“There’s no hiding a bad customer experience anymore”. – Anders Hvelplund, Senior Vice President, Contact Center and Services, Jabra
In 2022, effective customer experience is table stakes. Key to sustainable growth and an organization’s competitive potential, meaningful CX is worth its weight in gold. As such, it’s far from a novel concept for most contemporary brands, however it’s clear that something’s changed recently. Though the experience that customers and colleagues derive from your brand has always mattered, it’s harder to define in 2022. The reasons for this are unlikely to shock you.
World events have had an unprecedented effect on customer experience in recent years. Whether it’s Covid-19, the ensuing economic contraction or regional disputes like Brexit and the US election, increasingly, habits have changed. As Naveen Seshadri, Global Chief Digital Officer for Footlocker put it “the idea that the customer wants to shop when, where and how they want to has been amplified”. Though consumers have more options available than ever before, this doesn’t mean we can shirk on the customer journey though.
GDS’ recent CX innovation summit sought to examine this issue. By hosting the leaders perfecting the experiences of tomorrow, we wanted to gauge what CX success looks like in 2022. In doing so, we were given tangible advice on the online/offline relationship, a guide to innovation at pace, and an action plan to help deliver more human experiences. From this, one thing became abundantly clear: there is no hiding a bad customer experience in 2022 or beyond.
Changing Attitudes in CX
Often, corporate innovation is defined vaguely because the future is unknown. In spite of this, we still expect teams to fix for the future and deliver. The same is true in the world of CX. This paradox creates tensions that break every 2-3 years, forcing us to reload with new intentions whilst recycling old dreams. In his keynote talk, Mohan Nair – CEO for Emerge Inc – faced this paradox and found that we need to reassess our relationship with transformation. Only in doing so can we deliver new market growth and true operational excellence.
Our attention span across digital channels is shorter than its ever been. As our familiarity with the virtual world has grown, so too has our understanding of marketing shorthand. More and more, consumers don’t want to marketed to, instead they’re looking for experiences that add real value. In fact, according to PwC, 73% of customers across industries point to experience as an important factor in purchasing decisions. But what does effective CX look like? According to Mohan, “consumer experience is about the end-to-end experience, it’s about making the customer feel at home with the tech, product and efficiency that you want to provide.”
Though it may be easy to describe CX in this way, bringing it to life is more difficult. In fact, “even though we are in a CX community, very few people in corporate America really understand what the customer journey is,” Mohan says. In line with this, we need to redefine our reason for being in customer experience. We need to think about why we offer what we do; to “think about the why as a fine line between asking what the customer wants and knowing what you want for the customer.”
Understanding how these factors interrelate will be pivotal and this is where advice from the speakers throughout the article can assist. Mohan did have an essential piece of advice to bear in mind when starting on any customer journey transformation project. “Consider what your flywheel is. Just producing something new and trying to be Steve Jobs doesn’t give you an innovation flywheel.” In CX, “we aren’t about ideas, we’re about people”, and it’s for this reason you can’t force CX, you can only reimagine it.
IT & CX
Today’s businesses face unprecedented challenges to transform service whilst delivering digital-first customer journey and employee experiences. Innovation is vital to address this, helping to accelerate business agility and innovation while creating ecosystems of customer insights and engagement. In her keynote discussion, Candice Mueller – Senior Director for Product Marketing at Freshworks – looked at how digital transformation best practices can bring together IT and the business to drive customer support innovation and provide tangible business outcomes.
For Candice, legacy issues remain a barrier to CX innovation. As she established, “as customer experience exploded across channels and devices, many businesses handled it in a silo specific approach”. This is an approach that we need to move away from and this is where IT executives must work alongside CX professionals.
CX depends on digital transformation – and consequently IT – now more than ever. As Candice established “the CX professional plays a very strong role in the orchestration of change”. However, they’ll be unable to implement it without support from tech teams across their organization, but how do they get this input? As Candice concluded, “the executive leadership, especially in a highly matrixed organization, has to fully back and be very vocal on the importance of cross-functional alignment”. Essentially, executives leaders must promote a cross-pollination of ideas between IT and CX teams if they wish to drive results at this time.
It’s not always easy to secure this buy-in from senior leadership but Candice has advice for those struggling. “One of the things I’ve started to work with businesses on is the opportunity cost of not doing it,” and where IT and CX are concerned, this cost is obvious. When we live in a world in which 92% would completely abandon a company after two or three negative interactions, its vital that we shore up interdepartmental relations. It’s for this reason that, “We need to make certain that IT’s reorientation is a strong business partner to CX”.
Varying our CX approach
Once you’ve aligned your innovation and customer journey teams following executive buy-in, what’s the next step? Truthfully, there’s no one size fits all approach to the customer journey but we can learn from those who’ve fought in the trenches. This was the focus of the discussion between Vijay Bhatt, Emily Evangelista & Patrick Mazzariol who explored the ways in which technology has helped and hindered the CX process. What is interesting though is how their priorities differ.
For Emily – Global Vice President, Digital, Nu Skin – it’s about “meeting your customer where they are”. What’s essential when looking to innovate is not to drive it forward at the expense of everything else. Instead, you need to establish a set of criteria for investment. Ask yourself whether someone drives revenue or removes a significant blocker, if it doesn’t, “we can’t invest”, says Emily. In short, “we have to take more time as technologists, as digital experts, as strategists to build campaigns that drive adoption, understanding and buy-in”.
Patrick – VP Digital Customer Experience, for Dover – echoed Emily’s points, particularly in regard to how this works for ecommerce offerings. As he suggested, “you can build the best ecommerce platform in the world but if no one uses it, what’s the point?” Ecommerce remains a particularly difficult element to nail in the CX offering, such that the failure rate sits at around 80-90% for some. The key then, is to establish whether it is something you truly need. To make this assessment, Patrick has one suggestion, “talk to the end-users.” Only in doing so can we be sure of what the business needs.
For Vijay – CTO for Harvard Pilgrim Health Care – CX is ultimately about “making the customer’s lives a little easier than they were before”, but adds that “a total experience is what we’re looking for”. It’s for this reason that he was keen to address the promise of new technologies. Of particular interest to Vijay is the immersive experience. “We now have AR and other similar technologies coming into play. From a customer experience perspective we need to be able to meet and address these needs”. What good looks like in CX will vary from company to company, but truly in 2022, there’s no limit on what it can look like.
Uniting Online and Offline CX
CX and the opportunities therein can be limitless, but if this is the case, how do we unite online and offline experiences? Retail offers the perfect case study to explore how to the two connect to create a seamless customer journey. In his keynote session, Naveen Seshdari – Footlocker’s Global Chief Digital Officer – looked to study just this. Specifically, how using innovative technologies and putting the customers at the heart of what they do helps to see this through.
“The idea that the customer wants to shop when, where and how they want to has been amplified,” says Naveen. The digital consumer rose to the fore between 2020 and 2022 in ways that few could’ve foreseen. As Naveen adds, “a lot more people are more comfortable shopping from the comfort of their living room or their home office”. With this reality in mind, the challenge is providing a digital customer experience that mirrors offline retail.
Or at least, so we thought. As Naveen established we need to change our thinking here. “People use digital as a moniker for online, but we’ve got to start thinking about digital in-store, in the physical world, in the virtual world, across the experience.” The key to unlocking these experiences? Data. The more you understand your consumer, the better you able to cater to their needs, but more specifically to the needs of an individual. In 2022, we need to “use our ability to know the customer at a very intimate level”.
Data isn’t just valuable to help surface the insights that’ll help us to provide a digital experiences in real life, it’ll help us to market more effectively to the modern world. As Naveen suggested, “the companies that really win the future of how you connect with your customer are the ones that are going to quickly realize that you’re not marketing to customers anymore, you’re marketing to algorithms.” Fundamentally, to deliver a hybrid CX we need to better understand our human customers but also the automated systems that deliver our messages to them.
Non-e commerce sales accounted fore 86% of total retail sales in the US during the first quarter of 2021. It’s clear then that physical retail isn’t going anywhere, but by providing seamless instore experience that capitalize on digital potential, we can take our organizations from strength-to-CX-strength in the immediate future.
Friction and CX
Friction is something that we actively seek to avoid in business, not just in the CX world. Companies like Amazon have lead the way in removing as much friction as possible from customer journeys in pursuit of sales and customer satisfaction. But do consumers want to live without effort and engagement? What if friction, used in the right way at the right time, could enhance the customer experience? For Jesse Poe – Chief Product Officer, Yo Mobile – it’s a critical consideration and formed the focus of his closing keynote discussion.
We’ve spent much of our professional careers trying to avoid friction in all its forms, but similar to the other topics discussed by our key speakers, should we consider adjusting our attitudes? As Jesse recognized, “friction is not necessarily bad and frictionless is not necessarily good.” Thanks to the immediacy of digital experiences we’ve forgotten the value of slowing down. Equally, this doesn’t mean that we need to needlessly complicate our processes or force friction into every touchpoint. Instead, “what we want to do is be able to make sure that we put the friction in a place where it actually means something.”
There is a time and a place for friction obviously. It would be meaningless – for example – to apply friction to the customer journey. In fact, as Jesse suggests, “we need to look at the user’s digital interaction here to find out where these moments are and fix them.” But if not here, then where should friction be placed to add value to your CX offerings? The answer? To your unique brand value.
Every company has a USP and this is where friction is best applied according to Jesse. We need to ask ourselves several essential questions, but namely, “what is that value that you uniquely have that another brand doesn’t or that you provide better than them? That’s the moment in which you actually want to slow down and make sure that it’s seen, acknowledged & appreciated”. By drawing attention to your business at this critical moment, you remind them of who they’re shopping with and that this isn’t an experience that they can get elsewhere.
There are two halves to this story, first we must determine our USP and what it means, then, we must look at where we can insert this into the experience. To achieve the latter, we must go back to basics, “we need to actually get out there and watch people use our products, we need to take a beginner’s mindset”. All in all, to deliver more effective CX, we need to put ourselves in the shoes of our customers more than ever before, only by doing so can we assess where friction works best.
7 Leaders on Customer Journey and CX Transformation in 2022 – In Review
There was a common theme that united each of the speakers at GDS’ recent CX Summit. In short, we need to change our attitude and approach if we are to realize unrivalled customer experiences. With the customer journey more nebulous than it’s ever been, we must adjust our thinking to build the experiential foundations that work not just in 2022, but that help us to situate our businesses for CX immortality. There is no one size fits all approach to CX but by adhering to the words and advice of our esteemed speakers, its clear that we can set ourselves reliably on this journey.
GDS Summits are tailored 3-day virtual event conferences that bring together business leaders and solution providers to accelerate sales cycles, industry conversations and outcomes. Regarding the CX Innovation Summit 86% of Delegates said the overall experience of Digital Summit they attended was either Above Average or Excellent and 71% of Delegates said the Digital Summit provided them with actionable outcomes to support their current initiatives.
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