Around this time of year, I usually receive a swathe of customer experience related predictions from different sources.
A couple of years ago, I started compiling these into a composite prediction piece. For each article, I select several predictions that stood out for me, arrange them into themes, and add a bit of commentary.
This is the third year I have compiled such a piece, and this year I was sent around 60 different predictions on a range of experience related topics.
So, after quite a bit of sifting, here goes with this year’s round of 2022 crystal ball gazing, in no particular order:
Chris Bauserman, vice president at NICE CXone, predicts that:
“There is no doubt the pandemic accelerated digital adoption. In almost two years, non-digital natives have become more digitally fluent and as such, demand for more digital customer service touchpoints that help these consumers and their specific needs has increased. As we look to 2022, digital transformation will become “generation-less” as brands continue on this new trajectory. With more digital savvy consumers within all generational groupings, brands will be able to usher in a much larger digital component with both mobile and self-service finally able to take precedence.”
Mark Curtis, Head of Innovation and Thought Leadership at Accenture Interactive, adds:
“As a new era of post-pandemic thinking begins, we are experiencing a collective shift in relationships. Businesses are expected to address how people relate to work, consumerism, old and new places – like the metaverse, the planet and each other—simultaneously to ensure growth and relevance for now and the future. Brands that don’t embrace these societal shifts in the experiences that they offer will become irrelevant in 2022.”
Amy Williams, Founder and CEO at Good-Loop, goes further by saying that:
“The pandemic is a modern tale for two cities. For some consumers, times have never been tougher. With unemployment and inflation at all-time highs, families across the world are struggling. At Good-Loop we’ve seen so many brands step up in response to this, supporting homeless shelters, food banks and hygiene banks at unprecedented levels. On the other hand, other people have never had more savings. With travel, retail and entertainment being highly restricted and many tech and product-driven industries growing rapidly, the affluent have never had more spare cash. In 2022, I predict that this creates a values-driven consumer group — who buy brands that align to their social and ethical principles — and values-driven consumers, who are looking for the best deal for their families. Brands will need to traverse these two need states, emphasizing value whilst also connecting to the broader social issues that matter most to consumers today.”
Comment: The pandemic has had a profound effect on customers. It has forced them to adopt new habits and technologies to achieve what they want. It’s also brought social, political and environmental factors to the fore that are now featuring heavily in the choices of many customers. But, while it’s fair to say that the last two years have brought about some massive changes, customers have never been a static and homogeneous bunch. Customers are constantly changing. The leading brands understand this and continuously engage and develop their understanding of their customers to help them stay in front.
Tasmin Singh, Manager of Enterprise Customer Success at Iterable, predicts that:
“In the past few years, marketers have fixated on the ‘great debate’ between privacy and personalization. But, with the recent influx of tighter privacy regulations from both governments and big tech, the tug-of-war between these topics is over. Respect for customer privacy is the bare, legal minimum that businesses need to have. But bare minimum doesn’t really cut it for today’s customers. It certainly won’t cut it for tomorrow’s customers! To win over customers in the next year and beyond, brands need to see consumers as a partner, not a product. Businesses who keep consumers in the loop on why their information is needed, and build memorable and personalized experiences that are the direct result of consumer data shared, will see the returns on their attention and investment through increased revenue.”
Sara Spivey, CMO at Braze, adds that:
“It’s more important than ever to put your customers at the center of everything your brand does. This includes prioritizing privacy and being transparent with customers about how this data will be used to provide a more personalized experience.
It’s no surprise that data privacy will continue to become a high priority for consumers. Moving into the new year, marketers need to come to the realization that they shouldn’t be overly reliant on third-party data. All the momentum around consumer privacy is only going in one direction. Companies that do not understand how to use first-party data as a marketing tool are going to get left behind.
Marketers must be future-proofing their businesses by shifting away from reliance on third-party data and instead focusing on earning the rich first-party data that will enhance the brand experience for customers. Invest in your customers’ loyalty and lifetime value instead of throwing money at buying access to them through other platforms. Shift your strategy now before the shifting ecosystem forces the fix on you.”
“2022 is the year that brands must leverage their investments in 1st-party data and present truly personal offers to their loyal customers at scale. Those that transition to personalized offers and experiences will have a stronger competitive advantage and drive deeper value with their loyal customer base, while those that don’t make the transition will begin losing share.”
Erin Levzow, Vice President of Marketing & Digital Technology at Del Taco Restaurants Inc., puts it simply by saying that:
“Personalization used to be a nice to have but now it is a have to have. It is an expectation of the customer that they receive relevant offers to them. We are tasked with knowing what they have told us and what they haven’t told us but done in order to personalize their experiences.”
Comment: There is an acknowledgement by both customers and brands that personalization is important. However, NTT’s 2021 Global Customer Experience Benchmarking Report found a lack of a shared understanding of what personalization really means. With tightening privacy regulations, brands will need to rely on and leverage their first-party data and build up their zero-party data if they are to deliver the personalized experiences that their customers desire.
Geoff Webb, VP of Solutions, Product and Marketing at isolved, predicts that:
“Facing both expanding employment market opportunities as businesses recover and resume growth, and a shift to far more hybrid remote working, employees have unprecedented ability to seek jobs wherever they want. As a result, businesses must rapidly align, across all departments, on how to deliver the kind of exceptional employee experience that attracts and keeps the best employees. Employers must quickly establish working practices that support hybrid workplaces; they must carefully evaluate the level of benefits and compensation they are offering to current and new employees, and they must develop muscle memory on how to measure meaningful strategies for employee experience improvements. Delivering a great employee experience will be the leading indicator of business success in 2022. Such an experience will center around a strong sense of engagement, of belonging, opportunity to grow, and of an empowered workforce that is able to control much more of the workplace and their work/life balance. Businesses that understand the importance of and begin to invest in employee experience will establish dominance over those businesses that don’t, as they’ll be able to recruit and retain employees far better.”
Comment: It’s widely agreed that having happy and engaged employees directly contributes to an organization’s ability to deliver excellent service and experience. However, the pandemic has changed how many of us work and has made us think about what we do, how we do it and whom we do it for. Therefore, it’s right to say that an organization’s ability to deliver a great employee experience will directly impact its ability to attract new talent and drive better business and customer outcomes.
Sanjay Rishi, Americas CEO of Work Dynamics at JLL, predicts that:
“Despite the promise of a return to normal in the near-term, it’s clear the workplace as we knew it has undergone a significant transformation, regardless of industry. In 2022 we will see the true beginnings of a new era for work, workplace, and the workforce, as CEOs reconcile employee priorities of collaboration and culture with the learnings and implications of mass remote working during the pandemic. Further compounded by a global talent war, tackling the complex future of work journey has never felt more urgent and ripe for reinvention. Our recent research finds that 73 percent of global workers are craving a destination for human connection, and so, the office is poised for a new purpose post-pandemic as a hub for innovation, socialization and collaboration (ISC). This means companies should be bold and proactive in creating more quality office experiences that support intentional and high-value activities, like in-person meetings, trainings and brainstorm sessions. Across the 80 countries we service, we’re already seeing investors deploy capital to shape change, as landlords invest heavily in amenity-rich, upscale workspaces to create a physical office that serves as a talent magnet and innovation center.”
Comment: Successive waves of this pandemic have forced us to re-evaluate our relationship with the office and the workplace. Many who can work remotely have also been forced to consider what type of work is best done where. Therefore, it is exciting to see landlords responding to this, creating spaces that focus on innovation, socialization, and collaboration (ISC) – the activities that many employees and leaders say are more difficult to do when working remotely. The challenge will be how to blend these and other activities that can be done remotely into the working week of employees to help them achieve improved organizational goals and better experience outcomes.
Zayd Enam, CEO of Cresta, predicts that:
“Contact centers must focus on agent preparedness in 2022, because all the data shows customers want to talk to a human being and are selecting that option. Direct calls are up from 40 percent in pre-pandemic to almost 60 percent of interactions currently. While chatbots have removed fundamental interactions to improve service, efficiency, and costs, the real customer experience will reside in that human-to-human conversation. Technologies that enhance human interaction in customer conversations and create trust through real-time prompts will be a game-changer. Take artificial intelligence, which is increasingly integrating machine learning and solutions that automate repetitive tasks, provide suggested responses, and even find knowledge base articles. They help provide better service, and help agents enjoy their jobs more. As we move into 2022, we will continue to collect data, train AI, and deploy it so human agents can focus their energy and time on behaviors that drive successful customer experiences.”
Sharon Einstein, Vice President and General Manager – Customer Engagement Analytics at NICE, adds:
“Now more than ever, businesses understand the value of a positive customer experience in order to maintain brand loyalty. With the pandemic upending labor market dynamics leading Americans to early retirements, career changes and what’s currently known as “The Great Resignation,” brands must evolve in order to hold on to workers in the face of an acute labor shortage. Brands will tap into AI and analytics to guide employees during interactions and recommend next-best actions, as well as to automate the more basic tasks so agents can focus on providing better, more empathetic experiences. Brands will invest more in training for front line employees, using AI and analytics to ensure they are well-prepared to resolve even the most complex queries.”
David Sudbey, Chief Customer Officer and President at Cogito, goes on to say that:
“Organizations must overcome a growing challenge as much of the workforce remains remote. How do we coach employees in real-time and post-facto to identify trends that supervisors can leverage to improve based on real data? How can we achieve consistent performance levels with our teams, no matter their physical locations? In 2022, I believe employees and supervisors’ management systems (goals, objectives, performance) will transform to provide more automated, data-driven methods. We have learned that when behaviors change to the positive, the business outcomes improve. The focus for customer-facing organizations in 2022 will be to drive the adoption of these systems and lean more into the changing ways to manage remote and hybrid teams at scale. Those who have not started updating their systems and processes to accommodate rising customer and employee expectations run the risk of significant ground to make up in the coming months.”
Comment: Despite the emergence of new and competitive self-service technologies and channels, voice and email are still the most popular customer service channels. Moreover, these channels are the go-to channels when a customer’s issue is urgent, concerning or complex. That means that these interactions are critical and can make or break a customer’s relationship with a brand if not handled well. Therefore, it is encouraging to hear vendors talk of the importance of the agent’s experience and how their tools can help them deliver, in the moment, the service and experience that customers want.
Subrah Iyar, CEO and Co-founder at Moxtra, predicts that:
“There’s no doubt that the convenience of digital interactions with businesses has completely influenced consumer preferences in recent years. However, the loss of humanization in digital business-to-customer interactions poses a huge challenge as businesses start planning for 2022. This is especially true as more technologically evolved business models come to the forefront, such as fully virtual service of clients and businesses stepping away from the 9 to 5 work day. While keeping up with customer expectations requires regular refinement and management, businesses must implement better digital practices to keep customers engaged.
As we head into 2022, digital businesses must focus on optimizing their internal processes to improve the customer experience of their clients as a whole. For example, despite 24/7 availability offering instant responsiveness to clients, from a staffing perspective, the on-demand delivery of services not only drains limited resources, but also erases human touch points as many businesses rely on chatbots to be able to offer 24/7 access. On the other hand, a just-in-time assistance model allows teams to respond when it is convenient, while still delivering timely, high quality service in a cost-effective manner for an overall better customer experience.
Ultimately, focusing on combating the pain points of backend management is what will enable consistent, high-quality client engagement in 2022 and beyond. Customizable workflow capabilities that empower employees to properly manage client accounts will subsequently streamline collaboration with clients and offer a just-in-time, quality service. By leveraging workflows to combat the original pain point that is the unmanaged delivery of client services, businesses will be able to provide the optimal customer experience in every step of the customer journey.”
Comment: Too many customer service and experience initiatives take a surface and superficial approach to improvement and performance. A lack of connectedness, coordination and automation between front and back-office systems can often lead to a poor customer experience no matter how good the initial engagement is. Michael Ramsey of ServiceNow calls this the ‘messy middle’ of customer service. He suggests that this is a common phenomenon that affects many organizations regardless of whether they are digitally native or traditional. The pandemic has exacerbated this situation, with many teams struggling to connect customer service with their operations. Here’s hoping that more brands take a holistic approach to improvement going forward.
Tal Klein, CMO at Relay Network, says:
“My prediction is that “customer for life” will be elevated from a catchphrase to a core enterprise objective, as the digital transformation investments made over the past decade will increasingly come under the microscope. Investors and board members will ask whether the millions – or even billions – of dollars have delivered on the promise of providing a better customer experience. 2021 research from Gartner found that significantly enhancing customer engagement was the top expected outcome of digital business investment. They also found that 85 percent of customers feel they are not receiving value. The reality is that the “R” in CRM has become a silent letter. In the rush to digital transformation, enterprises have lost the personal connection that created customer affinity and trust. This needs to change heading into next year.”
Comment: Many brands have had to invest heavily in customer experience, customer service and digital transformation initiatives over the last couple of years. But, as the effects of the pandemic recede, scrutiny on these investments will inevitably rise. Watch out too for the impact that ‘skimpflation’ will have on the performance of these investments.
Jeff Gallino, CTO of CallMiner, predicts that:
“2021 was a record year for industry consolidation around voice applications, and there will be no slowing down in 2022. While the pandemic drove astounding growth of virtual meeting platforms, the innovation required for that industry to move forward is going to erupt backward into the contact center. I predict that the contact center as a service (CCaaS) market is going to be a prime acquisition target in the year ahead, especially for the tech giants and other industry leaders. Large tech companies, like the big five, have a lot to gain from contact center technology, including around customer experience and voice. Integrating CCaaS solutions into their existing tech stacks will provide significant value in customer intelligence and dominating the desktop.”
Comment: Over the last year, there has been a slew of acquisition activity in the customer experience space. This activity has included the Genesys acquisition of Pointillist and Exceed.ai, Qualtrics acquiring both Clarabridge and Usermind, Medallia being taken private by Thomabravo, Contentsquare acquiring Hotjar, Verint acquiring Conversocial and Zendesk acquiring Momentive. As technology vendors broaden and deepen their capabilities, the appetite for more acquisitions shows no signs of slowing down in 2022. The contact center as a service (CCaaS) market has been conspicuously absent from this activity to date, particularly as the contact center has re-established its importance over the last 20 months. Therefore, as Gallino suggests, it would be no surprise to see one of the big tech players make a significant move into the CCaaS market in the coming year.
That’s it for predictions from me this year.
Thank you to everyone that sent me material and predictions to consider.
If yours didn’t make it, I apologize. But, I did have a long list to whittle down.
However, of the eight that have emerged, I think there are some decent bets in there.
Let’s see what happens.
This post was originally published on Forbes.com.
Thanks to Liza on Pixabay for the image.