As 2014 draws to a close, it’s time we look at some customer experience trends that will impact us in 2015.
2014 was the year customer experience began to really hit the desks of business executives and marketing professionals around the world. As we learn more about customer experience and start integrating it into our business strategies, 2015 will bring on new challenges and opportunities that we need to stay on top of.
Based on what I’m seeing in the industry, combined with some thoughts from other customer experience professionals, the following is my prediction for six customer experience trends in 2015.
1. Customers will expect more
Micah Solomon, customer experience consultant and contributor at Forbes, believes that customers and their customer service expectations are changing. Micah points out in a recent article that customers now expect practically 24-7 hour service, they dislike overly scripted service and they expect you to deliver an omni-channel experience.
As we move towards 2015, I agree with the trends Micah is seeing. Customers feel like they have the power in today’s business world. They aren’t afraid to switch to a competitor and they aren’t scared of voicing their opinions via social media.
2. Companies will increase their investment in customer experience
In 2014, Gartner found that top marketers were focused on delivering – and investing in – a streamlined customer experience. The research found that digital marketers were spending almost as much to retain customers (45%) as they do to gain new ones (55%).
I see this trend continuing in 2015 with more of the marketing budget being allocated to the customer experience. Big and small companies will no longer be able to ignore the customer experience. According to Forrester’s Customer Index, customer-centric companies gained 43% in performance compared to a 33.9% decrease for companies who have neglected customer experience.
It’s hard to argue with those numbers.
In 2015, companies will recognize that a better customer experience will improve customer satisfaction, increase loyalty and improve retention. They will also see their customer acquisition costs increase and look to invest more in customer retention strategies.
Companies will look to hire experienced professionals that can lead a customer experience strategy. According to Google Trends, searches for the phrase ”customer experience jobs” has increased 40% from July 2013 to July 2014.
This will only continue to increase in 2015, as more companies hire more qualified customer experience team members. Companies may also consider hiring customer experience consultants who can advise their businesses on what steps they need to take to improve the experience for customers.
Investment in customer experience technology will also increase. Companies will adopt customer experience tools and other marketing technology to enable a better, more personalized cross-channel experience.
3. Tracking and measurement will become important
According to a Temkin Group report that looked at ROI of customer experience in 2014, there is a “strong correlation between customer experience and loyalty factors such as repurchasing, trying new offerings, forgiving mistakes, and recommending the company to friends and colleagues.”
As companies increase their investment in customer experience, they will want to measure ROI as well. The Temkin Group report used two key metrics to measure the effectiveness of customer experience across 268 companies and 10,000 US consumers. Those metrics were:
- The percentage of customers who plan on repurchasing products
- The Net Promoter Score (NPS)
In 2015, I see these two customer experience metrics being used by companies to see what impact their strategies are having on their bottom line. They will measure performance from an initial benchmark and continue to improve upon that performance across set time periods.
4. Customer experience technologies will integrate with existing marketing technology
New technologies and tools will help companies track these performances. NPS tools like Promoter.io and Delighted launched in 2014 and offer great value. Other customer feedback tools like Client Heartbeat offer ways to track NPS and ask additional questions to measure customer satisfaction.
I suspect that companies will want tools that integrate easily with their existing marketing technologies – like marketing automation and customer relationship management (CRM) tools. Ideally, you will need these tools to communicate seamlessly so you can make sure that measuring the customer experience is a good experience in itself. No customer will want to spend 10-15 minutes filling out a survey, so you need to be smart about how you ask and capture this important data.
Furthermore, in 2015, major software companies will round out there customer experience offerings through new products and software acquisitions. In recent years, we’ve seen Salesforce buy Pardot to round out their full-service customer experience product and we’ve seen IBM do the same with Silverpop. More software companies will continue on this path and compete more aggressively for your business.
5. Companies will strive to create a one-to-one, cross-channel experience
There’s been a lot of talk about personalization and cross-channel experience in 2014. It’s been a big focus for marketers and customer experience professionals. In 2015, we’ll see technology make this easier for the majority of companies. There will be an increase in investments in technology that will help companies create personalized and individualized marketing communications.
Companies will strive to create one-to-one relationships with their customers integrated across all their favorite channels – email, social media, phone, in store and on desktops, mobiles and tablets. Through the use of technology, I see companies being able to centralize their customer data and being able to tailor experiences to each customer’s individual needs and wants.
For example, if a customer has been browsing a self-service support channel on topic A and turns to Twitter to ask a question, a company will be able to bring together all that data and respond promptly with a concise and useful answer.
The companies that can bring all this data together and treat customers like individuals will be the ones that quickly create customer advocates, see growth in revenue and create sticky, strong competitive advantages.
6. Companies will move to a mobile-first customer experience
Eighty-four percent of CIOs at customer-centric companies focus on the mobile customer experience. Why? Because more than 50% of all U.S adults now have a smartphone device and a whopping 76% of millennials rely on their mobiles to find information and solve problems.
Although most companies now have their websites and digital assets optimized for mobile devices, it’s still more or less an add-on feature. In 2015, we’ll see the progressive customer-centric companies moving towards a mobile-first policy. So instead of thinking about the mobile experience as an add-on to the customer experience, think of it as the priority.
According to Comscore, the total number of website visitors from a mobile device overtook the number of visitors from a desktop in 2014. As companies, we need to adapt to these changes in the way our customers prefer to access our sites or risk losing them to competitors. Bill Loller, Vice President of Mobile at IBM, says, “There has been a ‘mobile mind shift’ in customers. Customers now expect to get what they want in their immediate context and moments of need.”
He goes onto say that mobile is becoming a customer’s problem-solver. With just one small device, customers can find answers to their questions in minutes. Bill says it’s this shift that is dramatically transforming customer expectations.
Your mobile customer experience needs to be just as good – if not better – than your desktop experience. To make that a reality, you will need to take a mobile-first approach. You need to design websites with the mobile user as the priority and create marketing communications that target customers via mobile.
If you neglect the mobile customer experience in 2015, then you risk losing customers. If a customer can’t quickly find your company, find product information or buy a product they are looking for on their mobile device, they will leave your site and find a competitor that can help.
Ride the customer experience wave in 2015
The wave is building. Are you ready to ride it or will you dive under?
As a company in a cut-throat business world full of competitors all competing on price, how do you plan on differentiating your product or service? Unless you have a unique competitive advantage, how do you plan on winning new business?
If you’re sick of competing solely based on price, it’s time you consider the customer experience. By improving the customer experience, you will increase customer satisfaction and boost customer loyalty. This will lead to the creation of more customer advocates who can spread awareness and send you business referrals. It will also help you create a point of differentiation that will help you fight off competitors and win new business.
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