By Samantha Nelson
Hello, friends! Welcome to my blog series dedicated to providing valuable insights into what’s new in the world of customer experience (CX). As many of you know, I am obsessed with disruptive technology and all the new trends primed to take off this year. I’m deeply passionate about helping our partners understand how they can benefit from these innovations and use them to grow new or existing business in the contact center space. So, let’s get into it!
In this blog, you will learn:
- CX for a new breed of consumer
- Top CX trends to look out for in 2023
- Where to start: The partner approach to selling CX
CX Meets a New Breed of Consumer
Customer experience (CX) has become the core expression of a brand and a basis for differentiation. CX refers to all the interactions a customer has with a company. With each interaction, companies can influence a customer’s perception and impression of them. This means CX plays a critical role in determining a company’s success — directly impacting customer satisfaction, loyalty, and retention. It’s no surprise, then, that companies have spent decades identifying and understanding customer needs and preferences through research and feedback to leverage CX as a competitive advantage.
COVID-19 permanently altered consumer habits, behaviors, and overall attitudes toward businesses – making it more critical than ever to find new ways to understand customers’ expectations and make emotional connections.
Consider these changes that surfaced during the pandemic:
- Increased focus on health and safety: Customers are likely to be more concerned about the cleanliness and hygiene of the places they visit and may seek out businesses that have implemented measures to protect them from COVID-19.
- Changed purchasing habits: The pandemic has accelerated the shift towards online shopping, and more customers will likely continue to make purchases online even after the pandemic.
- Greater need for convenience: With many people working from home or feeling more isolated, customers may be looking for businesses that make it easy for them to get what they need quickly and efficiently, including self-service options and curbside pickup.
- New or changing needs: The pandemic has created new needs or increased existing needs for goods and services that may have been limited, like home office products, home workout equipment, homeschooling materials and personal protective equipment, among others.
- Greater emphasis on emotional connection: With many people feeling isolated and lonely, customers may seek businesses that can provide a sense of connection and community.
- Greater emphasis on sustainability: The pandemic has caused many people to think more deeply about the long-term impacts of their actions and choices, and customers may be more interested in supporting sustainable businesses.
- Greater demand for contactless payments and delivery methods: Due to health concerns, there’s a greater demand for contactless payments and delivery methods to minimize personal interaction.
With these newfound characteristics in mind, businesses are looking to technology for answers to the best ways to engage and continue to delight their customers.
Top CX Trends to Look Out for in 2023
Trend #1: Make a rapid shift to “Digital First” strategy
“Digital First” is a business approach in which digital channels are the primary means for interacting with customers and conducting business operations. This can involve utilizing a range of digital technologies, such as a website, mobile apps, social media, and others, to connect with customers and deliver products and services. According to a report by McKinsey & Company, 71% of consumers expect companies to provide digital, personalized experiences.
Here’s an example of a “Digital First” strategy:
- Implementing and utilizing digital channels for customer interactions, such as web and mobile applications, rather than traditional channels like phone or in-person interactions.
- Providing seamless cross-channel and cross-device experiences, often using data and analytics to personalize experiences. For example, when to migrate an interaction from chat to phone.
- Leveraging data and analytics to improve digital experiences and track customer behavior continuously.
The end goal of a “Digital First” strategy is to focus on providing customers with high-quality, seamless experiences across digital channels to increase overall engagement and loyalty, reduce costs, and ultimately drive business growth.
Trend #2: Emphasize the use of technology to enhance the customer journey
With the growth of digital channels, businesses have access to a wealth of data. This data has become more prevalent and sophisticated than ever before. As a result, companies will likely incorporate an increased focus on personalization and customization to enhance the customer journey further. This refers to shaping the customer’s experience around their individual preferences, needs, and behaviors.
Here are a few best practices consumer-focused businesses will invest in this year:
- Capture, analyze and leverage the wealth of data: Customers will see even more personalized recommendations, targeted marketing messages, and tailored content as companies capture the voice of the customer with emerging technology. Artificial intelligence and automation technology can assist dramatically in collecting and analyzing accurate data, allowing businesses to make data-driven decisions to customize products and services for individual customers. Remember the last time you saw an ad in your social media feed and said to yourself, “I was JUST talking about that!” That advertiser did not place that content in your feed by mistake. Companies are leveraging technology that is scraping data around consumers’ digital footprints.
- Implement chatbot and Interactive Virtual Agents (IVA): These technologies are more advanced and accessible. Today, they can understand and respond to individual customers in more personalized ways. The intent is not for this technology to replace agents but to free them up to handle more complex inquiries. For example, an IVA can handle inquiries like checking account balances or making account transfers. But most of us would prefer to speak to a live human agent immediately if we became victims of credit card fraud. Imagine what a painful process it would be if agents had to deal with all interactions – it would lead to longer hold times and frustrated consumers.
- Leverage smart devices to expand the Internet of Things (IoT): With the increasing availability of smart devices in customers’ homes and offices, businesses will expand their scope of collecting data that can be used to modify and tailor the customer experience. We will see more companies prioritizing developing consumer-facing applications and other digital experiences, including websites. The intent is to give consumers easier ways of doing business based on their preferences. In addition, companies will collect data from such devices to make product or service changes as their target markets evolve.
To maintain a competitive advantage, businesses must create more personalized and relevant customer experiences. As emerging technology surfaces, business will rely on it to help them pivot when consumer behaviors change.
Trend #3: Prioritize employee engagement
Employee engagement is the level of involvement, commitment, and energy that an employee brings to their work. Happier, engaged employees are more likely to feel empowered to do their best work, which can lead to better service and problem-solving abilities when interacting with customers. In addition, engaged employees are more likely to stay with the company, providing consistency in customer service and reducing the need to find, train, and familiarize new employees.
Here are several technologies businesses will leverage in 2023 to increase employee engagement:
- Communication and collaboration tools: Instant messaging, email, video conferencing, and project management software help to facilitate communication and collaboration among employees, which can help increase engagement and improve team performance. Expect more implementations of tools such as Microsoft Teams and Slack. Several existing suppliers who integrate with these tools will likely develop their own in-house options this year.
- Learning management systems (LMS): These systems provide employees with online training and development opportunities, which can help improve their skills, knowledge, and motivation. Support and sales enablement will take a front seat to ensure companies consistently provide the best experience possible. Managers will identify top performers as benchmarks, and LMS/enablement technology will be used to skill up lower-performing team members.
- Employee engagement platforms and gamification: These platforms typically comprise employee surveys, pulse polls, employee recognition, and gamification features. Gamification uses game mechanics, such as points, leaderboards, and badges, to motivate and engage employees in non-game contexts. It can increase employee engagement and motivation in areas such as training, performance management, and employee recognition. These solutions also incorporate AI, which can detect patterns and understand employee preferences to help managers identify and motivate disengaged employees.
Keep in mind that the buck doesn’t stop at technology alone. Any consumer-focused business should also prioritize human-touch factors like solid customer service practices and cultural competency to create a comprehensive approach that meets customers’ evolving needs.
A Proven Approach for Selling in the New World of CX
While you may come across a few customers looking to “rip and replace” their overall contact center solution, most will prefer to optimize what they are currently using due to budget or technical restrictions. But where to start the conversation? After all, modern CX can be complex and overwhelming for customers who aren’t as familiar with the technology. First, find out what business outcomes are most important to them. Here are some questions to ask:
- How do you currently interact with your customers? What technology supports this?
- Tell me more about your current customer experience strategy over the next year.
- How do you currently measure customer satisfaction and engagement?
- What challenges are you facing in your customer experience strategy?
- How are you leveraging (insert ancillary technology here) today?
Once you have a clear understanding of their potential business needs, you can better tailor your recommendations. This is where the “bidirectional sale” concept becomes critical (see Figure 1). It is essential to understand that there are several ancillary options (digital engagement, AI, analytics, etc.) available for businesses to optimize their core solutions. Agnostic, ancillary products are beneficial because they are typically best-of-breed in their categories and are non-disruptive to a business’s existing technology stack in live production. So, companies benefit from the latest innovations by adding to what they already have.
Figure 1. Identifying Ancillary Product Opportunities through Bidirectional Selling
For example, let’s say a business is using a legacy on-prem contact center solution, and they are looking to capture the voice of the customer (sentiment, tonality, etc.). Rather than starting from the top of Figure 1, the conversation starts from the bottom to identify a product that helps with interaction analytics, such as overall customer satisfaction, negative/positive sentiment, and agent empathy. An ancillary product that assists with quality assurance is something this business can leverage to successfully analyze these interactions without completely disrupting its current technology stack.
The new opportunities for better understanding how to engage and satisfy today’s consumers are far-reaching, thanks to new technologies and best practices accelerated by the pandemic. A fragile economy dictates that most companies must pinpoint the projects with the highest ROI that align with their business objectives. This is a fascinating time for technology advisors to become trusted, valued business partners to their UCaaS and CCaaS customers as they navigate how, where, and when to leverage modern CX solutions to stay competitive. And as always, Telarus is here to support you.
Let’s Connect: To learn more about CX and how Telarus tools, solutions and services can help accelerate your business, contact my team at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, be sure to tune in to my new, weekly video series, “Sam’s Minute Snippets,” for more on the latest trends in CX.