Evaluating CX in 2023 is no mean feat – and can’t be captured in one short article! And based on what we’ve all failed to predict over the past few years, it’s virtually impossible to predict, with any certainty, what’s to come in the year ahead. However, what we can do is look at some key highlights from last year and, more importantly, identify the key themes that CX practitioners can expect to see in 2024.
CX will remain under financial pressure
Of course, one of the biggest themes in the latter part of 2023 for businesses and individuals alike was the cost-of-living crisis. This is something we looked at from a research perspective in November. We’re expecting these financial pressures to remain for some time yet, which means that CX and research practitioners and departments will need to continue to seek ways to maximise ROI from often limited budgets.
It’s not all doom and gloom. In fact, there’s a real opportunity for research and CX providers to demonstrate how they can provide better quality, strategically-focused programmes that deliver real value.
Most businesses look at future scenarios and assess opportunities and threats, but CX practitioners can do the same to enhance customer experience, whether that be staff training, innovation, reviewing promises, etc.
Customer promises will be more important than ever
Ongoing financial pressures will also increase the onus on organisations to deliver true value to their customers. This means demonstrating clear intention and following that through – in short, making good on the promises they offer to customers.
We talked several times about customer promises last year and it’s fair to say we think this will be even more important in the year ahead – and beyond. Differentiation in customer experience will certainly be a frontrunner for competitive advantage as we move through 2024. We talk in detail about this in our Promises, Expectations and How to Avoid the CX Gap guide – definitely worth a read if this is a core focus for your organisation this year.
In 2024, we think it will be really important to ask three fundamental questions:
- What do you promise as an organisation, in every communication or interaction?
- Do employees fully understand what you promise and their collective role in delivering on that promise?
- Do you have or do you need a formalised statement, or charter, internally or externally, that provides real clarity on what customers should expect and what employees should deliver?
Customer retention and loyalty will remain the core of CX…
Tied closely to customer promises is the long-time core focus of most CX programmes – customer retention. This is a subject built into the heart of almost everything CX practitioners do and is one we’ve discussed many times over the past few years.
The financial business benefits of retaining customers and driving loyalty are well documented. It’s frustrating, then, to see that we still have to discuss the pros and cons of customer retention strategies and that many organisations still place more value on new than on retention in their corporate targets.
Whenever there is a cost-of living-crisis, customers look far more closely at what they are spending and what they are receiving in return. A once ‘lazy loyalist’ customer can be far more prone to making decisions that might result in them turning to a competitor that in the past they wouldn’t have considered. It’s for this reason that understanding customer motivations and being particularly attentive to ‘customers at risk’ is one recommendation we should all take on board in 2024.
…but there’s work to be on defining customer centricity
One thing that remains a constant in the world of CX is the ultimate goal of all CX programmes: achieving true customer centricity. Getting there is another matter – because true customer centricity is an ever-moving feast.
As we often discuss, customer centricity is a continuous cycle. Organisations that offer the best customer experience constantly check and reset. They re-evaluate themselves, the promises they make, the touchpoint experiences they provide, the consistency of their interactions, and the things they need to measure and change.
From an industry perspective, one of the biggest issues we expect to see in the year ahead is pinning down what it actually means to be a customer centric organisation. Customer centricity means different things to different people.
What does your service provider really mean when they say they’re a ‘customer first’ business, for example? Do we mean an organisation has focused time, energy and resource into ensuring every part of the business puts the needs of the customer at the front and centre of everything they do? Or do we mean they’ve implemented a six-month feedback programme from a select group of customers, without a long-term plan to listen and take action based on the results?
This is something we’d really like to see consolidated and agreed upon in the year ahead, making for a level playing field in the CX world.
Whilst customer centricity is well understood by many organisations, we expect the focus on making it a reality to continue in 2024. Some organisations are just at the start of their journey and only began working on it in 2023, others are a few years into their journey and are seeing benefits. Some of course have been on the journey for many years and are the organisations winning awards for their customer centric culture. Wherever an organisation is in this journey, investing in customer centricity in 2024 will be a key factor in improving customer retention in a deflated economy.
Will 2024 be a year of innovation or consolidation?
While the CX industry is now well-established, with consolidation among providers, processes and tools, there is still a huge amount of CX innovation happening. We’re seeing this at all levels – from the capabilities of CX platforms to the strategies that CX teams are implementing.
Alongside this industry wide progress, we’re seeing more and more client organisations striving towards CX maturity. Measuring maturity, identifying the gaps that exist and the steps that need to be taken to get there is something we work through with our own clients on a regular basis. Our guide on the subject discusses this in much more detail.
What we’re hoping for in 2024 is real developments towards CX being fully embedded within all organisations. That relies on continuing innovation, fundamental to any business. While technology and AI in particular might be at the forefront of everyone’s thinking when they consider what innovation might look like in 2024, we suggest that increased focus on more efficient processes, learning, product or service development is just as important.
Encouraging organisations to adopt a ‘no fear of failure’ culture, where employees are encouraged to be innovative, and rapidly drop things that don’t work, will keep the focus on the things that really make a difference to customer centricity and the customer experience.
Written by Paul Kavanagh, Managing Director