Five Customer Experience Trends Shaping 2020

A customer service representative talks to a customer holding her mobile phone.

While 2019 was the year that customer experience leapt from the marketing presentation into the boardroom, it’s been projected that 2020 will become the year CX becomes the key differentiator separating the winners and losers across industries. With AI evolving at a rapid pace, mobile becoming the default platform for just about everything, and consumers’ expectations for personalization at an all time high, all signs point to 2020 becoming a defining year for customer experience trends.

And that’s good news. According to PwC, 54% of U.S. consumers say customer experience at most companies needs improvement. Brands are clearly acknowledging the need to improve their CX and are working overtime to capitalize on the opportunity that doing so provides. 

With that in mind, here are five trends that will shape how companies and teams grapple with CX in 2020 and beyond.

1. C-Suites make CX a priority

Today, 1-in-10 Fortune 500 companies have a Chief Customer Officer and we’re beginning to see more Chief Experience Officers as part of the C-suite. In 2020, more brands will follow suit and ensure that a culture focused on executing quality customer experiences starts from the top. 

But why has it taken so long for CX to rise up the ranks? One of the reasons is that it’s been hard to monetize its value until now and executives have understandably prioritized strategies with proven ROI. However, we now know that companies that offer superior customer experiences bring in more revenue than competitors, and customers who switch brands because of poor service cost US businesses a whopping $1.6 trillion, according to Accenture. Additionally, our own research found that 1-in-3 consumers are willing to pay up to $50 for superior service.

While the tools C-suites have assigned to CX in the past few years were outdated (think unengaging, ineffective loyalty rewards programs, and impersonal digital assistants) we predict a flurry of new technologies and techniques that illustrate a more progressive customer-centric strategy that minimizes the gap between top executives, front-line employees and customers.

2. AI finds its place in customer service 

Artificial Intelligence was one of the biggest buzzwords of the last decade. And until now, it’s largely been ecommerce brands and their marketing departments that have reaped the biggest rewards from the technology. As companies like Amazon and Netflix harvested machine learning to deliver personalized recommendations with remarkable accuracy, the deployment of AI in areas like customer service has been largely relegated to things like chatbots that more often than not end up frustrating customers more than delighting them. 

In 2020 however, that will shift and the service sector will become one of the biggest beneficiaries of AI as consumers’ demand for stellar service forces brands to rethink how they leverage the technology to provide memorable experiences. The saviest of organizations will do so with an understanding of the need to strike the right balance of high tech and high touch to unlock new opportunities and solve existing challenges.

Research has exposed significant gaps in the end-to-end customer experience caused by customers not feeling empowered to report issues. Solutions like intelligent text messaging can enable organizations to use AI to establish efficient and effective lines of communications with their customers and identify problems the moment they arise. With the right combination of AI and the human touch, blinspots will shrink and customer relationships will grow.

3. In-the-moment-marketing replaces the ‘blast’

As consumers continue to suffer from marketing and ad fatigue, brands will move the  needle away from intrusive or annoying forms of getting in front of customers that may be great for reporting out vanity metrics such as clicks and views, but do little to drive meaningful engagement and build lasting relationships. 

In its place, in-the-moment-marketing will become an increasingly popular and powerful way for brands to capitalize on revenue opportunities as they learn to present consumers with customized offers and opportunities at the exact right time, resulting in both better ROI and a way to meet customers’ increasing demands for personalization.

With data management expected to reach peak productivity levels in 2020, companies will discover how to leverage data in a much more targeted way that delivers the type of memorable and often unexpected experiences that consumers crave.

4. Customers will wave goodbye faster

As a result of many of the reasons mentioned above, consumer expectations are rising at a dizzying pace. And customers are also smarter than they’ve ever been. They know the tools that companies have available to them to provide remarkable experiences and because of this, they will only get more frustrated when their expectations aren’t met. 

In fact, PwC’s Future of Customer Experience study found that 1-in-3 US consumers are already switching companies after a single bad experience. 2020 will play host to a battleground over CX as companies look beyond their products and services to find ways to provide the type of personalized, seamless and memorable experiences that consumers demand. And because of this, brands will have to ensure they have efficient service recovery strategies in place to quickly amend issues that arise before they result in lost customers and damaged reputations.

5. Brands embrace missteps as powerful opportunities

In today’s business world, mistakes are inevitable. But they don’t have to be fatal. As the Service Recovery Paradox tells us, turning a poor experience into a positive one can result in a stronger customer bond than if there was never an issue in the first place. In fact, more than 1-in-3 consumers actually feel more emotionally connected to a brand if they have an issue resolved. Additionally, 42% of US travelers say they would return to a hotel if they were able to turn a poor experience into a positive one. 

The customer service mindset is often one of prevention — allocating energy and resources toward ensuring that problems don’t happen. However, in a highly complex, 24-7 business environment that mindset is simply unreasonable. As this landscape grows even more complex over time, with touch points and platforms becoming even more disparate, brands will be forced to embrace issues as opportunities and solve them in real time.

With competition lurking around every corner and consumers always on the hunt for better service, effective service recovery will be essential for brands looking to stand out from the crowd in 2020. 

Ultimately, the rise of CX has been fueled by consumers’ power to pick from an unending list of brands to meet their needs. This year, CX wil determine which companies rise or fall on that list.

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