If you think your customers are happy, it might be time to think again. Although the global economy is growing and seems to be thriving in many areas, market research firm Forrester warns that companies shouldn’t sit back and take it easy. In fact, a new Forrester report predicts that 2018 will be a “year of reckoning” for many brands as they face the facts that consumers might not love them as much as they thought they did.
Customer experience scores have stalled in recent years, with not a single brand significantly improving its trust and experience scores from 2016.
One of the main reasons for the stall in customer experience is that customers are interacting with brands more often. More interactions provides more opportunities to build brand loyalty, but it also provides more opportunities to create dissatisfied customers, which is what seems to be happening. Customer confidence is high, which means customers are willing to spend, but they also don’t trust most companies. Customer experience is one of the best ways to boost trust. The top survey responses say treating employees well is what drives the experience and helps customers trust a brand is treating employees well, offering high-quality services, and listening to customers.
How companies respond to this wave of dissatisfaction will be a major tipping point over the coming year. Based on its survey data, Forrester made predictions of what customer experience will look like in 2018. According to the data, brands that own their values, like Apple and Chick-fil-A, will break away from the companies that merely borrow them. Value-driven companies will gain more respect and have larger profits over companies that customers see are just there to earn money, like PepsiCo and Anheuser-Busch. This prediction shows the importance of a strong company culture and of connecting businesses to values that customers can connect with, like family, diversity, respect, and innovation. Brands that are committed to their values often have to make sacrifices, such as Apple only sourcing from renewable sources that tend to be more expensive, but their commitment to their values resonates with customers and leads to big success.
Forrester also predicts that B2B companies will move from just selling toward more holistic customer service management (CSM) models. Many companies will follow in the footsteps of CA Technologies, which restructured its entire support function to create a more comprehensive CSM function. The renewed focus on customer experience shows that CSM is absolutely vital to the success of the company. As CA Technologies and other B2B brands are realizing, CSM is no longer an option—it is a necessity for growth and success. Companies that have strong CSM ensure promises made to clients before a sale are maintained after a sale, which goes a long way to create brand loyal customers that come back for more. According to Forrester, CSM will quickly fill in experience gaps and allow brands to more closely monitor and understand their customers to create a strong customer experience from start to finish.
Forrester also predicts that personalized companies will thrive. Instead of trying to serve the mass market, brands will learn from the success of companies like Facebook and Starbucks and serve narrower sets of distinct customers. The most successful companies will realize they can deliver better experiences and more value by specializing in the unique needs of specific customer segments instead of trying to provide everything to every possible customer. This has been seen by mass-market brands like Walmart and Amazon that are continuing to drop in customer experience scores. Focusing on more targeted groups will allow these brands to offer personalized services that truly meet the customers where they are and build a strong connection with the brand. Customers want to feel valued, but that often doesn’t happen when they see the company reaching out to everyone with the same approach. Targeting specific groups is a win-win situation: companies are more effective in how they spend their money and resources, and customers come away feeling valued as individuals and having their needs met.
The coming year could make or break customer experience for many companies. With stagnated or dropping customer satisfaction, now is the time for brands to recommit to customer experience as a priority. Companies that adopt Forrester’s predictions may be well on the path to success.
Blake Morgan is a customer experience futurist, author of More Is More, and keynote speaker. Sign up for her weekly newsletter here. Go farther and create knock your socks-off customer experiences in your organization by enrolling in her new Customer Experience School.