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At the start of 2018 there have been a lot of people talking about their customer experience trends and expectations for 2018, but we’ve heard a lot of it before. There isn’t much new news. As an example, let me take the top 5 predictions from The CX Network:

 1. “Customer expectations will keep on rising.”  Of course they will, and they will continue to be frustrated as they do. With more businesses focusing on their customer experiences and just as many struggling to work out how customer experience features in what they do, the bar continually fluctuates. Those not acting will be found out and their customers will respond with their feet. Gone are the days when brands are only compared against their direct competitors. Now they’re compared against similar experiences from all brands an individual interacts with.

2. “Hyper-personalisation at every touch point.” Personalisation has featured since the dawn of CX. It’s a theme you will find since predictions started and it’s typically very challenging to deliver. Poor data management and use leaves employees and automated systems guessing. Consequently, personalisation, even at the most rudimental stage, is tough. It will be a stretch, especially for businesses with significant history, to manage simple personalisation. Hyper-personalisation is years away for most other than start-ups.

3. “Turning customer data into action.” This is the holy grail and again has featured for many years. Capturing the right and most useful customer data in the right places and then using that data to drive action that delivers value to the customer and business is a challenge. It isn’t new and certainly won’t be resolved for most in 2018.

4. “Omni-channel to conquer… at last.” There is a clear distinction between delivering a multi-channel experience and an omnichannel experience. Multi-channel experiences are simple. Add another channel for the customer to use and away you go. Omnichannel is far more complex. It requires all of those channels to be linked, ensuring the customer experience is seamless as they transition from one channel to the next whilst maintaining continuity, no matter where they end up.

5. “Social media as a powerful CX tool.” This has happened. Remember the days of someone having  a bad experience and telling 7 of their friends? Well social media has really blown that apart. Multiple communities of positive and negative customer groups exist to praise or batter brands. Some tackle their feedback head on, actively hunt it down and make changes to what they do (feedback is a gift), others continue to put their heads in the sand. Those that prosper have a well thought-through strategy. Those that struggle, can’t work it out. Social media is a powerful CX tool today.  

The predictions are your typical CX predictions. However, in the UK we are experiencing tough economic times and that is affecting business behaviour. Since the Brexit vote in 2016 the UK economy has faltered along through uncertainty and restlessness. An analysis at the end of 2017 by The Independent newspaper suggested that “Brexit has lost [the] UK economy £300m per week since [the] EU referendum result”. But the storm has not finished.

In fact, you could argue that it hasn’t even started yet as no material actions have been implemented. Since the vote in 2016 we have witnessed companies battening down the hatches to protect themselves. The Independent says, “Surveys also show that UK companies have been putting their investment plans on ice while they wait to see the outcome of the UK’s negotiations Brexit with the rest of the EU, and the implications for future trade arrangements.”

It is clear that the UK is facing some of the most difficult and challenging economic times ever faced and the future is uncertain.

What does that mean to customer experience investments? You could argue that now is the time to maintain the status quo, cut costs and pull back on all future facing investments.

Our prediction for 2018 is that those who carefully invest in their customer experiences will be in a far stronger position than their competition when the economic fog lifts. What does that mean? There are a number of opportunities.

Investigate where customers experience friction today then link those customer moments with your internal delivery of that experience. Look at your people, processes and technology to work out why there is friction. Prioritise activities on your roadmap and improve them. Often you will cut internal wastage, save money, give your people some time back and improve their morale alongside delivering a better customer experience aligned to your brand. Resolving the critical moments of friction will help you to deliver the highest viable commercial return, whilst delivering value to customers and improving employee satisfaction.

In return, you gain higher levels of customer loyalty and as the less confident businesses cut cost in the wrong places - and in turn affect both their customer and employee experiences - you can be confident that when the fog lifts you will be in a stronger place than ever and ready to drive your customer experience to the next level. The rest will be left picking up the pieces of knee jerk decisions and will have to focus on fixing what they broke. In the mean time you will find yourself with solid foundations that enable you to push on to the next level.

Source: CEPR via Independent, Nov 2017

The Independent newspaper measured where the UK economy would be had we not voted to leave the EU. The blue line tracks what has happened and the red line shows where we could be without the uncertainty. What will it look like when something actually happens?

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