The Customer Experience in 2018: 5 Trends to Watch For

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I think it’s safe to say that 2017 was the year of the bot.

In early 2017, robots taking customer service jobs seemed far off. But today, “more and more, chatbots are being employed to customize the user experience,” Richard Shapiro writes. “Today’s chatbot delivers a direct, easy channel for communicating with a brand while making logical guesses about what a customer wants to do.”

Bots now tell customers what flights are available and what’s on sale at the grocery store. American Express customers can ask its Facebook Messenger chatbot for receipts, to track charges, and to help them redeem reward points. And it’s all at a lower cost per contact than human labor.

So what’s on deck for customer experience in 2018? Here are five trends that I see on the horizon, and some tips on how to prepare.

1. CX analytics

You’ve likely heard of the 80/20 rule.

Pareto principle chart

Source

Well, Macy’s recently reported that 46% of their sales came from just 9% of their customers.

In his 2018 CX predictions, Richard Shapiro writes: “Companies need to review their analytics to determine how to ensure retention of large volume customers. Loyalty programs aren’t the answer. These customers are already loyal.”

So how do you review your analytics to determine how to ensure you keep your highest-volume customers?

Look for signs of churn so you can stop it before it happens. Harsh Vardhan suggests tracking the following potential churn indicators:

  • Interactions are decreasing. How often are your customers logging in or coming to your store? Tracking usage lets you know when interactions drop off, which is a hint that your customer isn’t feeling you as much as they did before.
  • The newness is not getting adopted. Whether it’s a new product, feature, or program, if a customer who used to spend big with you isn’t interested, that’s a sign they may be looking elsewhere.
  • Customers need way more, or way less, support. A sudden increase in support tickets obviously hints at dissatisfaction with your product or service. That’s a good indication that you may have some potential churn on your hands. But a drop-off isn’t a good sign either. It may indicate reduced interactions.

It’s also a good idea to regularly ask customers for feedback through surveys, phone calls, or emails.

Expect customer experience to shift “from the problem-solving crises mode seen over the past ten years to a proactive process,” Mark Smith, president of customer journey company Kitewheel, tells MarTechToday. “There’s already growth here, which will continue into 2018.”

For Kitewheel, customers in the growth stage interacted with brands 400% more in 2017 than 2016. The majority (75%) of these touches were with customer service, customer satisfaction, or customer loyalty teams.

If you haven’t already, look into customer experience software, which makes collecting and analyzing customer feedback much easier. Also check out “7 Steps for Getting Actionable Customer Feedback” for more advice on the topic.

2. The chief customer officer

Entrepreneur suggests three ways businesses can incorporate customer service teams into their brand strategy. The first suggestion? “Hire a chief customer officer.”

“While it’s tempting to take good individual contributors and promote them to a managerial role, they aren’t always the ideal choice,” according to Weir. He suggests looking for candidates who have demonstrated that they’re able to lead, motivate, and engage a team.

Weir cites a Nasdaq survey showing that the CCO role is becoming both more prevalent and more important.

Do you need a CCO? According to the survey, CCOs are responsible for KPIs that once belonged to marketing.

From the survey:

  • 65% of CCOs are responsible for search rankings
  • 57% of CCOs are responsible for content marketing
  • 65% of CCOs are responsible for web traffic
  • 56% of CCOs are responsible for customer loyalty

This transfer of responsibility away from marketing to other departments is something I also noted in my “How to Get a Customer Service Job in 2018” post.

One great resource for thinking about whether your company could use a CCO, or whether it’s a job you should consider going for, is the Chief Customer Officer Human Duct Tape Show podcast.

The Chief Customer Officer Human Duct Tape Show

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Jeanne Bliss, one of my “9 Customer Experience Influencers to Start Following Now,” interviews high-ranking CCOs and other CX pros about how to, for example, sell CX initiatives to the rest of the C-suite.

3. Portable reviews of customer service agents

Another CX HR trend is portable customer reviews of agents. Servicelovers allows any customer to rate and recommend high-performing customer service associates. And the reviews are portable. Even if you leave your job, the reviews follow you to your next one on a LinkedIn-like dashboard. Great if you’re a superstar, not so awesome if the job wasn’t a good fit.

“Banking reviews is a great investment in the future for any service professional who consistently earns high marks from customers,” Richard Shapiro writes.

As good an idea as this is, whether this will take off is yet to be seen. Many people-rating apps have come and gone. Anyone remember Lulu?

To get your agents used to being reviewed, make sure your live chat software and help desk software make it easy for customers to rate their agents with the click of a mouse when the interaction wraps up.

Read more on this topic:

4. Geofencing

Geofencing is, according to CIO, when a device does a particular thing when it enters a particular location according to preset parameters. That thing could be almost anything, but it generally happens on your phone. For example, when you enter a store, the store can push a notification with a coupon thanks to geofencing.

Carnival, Disney, and other hospitality brands are experimenting with ways to personalize their guests’ experiences. Guests can wear medallions that mean they never have to give their room number to get a drink, meal, or access to any part of the property again. The medallions connect with staffers’ phones, helping servers remember guests’ names, dietary restrictions, and of course their room and account numbers.

“Location-based technologies will soon allow any retailer, restaurant, or hotel to know who you are the moment you walk through the door,” Richard Shapiro writes. “Instantly knowing potential and current customers offers powerful opportunities for customizing service, but one caveat: this technology poses privacy and regulatory risks and can backfire if not handled with the utmost care.”

Recruiters are even using geofencing to try to poach candidates for hard-to-hire positions.

A press release from MarketsandMarkets predicts that the geofencing industry will grow by almost 30% by 2022.

Consider experimenting with geofencing in 2018. Here are some tips for looking for a vendor.

5. Long-term relationships

It’s time for companies and customers to have a DTR.

DTR: define the relationship

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Too many organizations are stuck in the “get them to purchase” mindset. But the purchase should be the beginning of the relationship, not the end.

“Imagine the receipt as an invitation to continue the relationship,” Shapiro advises. “Invite the customer to return, tell them you want to see them again, let them know about future events or specials—keep in touch. The relationship can be ongoing, in effect, never ending.”

“In 2017, the average customer journey length for customers that have already been acquired reached an average of 20 months, versus 10 for an acquisition journey,” Mark Smith tells MarTechToday. “This means that while a customer can be won or lost quickly, retaining and growing a customer relationship takes time and cross-channel effort. With the rise of new technologies and channels, 2018 will see even more complex journeys and longer journey times.”

To keep your relationship with your customers strong, make sure that when they contact customer support, your agents have all the relevant information in front of them. One way to do this is to integrate your CRM and help desk software. This way, all the information your CRM collects, such as contact information and demographic information, can connect with the information your help desk collects such as previous interactions with support and past purchases, to give you a more complete view of the customer.

Customers dislike repeating themselves, and when an agent knows a customer’s history and who the customer is, it builds a sense of community and helps cement the relationship.

What to watch for in customer experience going into 2018

Customer loyalty will continue to be key in 2018. CX analytics, when done right, offers insights that can help businesses get, and keep, loyal customers by identifying the customers who need attention and revealing what gets them to stick around.

Even if you can’t make room for a chief customer officer in your C-suite, it’s not a bad idea to make someone responsible for CX KPIs such as customer loyalty. And it might not be marketing.

To give your agents an incentive to offer great service with a review that moves with them throughout their careers, portable agent reviews might be an experiment worth running in 2018.

If your business has a geographic component, experimenting with geofencing may give you a leg up on the competition in 2018.

And back to customer loyalty, stop thinking of your job as being done when you get a customer to make a purchase. In 2018, CX will be all about the long-term relationship. Use CX analytics, a CCO or similar stakeholder, agent reviews, and perhaps even geofencing to get to know your customers and to let them know they matter to you long after the sale.

If you are in the market for CRM, help desk software, customer experience software, or live chat software, check out our software directories (linked) which let you narrow down your options by features and compare your options side-by-side.

Looking for Customer Experience software? Check out Capterra's list of the best Customer Experience software solutions.

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About the Author

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Cathy Reisenwitz

Cathy Reisenwitz is a former Capterra analyst.

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