2016 was the year that ‘Customer Experience‘ finally became part of the mainstream business lexicon. Every month, the business press ran stories on customer experience, like these on Forbes, Harvard Business Review and Inc.
However, in the U.K. at least, evidence of companies delivering great customer experiences was pretty thin on the ground. Customer experience is not yet a core business discipline, and as I found in my talks and workshops throughout the year, even those that are doing it well are not doing it consistently.
Whilst owner-managed businesses were typically better, there were very few examples of large companies delivering a consistently good experience. The good experiences were often down to an individual, rather than the result of a strategic approach across the organisation.
What does 2017 hold in store for customers?
We start the year with the average customer churn rate (the annualised rate at which customers leave a business) at a record high of 20%. Just think about that for a moment – that means one in five of your customers, on average, will have left for a competitor within the next twelve months. 45% of marketers report that replacing the lost business is their biggest challenge.
Those are unsustainable numbers, and if organisations want to survive and thrive, then they need to start looking after the customer and making them feel valued.
5 Customer Experience Predictions for 2017
1. Companies will begin to realise that Customer Experience is about more than reactive customer service.
Customer service teams will remain, however their role is often solving a problem, whereas a customer experience approach is about designing the whole Customer Journey to be a series of positive interactions. That means we need to understand what it feels like to be a customer at every stage of the process, and at every interaction, all the way from before they’ve made contact with us through to payment and beyond.
2. Customer Experience moves from being data-centric to human-centric
Traditionally, customer experience has been the preserve of the data scientists. Tools like NPS are used in large organisations to measure customer satisfaction, however that data-driven approach misses the most important point – customers are human beings. As humans, we have emotions, and the experience of dealing with a company makes us feel something. Often we go through a range of emotions when we consume products & services.
In 2017, we’re going to see companies realise that the human aspects are more important than measuring a statistic that we can compare with the competition. The focus will shift to the customer.
3. This will be the year that Customer Experience becomes a core business discipline.
Historically, customer experience has been part of the marketing function. Customer surveys were something companies did to gather marketing material, rather than to gain strategic insight. However, in 2017 customer experience will get its deserved seat on the Board as companies realise that it’s about everything they do, and that everyone in the company from the cleaner to the CEO has an opportunity to impact the customer experience. This will liberate many people to do great work and make a difference.
4. Professional Services will finally realise that they are in the service business.
Despite the name, many professional service firms deliver appalling service to their clients. The focus for these industries has always been on what they do, not how it’s delivered, or how that makes their clients feel. It’s not meant to be arrogant, it’s just that as ‘professionals’, that’s simply the way they’ve been trained to do things. I know this, because I trained as an accountant back in the ’80s.
2016 saw Xero, the accounting software giant, introduce Customer Experience training for their accounting partners. In 2017 we’ll see some of the professional bodies follow suit for their members. The firms that embrace customer experience will set themselves apart from the competition. We’ll see this happening across disciplines.
5. Customer Experience will be the catalyst for disruption in traditional industries.
Many traditional industries are ripe for disruption. We’ve already seen Uber and Airbnb taking a customer experience approach as part of their disruptive business models. At a local level, companies like Fin & Co and Gillies and Mackay are doing the same. Expect to see more of this across industries such as roofing, plumbing & heating, graphic design, and insurance broking for example. It’s amazing the difference a good customer experience can make!
It’s time for change….
The cost of a 20% customer churn rate is huge for U.K. businesses. Not only in the lost business, but in the cost of acquisition to replace it and of course the lifetime value of customers is massively impacted when you have this level of churn. So companies HAVE to do something about it.
Not all of them will of course, so we’ll see some more familiar names go to the wall in 2017. Size won’t save them. Smart companies, however, will realise the value of happy customers and begin investing in systems and processes that enable their people to deliver good experiences time after time.
By also making things easier for customers, they’ll make it a more pleasant experience to do business with them, which in turn leads to increased customer loyalty. And of course those happy and loyal customers will begin to ‘sell’ on your behalf, bringing more new happy customers into the business.
It’s going to be an interesting year……