2019 is going to be an exciting year, a roller coaster for every business in every industry. There are countless changes on the horizon that are coming at us at warp speed. It appears the strong economy we have been enjoying for the past several years has peaked and is potentially moving in the opposite direction. As a result, it is predicted that at least 20% of brands will give up on competing on Customer Experience (CX) and resort to entering into price wars.
The winners of 2019 will be the companies that don’t get sucked into that death spiral, knee jerk reaction and instead double down on their CX strategy. The following are the recommendations from our team of consultants at The DiJulius Group on how you can dominate and own 2019.
The Intersection Of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Customer Experience
The trend of customers interacting with robots and machines more and real people less has made the human interaction more important than ever. The best customer service companies recognize the competitive opportunity of leveraging technology to perform trivial repetitive jobs, leaving employees free to focus on what is most important: building relationships that result in higher customer loyalty, retention, lifetime value, and employee job satisfaction.
Facebook found out the hard way that implementing technology by itself is certainly not the answer. In 2017 the social media giant initially tried having chatbots solely handle user requests in the Messenger app. That experiment didn’t go well as the bots failed to fulfill requests 70 percent of the time when deployed alone. Facebook eventually incorporated a combination of chatbots and human agents.
AI, technology, and the trend of digitalization are not the devil. It is not all doom & gloom. History tells us that advances in technology may eliminate jobs, but it has always created more in the process. Automation and technology are incredible business tools when used as an aid in your customer experience along with your customer-facing team. There are other reasons to be optimistic about the impact of artificial intelligence in our businesses. AI and automation can take on the mindless tedious tasks and allow employees to do much rewarding work, with greater fulfillment, i.e. less manual entry and more time to interact and build relationships. Obviously, this is only for the employees that evolve their skill set to adapt to the Relationship Economy.
Digital Intelligence Up, Emotional Intelligence Down
Due to the times we are living in, at no fault of their own, the younger generations do not possess the necessary people skills of previous generations. However, as a result of the digital revolution and their expertise in this area, there are a growing number of young people lacking emotional intelligence who are now leading companies.
In his TED Talk, hospitality entrepreneur and author, Chip Conley spoke to this, “I believe looking at the modern workplace; the trade agreement of our times is opening up these inner generational pipelines of wisdom so that we can all learn from each other. Almost 40% of us in the US workforce have a boss that is younger than us and that number is growing quickly. Power is cascading to the young like never before because of our increasing reliance on digital intelligence. We are seeing young founders of companies in their early 20’s scaling them up to global giants by the time they get to thirty. And yet we expect these young digital leaders to somehow miraculously embody the relationship wisdoms we older workers have had decades to learn. It’s hard to microwave your emotional intelligence.”
With the increase in the digitization and automation of customer interactions, your employees must be focusing on building relationships with customers. The most memorable customer experiences are the ones that an emotional connection was made, where both customer and employee felt something.
CX Becomes A Focus In Organizational Risk Management Strategies
As Maya Angelo famously said, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” This has never been more evident than in the world of risk management today!
Research continues to show improved CX and employee engagement scores can both help to minimize risk occurrences. If you are in an organization where fighting fraud and lawsuits is a common occurrence, 2019 is the year to get your risk management department and your CX team working together.
Keep in mind, the way you handle interactions during the risk process is also an important part of the experience!
Don’t Abandon Your CX Above And Beyond Strategy Just Yet…
Research has shown that those amazing above and beyond stories that go viral on social media from time to time don’t really do much when it comes to improving customer loyalty. Thanks to great books like “Effortless Experience” (Matthew Dixon, 2013), we have learned that simply meeting a customer’s expectations typically goes just as far as exceeding them in the loyalty category.
But organizations that begin to scale back on the above and beyond mindset within their organization may find themselves having some serious issues motivating their workforce. Studies have shown that recognizing employees for going above and beyond for customers helps organizations demonstrate positive behaviors, sets standards, stimulates employee growth, fosters teamwork, and perhaps most importantly, increases the overall number of positive outcomes at the workplace.
Secondly, if you are not expecting your teams to go above and beyond for your customers, can you expect them to go above and beyond for the organization? A 2018 Gartner, Inc. survey has shown that the number of US employees willing to go above and beyond the call of duty for the company has dropped 10% over the last 3 years.
While meeting expectations rules the day in loyalty, above and beyond strategies are needed to maintain culture and morale.
Immediate Action on Customer Feedback
On December 27, 2018, the popular social media app Instagram released a new update for users. The update introduced a new way to browse through the news feed. Instead of being able to swipe vertically to view your newsfeed, Instagram forced users to tap or swipe horizontally.
The feedback on social media regarding this change was not favorable, and that’s putting it lightly. Hostile users spoke up right away by using the hashtag #instagramupdate on Twitter. Users were making pleas for Instagram to reverse the update, and many began threatening to delete the app altogether.
Instagram immediately responded by releasing a statement from Adam Mosseri, Head of Instagram, which stated, “Sorry about that, this was supposed to be a very small test but we went broader than we anticipated.”
The Instagram update was proclaimed an “accident” but I think differently. It appears the new update was a complete flop and was poorly received by their users, so they decided to take action right away and reverse the update. As an Instagram user myself, I commend them and appreciate the quick reversal.
But what does this Instagram story have to do with customer service? The company now has more than 800 million monthly active users. And to keep their customers satisfied, Instagram must take user feedback seriously. One negative hashtag and the whole company could have been quickly dismantled.
Whether Instagram came up with a bad idea that failed or accidentally took an update too far, the organization listened to their customers and took immediate action. Companies will have no choice but to listen to their customers and immediately act upon the feedback. It is no secret that we live in a world of instant gratification and with technology and social media at everyone’s fingertips, companies must provide the best possible service to their customers.
2019 will only accelerate the already popular trend of customer feedback on social media platforms. Companies that choose not to act immediately on their customer feedback will be left behind in 2018 while other companies rise.
Organizations Need To Refocus On The Core Of Their Business
Organizations are often so initiative focused that they forget to keep the core of their business strong. It takes hard work to keep the people, the processes, and the output of projects buttoned up all while remaining true to the brand and what it stands for. Organizations need to refocus on the core of their business, their purpose, their people, and their processes. It is the perfection of these areas that will allow the Customer’s Experience to be more consistent and in line with their Customer’s expectations.
Be Purpose Focused
It’s high time that organizations take time to reassess why they exist, how they will deliver on their purpose, and what the customers will receive when interacting with the organization; taking a deep dive into what that brand means to the consumer and their employees. It’s not enough to have a great product or service; your values and purpose will drive how your company connects with your customer’s lifestyles and the impact you have in their buying decisions. Foresters 2019 prediction report backs this up. They state that 20% of brands will refine and revitalize purpose.
If you want to get a head start on 2019 and kick your CX output into high gear, focus on WHY you exist, which will drive HOW you will connect with your customers and employees. The result is a more unified team and consistent experience for all.
The core of the organization should be revisited, purpose and values should be redefined, and a stronger emphasis placed on why the company exists.
Develop Their Leaders
Besides a lack of a purpose-driven culture, one of the other reasons a lot of Customer Experience or Employee Experience initiatives fall flat is due to the lack of developed leadership and consistency in their messaging. I am seeing a big push for the development of the leaders who inspire team members. With the rise of cross-generational teams (by 2020 there will be five generations working under one roof), leaders are now challenged with new obstacles in leading their people. Gen X and Baby Boomer leaders need to learn to get the best out of their Millennial and Gen 2020 team members. This isn’t an easy feat. It will require development in personal emotional intelligence, coaching with emotional intelligence, and effective communication. Now more than ever, leaders in the workforce need to take a hard look at their leadership ability and their organizations must support their growth.
As I like to say, “A leader without followers is just somebody taking a walk.” If the leaders of today can’t garner trusted and effective followers the customer will suffer. It won’t matter what program you put in place to improve the customer experience if your leaders can’t coach their team to deliver a consistence experience or live the purpose of the organization.