Customer experience from the crystal ball – the year ahead

January is typically a time for reflection on the past year and an opportunity to refine business plans, set new goals and focus effort and attention on the year ahead. In addition to this, there’s always predictions as to the likely trends for the year so I’d thought I’d join the soothsayers and ‘futurologists’ and share some thoughts on some areas of customer experience for this coming year.


Digital, big data and mobile

…are all here to stay which is probably no surprise. Businesses effectively getting to grips with these elements though is the challenge which is a theme which will continue. There’s always the temptation to be attracted in a magpie-esque way to shiny new things but that won’t necessarily deliver value to either the business or customers. I recently talked to a construction company who had 16 mobile apps for their site managers, but the apps just replicated the paper work system they had replaced without making the task of collecting site information either quicker or easier. As a result, most of the apps weren’t used at all!

Most businesses already have enough data without it getting any bigger (ahem!) and without using it effectively, but co-ordinated, intelligent use of both customer and business data does feature in making the customer experience much more tailored and personal to the individual and is definitely the way forward.

More intelligent use of mobile apps in store is a great opportunity. If I’m stood in a store with my smart phone or tablet, but searching online for a product, it would be great if an app could direct me to where that product is, in store.. a much more interactive experience between online and in store experience is definitely in the very near future.

5324223435_08184240d8_b Photo courtesy of Sean MacEntee

Black Friday in December ’14 certainly showed that consumers have grabbed on line shopping by the horns. However, the resulting drop in football on the high street was painful for many retailers, although a delight if you were actually out shopping like we were. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen our local town centre as quiet as it was at Christmas, an observation which was even echoed by the shop assistants.

Measurement & insight

Still an integral part of understanding and improving the customer experience, I think the trends to be seen here are more effective measurement and insight that really drive change and make a difference. Sounds an obvious one, but you can get alot more insight out of the same data by looking at it with fresh eyes. However, measurement systems do mature but that doesn’t mean they’re ineffective. If they’ve stopped serving the business though then they need to change or at least be refreshed.

There’s still alot of uncertainty as to the ‘best’ measure to use from the people I’ve talked to over the last 12 months so let’s kill this one off right now. There is NO bestmeasure. Instead businesses should develop a measurement ‘eco system’ where measures sit along side each other and compliment each other to give the business a deeper and richer insight in to the customer experience. Don’t get married to your measures and don’t be afraid to change and adapt them this coming year.


Photo courtesy of Ben Britten

SMEs and B2B

I’d like to think that 2015 is the year that these two groups really ‘get it’. In fairness some are there already and as with many aspects, there’s a huge variation between those that do get it and those that don’t.

However, I’d like to see, especially small and medium enterprises start to embrace designing deliberately and consistently great customer experiences more, rather than leaving them to chance or think that it’s something for large businesses with equally large marketing budgets. It isn’t. SMEs, can and should be reaping all the financial rewards from having an outstanding customer experience.

In the same way, business to business organisations need to stop thinking that customer experience is just for the high street and consumer businesses. People buy from people and then rationalize their decisions afterwards and the B2B industry is no different so there’s still alot to be gained from investing in B2B customer experience. As an aside, there’s still no B2B equivalent of the UKCSI and it’s high time there was!

UK Customer satisfaction

Speaking of which, the UKCSI has seen satisfaction on the high street decline since it’s peak in 2011. As a trend I’d like to seen this reverse this year, but I don’t think it will. It might bottom out of the current death spiral but there’s unlikely to be a sudden positive increase with consumer confidence and product price deflation in a negative space.

As a final note, I’d like to see UK businesses invest in more empathetic customer service training for employees along with granting greater levels of empowerment to do ‘the right thing’ for customers when the need arises. Impromptu and personal makes for a great customer experience. Let’s deliver!