GUEST POST from Shep Hyken
We are in a strange time. For the past two and a half years, we have experienced one hurdle after another. It started with the pandemic, moved into supply-chain problems that merged with employment issues, and to top it all off, we’re experiencing a rough economy. While the difficulties hit some industries harder than others, every company or brand has had to show a level of nimbleness and flexibility to stay ahead, if not just stay in business. Some companies figured it out, and some are still finding their way. Regardless, the following predictions could give you some food for thought in how to navigate the next year and beyond.
1. Customers Will Be Smarter and More Demanding Than Ever
Each year, I start the list with a similar prediction. It seems that our customers are smarter than ever when it comes to customer service and experience. They are getting the type of experience they want from certain companies and brands, and then they expect it from just about anyone they do business with. All of our customers, regardless of our type of business (B2B, B2C, B2B2C) are consumers. Certain B2C rockstar brands are teaching our customers what good service is like, and it’s become the expectation (and hope) of every customer that they will get a similar experience from any type of business.
2. Companies Will Focus as Much – Maybe More – on Employees Than They Do on Customers
What has been termed The Great Resignation wasn’t so much about employees quitting work to retire. They were quitting to move to better jobs. Companies that haven’t been employee-focused have struggled to keep some of their best people. Just as you work to attract and keep your best customers, you want to do the same with your employees. The cost of turnover, hiring and training can be far greater than an increase in salary and benefits. And don’t forget the appreciation factor. Just as you appreciate your customers, you should appreciate your employees. And a powerful byproduct of this effort is the customer experience. What’s happening on the inside of a company is felt on the outside by the customer.
3. Customers’ Expectations of the ‘Basics’ Continue to Rise
The basics of a good customer experience are really simple. Customers want employees who are kind and helpful. They want to easily reach the right customer support person. They expect employees to be knowledgeable about the company’s products and services. They want faster customer support responses from email, messages or text. Yes, these are the basics and they seem so simple, but that doesn’t mean they are easy to execute consistently. Our customer service research (sponsored by Amazon) found that year over year, customers’ expectations of these basics increased. The research also found that 49% of customers had more bad customer service experiences in the past year compared to the year before. Going back to Prediction No. 1, it’s the rockstar companies and brands that are setting the right example and raising the bar—and thereby raising customers’ expectations. The message is clear. Focus on the basics. They are the foundation of your customer service and CX strategies.
4. Personalization Gets More Personal
Up until recently, personalization had been used just to segment customers into several personas. Today, customers are experiencing hyper-personalization, treating them as individuals versus part of a larger group in a company’s database. Perhaps a better term for personalization would be individualization. In our customer service research, 74% of customers we surveyed said a personalized experience is important. A personal or individualized experience will endear the customer to the company, creating a greater chance of repeat business and even customer loyalty.
5. Some Companies Will Make the Mistake of Cutting Expenses in the Wrong Place
As many companies experience the pressures of the economy (and supply chain delays and employee issues), they will begin to make changes. Customers are spending less, and costs are going up. That’s not a good formula but it’s what we are forced to work with, and the result is companies being more careful about how they spend money. As this applies to customer experience, companies will be looking for places to cut costs and save money. The big mistake is if they cut in the areas of customer service and experience, leaving them vulnerable to competition and taking away their market share. Unfortunately, if history repeats itself, and I predict it will, many companies and brands will make this mistake. Hopefully, your company isn’t one of them. One of the worst places to cut is anywhere the customer will notice.
Well, that’s the first five of my ten predictions for 2023. Come back for the remaining five predictions next week.
Image Credit: Pixabay
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