A look back at customer experience in 2018

Chanice Henry

2018 customer experience

Let's review how CX Network's predictions from last year actually played-out in the customer experience industry through 2018.

Forecast 1: Customer expectations will keep on rising

Customers no longer merely judge an experience they have with a brand based on the industry the outfit is from. Now, they benchmark the encounter against all of the “wow” moments they have ever received from any business.

This is pushing brands to look at peer categories; the tech start-ups and digital disruptors that are dramatically reshaping customer expectations. It also presents a real challenge for some as they aren’t necessarily equipped with the agility or resources to replicate a model similar to the digitally born, data-led start-ups that are hardwired with a customer-first culture.

A 2018 study discovered that the essential elements of positive customer experiences are:

Knowledgeable service delivered in a friendly manner.

Research respondents saw the latter as a key indicator of business success. Furthermore, this element was deemed as more important than having the latest technology.

10 seconds  - The time a website has to convince an online shopper to purchase

Another report exposed that only a minority of online shoppers surveyed felt the products they order on the web met their expectations. Nearly half of the 22% of consumers who thought products rarely met expectations usually returned items.

See also:  How customer experience management will evolve in 2018

Forecast 2: Hyper-personalisation at every touch point

Personalisation is a crucial factor in a profitable CX strategy, however, according to Evanna Kearins ‘many companies still struggle to get this right.’

In The big book of customer insight, data and analytics 2018 marketing personalisation and omni-channel emerged as the top uses for customer data ahead of contact call center routing. According to those surveyed, the most value was seen from personalizing offers and content as opposed to personalizing marketing messages and website experience. However, around a quarter of the respondents admitted they are yet to start work in each of these verticals. This illustrates that some organisations are not fully utilizing their data reserves.

Research from CX Network and Oracle titled Creating tomorrow’s customer experience today – which assessed where CX leaders across key industries in Australia and New Zealand are taking customer experience – uncovered that the most critical customer journey moments for building and retaining loyalty are quickly finding answers to basic questions and resolving customer service issues. Interestingly, the latter was labelled as the touchpoint in most need of improvement.

Some companies are turning to AI, machine learning and high capacity data systems to drive real-time hyper-personalisation. However, Vince Jeffs highlighted that personalized experiences can reach too far and be interpreted by customers as ‘creepy’.  With this in mind,  sensitivity must be applied in a sober manner to ensure customers aren’t repelled by individualization strategies.

Forecast 3: Turning customer data into action

 To achieve data-driven, personalised journeys it is crucial to embed data into process design. This year’s big book report witnessed an increase in satisfaction around the quality of customer data and analytics being conducted. However, the results illustrated room for improvement still remains when it comes to informing business processes with actionable insights.

With the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) enforced in May 2018, compliant data practices have been on the minds of CX practitioners during 2018 and will continue to do so.

Trailblazers shaping the direction of the industry are striving to master the ability to connect various touch points in a customer’s journey using data. Even taking this a step further to predict future touch points and influence them using knowledge on behavioural patterns. Some systems with integrated machine learning provide agents with advice on the best next action.

Forecast 4: Omni-channel to conquer… at last

Customers expect a channel-rich environment to be available to them and companies that provide the right channels in the right way are rewarded. For instance, live chat consistently earns the highest customer satisfaction ratings by channel, with an average of 92%. 

However, companies cannot rely on merely having a multichannel strategy. Customers expect a consistent experience wherever they engage as they tend not to segment their journey according to the channels they choose.

In 2017, up to 32% of organisations planned to achieve a true omnichannel model by the end of 2018.

However, in CX Network’s 2018 Global State of CX research, only 10% of practitioners could confidently claim they provide a completely seamless omnichannel experience. So they did not manage to meet the ambitious target they set for themselves back in 2017.  

Encouragingly over the last 12 months, the majority of the CX practitioners surveyed had matured to differentiate between multichannel and omnichannel strategies.

Abercrombie & Fitch announced plans this year to invest $50-55 million into its omnichannel capabilities.

Forecast 5: Social media as a powerful CX tool

This year, new data released from TELUS International   found that half of Americans surveyed would recommend a brand because of its exceptional social media presence (e.g., quick response times, informative, across multiple sites), even if they were not initially happy with their product/service. 

Online customers expect a response within one hour, according to another study, but only a third of consumers that make enquiries via social media receive a quick and effective solution. This could be regarded as a lost opportunity as social media savvy customers are more likely to be vocal about their experiences, be them positive or negative.

KLM was applauded in 2018 for its excellent social customer care. The Dutch airline has the biggest social media support team in the world at over 300 members.

Wayfair stripped out needless touchpoints in the user journey with ‘shop now’ tags on their Instagram photos that can fast-track the shopper to the checkout with the desired item in tow.

Beer brand Bitter Pops added a personal edge to their brand by utilizing the ‘Bitter Pups’ Instagram account to showcase the dogs owned by customers visiting their stores.

Forecast 6 & 7: The next level of AI - The hybrid workforce and intelligent enterprise

Artificial intelligence (AI) continues to be at the forefront of a CX revolution in 2018 with the application of chatbots leading the way. This year saw hybrid workforces grow in popularity within certain categories including the likes of investment banking and fraud prevention.

Survey results showed a significant shift away from the planning phase when it comes to AI, dropping 7% compared to last year. A quarter of practitioners now state they are in the early implementation phase, while established deployments are up 5% in 2017. Almost three-quarters of those surveyed believe their organisation will be “established” on their AI journey in three years.

Respondents from the big book of customer insight, data and analytics 2018 stated they were seeing the most value from artificial intelligence as opposed to machine learning.

The most successful applications of AI or Machine Learning by CX Network members

  • Automated tagging of sentiment, entity definition
  • Predicting the customers who are likely to buy
  • Probability of purchase of a product by each customer
  • Drilling rig and production facilities
  • Text analytics
  • Self-serving applications built for a few customers
  • Using IBM Watson analytics to measure growth from baseline in maturity assessments.
  • Chatbots
  • Marketing automation, serving up emails based on behaviour

So, a fair amount of progress was made in 2018, but how will these trends continue to evolve through the next 12 months? Access our predictions report for a sneak peek: 

See: Customer experience trends to watch in 2019