The way we interact with brands has changed very quickly over the past few years and even more so since 2019. When it comes to the adoption of digital technologies, McKinsey reports that the pandemic crisis launched customers and companies five years forward.
People are expecting new forms of technology that bring more convenience to their lives, as individuals and as consumers. Though many were not convinced of the utility of voice recognition tools and chatbots, after major improvements – thanks to AI, more and more of us now use virtual assistants (i.e. Siri, Alexa, etc.)
We cannot quite say when this new paradigm in communication started, but what we are particularly interested in here is what these changes mean for the interactions between brands and individuals.
At a certain point, we may call them customers. As leaders try to navigate customer relationships in 2022, they’ll have to cope with three key challenges: the environmental and health crises, technological development and the increasing amount of personal data collected.
Through this article I want to highlight the main challenges industries will face in the new year as regards customer experience (CX) and offer a few ways for companies to overcome these difficulties while continuing to differentiate on the market.
1. The recent achievements in customer experience are emerging as new standards
Shopping online is the new normal and 30% [of consumers] plan to shop more online in the future, even 28.3% of those 65+ say so and 33.8% of 18-24.Customer Experience Mindset In A Post COVID-19 World, Forbes
With the end of some restrictions imposed by the pandemic, companies and institutions have begun to reinstate some pre-pandemic business practices, for example removing the opening hours of stores for the aged and reinstating procedures for changing or cancelling flights or other services.
For example, in March 2020, at the heart of the Covid-19 pandemic, the French national railway service SNCF put in place its system for refunding or exchanging tickets free of charge until the last moment. This possibility, which was greatly appreciated by customers, ended in mid-September 2021 . . .
Some virtual options which were very appreciated by customers have also been abandoned. What will this mean exactly for 2022, especially as Covid-19 doesn’t seem to be going anywhere just yet?
The thing is customers had gotten used to these “temporary advantages” and were satisfied with them. Consumer expectations have risen, and they’re not going back to pre-covid levels any time soon.
Customers want to keep experiences like new delivery services, remote appointments and digital payments. The most talented teams have taken advantage of this to offer differentiating experiences that are fully in line with customer expectations.
For example, while consumers were in lockdown, many upgraded their living spaces. With that, e-commerce home furnishings provider Overstock.com became a big winner during the pandemic, more than doubling its sales.
How did it do this? Simply by upgrading their CX tech stack to support a brand-new mobile app in order to enrich the customer experience. As a result, the brand exceeded its website traffic numbers for all of 2019 within the first six weeks of 2020. Everything went into overdrive.
The watchword for more than a year: implement an omnichannel strategy to enrich the customer experience through all interactions with the brand.
In 2022, it will be high time brands accelerate the hybridisation of customer journeys in order to meet the expectations of customers who, more than ever, demand fluidity in each of their interactions with brands. To do this, managers will have to be aware of the balance between the massive collection of data for better customer knowledge and the respect of the customer’s private life.
This is not only to meet the requirements imposed by GDPR but also in the face of the widespread awareness of the volume and nature of the information that companies are collecting.
In short, tomorrow’s customer experience champions will continue to listen to their customers and not go back on the adaptations in customer journeys conceded in these pandemic times.
Most consumers (70%) make a point of buying from companies that provide an excellent shopping experience. Moreover, organisations that are at the forefront of innovation are more likely than laggards to find customer-level information particularly useful.The Value of Experience, Harvard Business Review
2. In 2022 consumers desire faster and more frequent deliveries
Retail has changed significantly as a result of the current health crisis. The new constraints imposed by the pandemic accelerated the transformation in how companies deal with customers. And after a first step back, many brands are deciding to take those constraints as opportunities to implement an omnichannel strategy and rethink entirely their digital customer experiences.
Which customer experience improvements, if any, has your organisation made during the Covid-19 pandemic?
Delivery, a step at the end of the customer journey, has become key in delivering good to great experiences. Ensuring a smooth delivery is now more important than ever for retailers. Offering good experiences to customers starts with meeting basic expectations: deliveries at the appointed time.
Let’s take the example of a CX champion: Amazon. Since 2020, Amazon has optimised its delivery timing significantly. As of January 2020, 11.4 percent of Amazon’s online orders made on the marketplace were delivered later than the due date. In May of the same year, the share increased to 15.9 percent, while in January 2021 only five percent of the parcels were not delivered in time.
Below is the share of Amazon orders arriving late from January 2020 to January 2021
In 2022 customers are looking for ease above all else. Brands must define effortless and frictionless experiences, thanks to omnichannel interactions and new digital experiences.
3. The spread of the offer « …As-A-Service »
In our markets, players and offers sometimes appear that we did not necessarily expect in certain niches. On the borderline between service and product, a multitude of offers are flourishing to better meet customer expectations.
Less commitment, fewer financial and material constraints, sometimes more eco-responsible and economical, “as-a-service” offers are taking over.
Product-as-a-Service (PaaS) also referred as Product-Service Systems, is a combination of products that are accompanied by services. The product is joined by more features or service contracts to repair or replace. With PaaS, products are offered in subscription models that are offered with services attached.
To be as close as possible to the requirements of the experience economy, they relegate the product or contract to the rank of accessories to the experience.
From personal health and wellness services to beauty and lifestyle services or even B2B services, in 2022 there are plenty of products that now come with an array of services. Suppose you subscribe to a premium washing machine where you not only pay for its use but also for the maintenance and the services all covered for a period of time.
Homie is a great example of how washing machines are transitioning into a pay-per-use model instead of buying them upfront. As easy as ordering online, the washing machine is delivered to your home, connected with other appliances at home and ready to use.
A trend that should be confirmed in 2022 in many sectors.
To deliver this type of offer, organisations need to reconnect with the end customer.
Brands are starting to implement their customer experience strategy in sectors as diverse as oil & gas, facility management and many others. B2C companies no longer have a monopoly on CX. Each time, to deliver an optimal customer experience, it will be necessary, like an orchestra conductor, to direct the flow of data in the right direction and to share it with as many people as possible. Personalisation, fluidity, innovation, collaboration between customers and employees are the essential levers of differentiation through the customer experience.
4. Employee experience in 2022: customer service and remote work
And last but not least when it comes to customer experience, happy employees make happy customers. According to a study from Ringcentral, 75 percent of customer-facing employees say that “when communications technologies hinder productivity they get unhappy at work”; 50 percent of them say this makes them “more likely to be rude to coworkers, friends, and family”. In order to deliver a great experience to your customers, you have to enrich your employee experience (EX). A change in EX has an impact on CX; x EX = x CX.
It’s a simple fact: Customers today expect a lot from brands, and the companies that best meet those expectations are going to thrive in today’s digital economy. That’s also true for candidates, also called talents, who companies want to hire.
In this direction, customer service agents are being prioritised because making them happy should have an impact on customer satisfaction. Companies will have to increase their budgets to train their agents and to be able to afford better tools and software. Marketing automation is key in boosting customer service performance in CX. Automation helps managers to relieve agents from repetitive tasks and focus on highly valuable human interactions.
79% of contact centre leaders plan to invest in greater AI capabilities in the next two years.Supercharging customer service with AI, Deloitte Insights
Customer experience objectives cannot be achieved if brands do not focus on the employee experience. As a mirror of the experience of those who buy, the EX is both a driver of customer satisfaction and a driver of the corporate culture.
Without a real corporate culture, there can be no lasting competitive differentiation. Measuring EX is therefore almost as important as measuring CX. But with the spread of teleworking, the real challenge for companies is now to continue to unite, engage and participate in the development of remote employees.
In conclusion, watch every change in your customers’ behaviours
As leaders strive to form a more complete picture of customer preferences and behaviours, they continue to rely on aging survey-based measurement systems that for decades have formed the backbone of CX efforts.
In 2022 and beyond, customer service will evolve into a fundamentally proactive industry. As the health crisis has become an opportunity for several industries to reshape their customer relationship, brands should consider how to maintain and even develop the experiences they created to overcome this difficult period.
Leaders who aim at redesigning a customer experience strategy that provides them a competitive advantage must move through four distinct phases:
- Collect and analyse customer-level data (including operational, financial, and feedback)
- Build adequate machine-learning algorithms—to understand and predict what influences customer satisfaction and behaviour
- Integrate customer-experience insights into day-to-day operations
- Communicate customer insights and action plans to the maximum of employees for a customer-centric approach to management
In 2022, organisations must be able to see customers like radiologists do without hurting their patients: a complete vision of what they expect, how they feel while interacting with the brands. And all this while respecting their privacy in order not to break their confidence.