feedback on said experience; and new technologies to analyze, share, and act on rich customer insights.

    Internet of things (IoT) is real, and it’s happening now. Consumers are served product offers the minute they enter your doors. Self-serve (robot-managed) transactions are happening in-store (following the digital model). Consumers are increasingly comfortable having relationships with technology—chatbots, virtual agents, and artificial assistants (Siri) are on their way to becoming the new norm. Brands are using that connection to share data with consumers. We’re capturing behavioral data and reported feedback in new ways every day. And we’re using it to sync customer needs with brand goals.

    As CX programs mature, the technology wave is advancing from collection to analysis (data science, natural language processing, etc.) and impacting how we act on (AI-based alerts), socialize, and measure programs. Technology comes fast, but only with focus. Your teams should be mapping out your technology roadmap to understand how you’ll meet customers where they are and keep pace with consumers’ changing wants and needs.

The bottom line

Customer needs are dynamic. Your CFM program should be too. There was a day when you could launch a survey and let it run. Those days are over. What makes your brand and your customer relationships unique? Use that insight as a guide to understand which emerging CX trends make the most sense for your business. Start where you can make a notable difference. Measure the impact. Then move to the next opportunity. Don’t try to change too much at once. And don’t make changes without a strategic goal and predetermined success metrics. Be collaborative (across your enterprise and with external partners).

From all of us at SMG, we wish you much success. It’s time to stop planning for 2019 and start living it. You’ve got this.

Shad Foos | Chief Marketing Officer
Customer Experience Update