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Why putting customer experience to the forefront of strategic decision-making will be essential in 2020

By Janelle Estes, Chief Insights Officer, UserTesting

The term ‘CX’ has been around a long time, with market leaders striving to improve the consumer buying journey and fend off emerging competition. But now, more than ever, customer experience bears significant impact on all aspects of business.

In recent years, companies have invested more in market research to analyse consumer lifestyle and habits in an attempt to understand what drives human decision-making. This includes AI tools, to identify patterns in consumer behaviour, as well as social listening tools that monitor the sentiment behind brand mentions.

It’s somewhat surprising then, that there’s still a large empathy gap between an organisation and its consumer. Research from Capgemini found that 75% of organisations rated themselves as consumer-centric, whereas only 30% of customers agreed with this statement. So what’s the reason for this gap that isn’t detected by the likes of AI and standard research? In short, customer user experience. As consumers become increasingly vocal and demand more from products, here are the top CX trends brands should be aware of in 2020.

Retailers turn full service

Retailers have been offering cross-channel buying experiences for decades now, but in 2020 expect to see more retailers with bricks-and-mortar stores starting ‘Buy Online Pick Up in Store’ (BOPIS) programs as part of their expanded customer experience strategy. Take Argos for example – the retailer makes it very easy to shop online, check in-store availability, purchase, and pick up in-store in under two hours. If you’ve paid attention to the length of store queues recently, there seems to be more people waiting for pre-orders than spur-of-the-moment purchases, which shows there is an appetite for this type of service.

A second example is Starbucks, offering new omnichannel experiences with the option to order from mobile and build up rewards. Customers can now order, purchase, tip and track rewards points all through use of the app. These added online services are beautiful benefits for the consumer and simplify the buying process. Companies such as Argos and Starbucks are showing their commitment to creating exciting experiences for customers and redefining what retail looks like.

Customer feedback gets operationalised

As CX gets a bigger seat at the table, and continues to show its impact on revenue, retention, and company market share, the need for a line of business operator to support the growing research team increases. The role of research operations will be to increase the effectiveness of the team and the impact they make across the organisation.

The research operations role will be responsible for headcount, budget, and resource planning, bringing greater efficiencies to the team. This will be by way of introducing new processes and technologies, onboarding and enablement, to ensure the researchers are prepared to conduct research in a systematic way. It’s important to be well-versed on the best practices, methodologies, trends, and developments in the field of design, product and marketing.

Employee experience will influence customer experience

Engaged and happy employees are more respectful to their colleagues, which in turn creates a better experience with customers. A positive employee experience will become a bigger focus for companies as a way to drive better customer experience, and better business outcomes.

Best-in-class CX will become the standard 

Elite brands, such as Amazon, Google, Nike, and Starbucks, are driving higher consumer expectations. The customer experiences with these brands affect the interactions consumers have with other businesses, no matter how big or small, online or offline. Creating a CX strategy should no longer focus on what a company’s competitors are doing, the goal is now striving for best-in-class CX.

Companies adopt the concept of customer immersion hours

Walmart founder Sam Walton was known for his personal dedication to observing and directly interacting with customers. As Walmart grew, Walton maintained the same level of curiosity and empathy, talking to customers, and even Walmart truck drivers, to learn as much as he could about the experience the company was providing.

More CEOs will begin to follow this example and work to establish a customer-facing initiative at their organisation tied to ‘immersion hours’, in which employees at all levels in the organisation will be required to devote time to specific tasks that involve interacting with, and better understanding, their customers in an effort to build greater customer intuition.

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