5 Trends in Customer Experience Software for 2019

I asked people who use customer experience software to share their thoughts on how the software, and its use, will evolve in 2019. Here are five trends to look for this year.

I asked marketers using customer experience (CX) software to share their thoughts on how the technology and its use, will evolve in 2019. Based on this research, I expect CX technologies will evolve in 2019 to support greater system and data connectivity, improve customer insights, and increase message relevance and process automation.

Here are five trends to look for this year.

Integration

M&A activity reflects a trend toward unified customer data platforms and all-in-one solutions for marketing, sales, support, analytics and CX. That’s great for businesses, because soon they won’t need to spend millions on integrations and IT for a single, holistic view of the customer.

We’ll see the introduction of tools and improvement in design to help vertical markets perform integrations more easily, which can find ways to transfer customer information from one application to the other.

Data

Improved integration will help collate disparate customer data to provide a holistic view of customer activity across all departments — sales, marketing, customer support, etc. As CX software improves, organizations will start valuing CX data more than actual goods or services sold, because CX data will have a stronger correlation with long-term revenue generation and profitability.

Customer experience software users say 2018 was the year of data for CX software — from GDPR-mandated data cleanups to a wave of new data from relational and transactional customer interactions, CX software companies focused on data collection. From real-time data collection facilitated by chatbots and AI, 2018 saw a new way for the CX world to gather, store and leverage customer data for more customized engagement. This focus on data will be the foundation for what’s to come in 2019 — a greater focus on data collection, data analysis, and acting on data to increase customer retention and better connect with customers.

CX software will get a chance to show what it can do. We can expect the use of AI to grow and enable companies to sort and evaluate the data collected faster than in previous years. As CX software continues to gather more information, it will also continue to improve the software’s processes and provide better analysis.

Understanding

We see the embedding of more “marketing-like” approaches — more analytics of customer behavior and more automation of responses and customer outreach. CX pros are starting to do this as well, moving away from working only with survey responses from a small number of customers. This is parallel to the development that started some 20 years ago in marketing automation when businesses moved on from small-scale surveys in market research to using all their business data to better understand customers. CX solutions are looking at all data on customers, using it to understand their needs and wants, and building automatic processes to meet those needs.

Businesses are realizing that customers today rate their experience based on the sum of all the interactions with business — not just on call wait time, or Internet ease of use. All of these things come together as customers move seamlessly from one channel to another — they see this as one overall experience. As such, successful CX solutions are embedding tools that can work with the entire customer journey — from its “discovery,” based on journey analytics, to the orchestration of a better overall CX through customer journey management.

Relevance

We’ll see organizations leveraging technology to make customer journeys frictionless, personalized — and ultimately, more profitable. Companies will be able to better target customers with more in-depth information, personalized messaging and tailored recommendations that better align with needs. At the end of the day, it will all come down to how well companies use CX software to learn about their customers and better serve them.

Customers will become more skeptical of companies that fail to personalize emails and content. Consumers respond better when they feel like they’re people, not just another number on a list. The future of successful CX software implementations is those that take the time to focus on personalized, relevant information of value that helps makes customers’ lives simpler and easier.

Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning

The shiny toys of Augmented Reality (AR), Artificial Intelligence (AI), and data analytics only account for the aesthetic aspects of CX. Many companies are looking at the sexy components of a well-built website while overlooking why customers fell in love with brands like Netflix and Amazon. These top sites and companies gave the people exactly what they wanted from the onset. The next step for companies in 2019 is to find the right balance to effectively blend UX and CX to suit the customers’ needs like never before.

With that being said, the automation side of CX is incredibly powerful. We’ve seen improvements in AI software within the past year and it will be fun to see how much it develops this year. The next couple years will revolutionize CX. Now that companies have built the technology, the only thing left is to fine-tune it. Build on the useful technology put in place.

Machine learning (ML) and AI are already being used to identify data points with the most impact. We will see this translate into providing meaningful action points which leverage the data points.

We will see CX software using AI to predict CX for new products, based on past data with greater accuracy.

Lastly, we will see marketers leveraging AI to learn about their target customers and prompt them to take action to meet their needs.

Improve Customer Experience by Putting Customers First

We live in the age of transparency. As such, it’s critical to earn your customers’ trust and keep it by improving the customer experience.

We live in the age of transparency. As such, it’s critical to earn your customers’ trust and keep it by improving the customer experience.

Eighty-four percent of people trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. Treating customers well is more important than ever, yet companies continue to take advantage of customers by focusing on short-term revenue vs. long-term profitability.

Eighty-four percent of Millennials are influenced by user-generated content on your website. (Opens as a PDF). As such, you need customers to share their positive experiences with your brand’s product or service.

You do this by providing a great customer experience, as well as a product that solves the customer’s problem as well or better than expected.

How to Get Customer Experience Right

Amazon will ask if you want to buy the same book you bought six months ago. The company is giving up short-term revenue to ensure you’re not buying something you don’t need. It’s reinforcing the trust you’ve already placed in the brand.

When is the last time your bank warned you before you incurred an overdraft fee?

When has your phone/TV/Internet provider proactively suggested a different, more cost-efficient, package of services based on your usage?

And, we still have pharmaceutical companies making inconsequential changes to medications to keep your doctor prescribing the ethical (oxymoron?) product vs. the generic, which is 10 times cheaper.

Most frustrating for me is the SaaS (software-as-a-service) to which I paid the one-year subscription, did not find value in, and then stopped using. Out of sight, out of mind, until the one-year anniversary rolls around and my credit card gets hit. Come on guys, you know I’m not using your product, let me know you’re about to auto-renew so I can opt-out rather than having to call the credit card company to challenge the charge and then call you out for a legitimate, but non-customer-focused, business process.

Moving forward, successful companies will be those that put their customers first rather than taking advantage of them. As David Ogilvy said, “Your customer isn’t a moron.”

Customer Experience Requires Seamless Integration to Reduce Friction

As customers and prospects use more devices in their personal and business lives, B2B and B2C organizations need to engage them on the devices and in the channels they prefer to ensure a positive user and customer experience.

As customers and prospects use more devices in their personal and business lives, B2B and B2C organizations need to engage them on the devices and in the channels they prefer to ensure a positive user and customer experience.

There’s a proliferation of devices with customers and prospects interacting with computers (laptops, desktops and tablet) mobile devices, televisions, voice assistants, watches, glasses, automobiles and whatever the future holds.

There’s also a proliferation of channels — brick-and-mortar, e-commerce, channel partners, social media, direct-to-consumer, as well as web and mobile apps. Customers and prospects expect the companies and the apps they interact with to know them, their activity, their purchase and search history, the questions they’ve asked and the answers they’ve received, interactions in every channel, and social media activity.

Lyft, Amazon, Netflix and Apple have all raised consumer expectations — the same consumers who are employees. Today, employees expect the same intuitive ease of use with the tools they use to do their jobs as the B2C apps they use in their daily lives.

Your customers, prospects, and employees want their product and service providers to know what they’re looking for and do everything they can to make their lives simpler and easier. Customers will not tolerate irrelevant content, apps, or tools that fail to make their lives and jobs simpler and easier.

Starbucks has done this with its mobile app. Spotify has done this for streaming audio. The Progressive mobile app has actually turned “fender benders” into an opportunity to provide “aha” customer experiences.

Listen to customers and employees to learn where friction is in their lives and explore ways to reduce that friction. Let your customers know you hear them. Doing so will enable you to disrupt your industry, earn customers for life and become the preferred place to work. All ensure a successful future. Failure to do so ensures a premature death.

Think of Customer Experience as a Marketing Investment

As products and services become commoditized, organizations need to begin differentiating themselves by becoming customer-centric and providing a consistently good customer experience. The bar is low; it’s pretty easy to stand out from your competition if you just make a commitment to do so.

As products and services become commoditized, organizations need to begin differentiating themselves by becoming customer-centric and providing a consistently good customer experience. The bar is low; it’s pretty easy to stand out from your competition if you just make a commitment to do so.

Here are eight reasons for your organization to invest in customer experience:

  1. Price Isn’t the Only Differentiator. People will pay more for excellent customer service and a great customer experience. In fact, American Express found consumers are willing to spend 17 percent more to do business with companies that deliver excellent customer service.
  2. It’s Not That Hard to Improve Level of Customer Service you provide and improve the customer experience of your customers. It does take commitment, focus, determination, measurement and listening.
  3. Happy Customers Are Good Customers. They buy more, they buy more frequently and they tell their family, friends and colleagues about your products, service and their customer experience. And referrals and word of mouth are still the most cost-effective marketing you can get.
  4. CX Doesn’t Require Leading-Edge Software. However, it does require good customer relationship management (CRM) software and a commitment by everyone in the firm to use it and listen intensely to what the customer is saying and how your organization makes them feel.
  5. It’s Cheaper to Retain Current Customers Than Acquire New Customers — some studies suggest by a factor of seven.
  6. Any Company of Any Size Can Provide Consistently Excellent Customer Service and “wow” customer experiences. It’s a customer-centric attitude that starts at the C-level and cascades down to everyone in the organization.
  7. Happy Customers Find New Customers for You. They provide referrals, testimonials, they share their positive thoughts and experiences with family, friends and colleagues, and they post on social media sites.
  8. Improving CX Pays for Itself. Think of providing good customer service as a marketing investment.

Most companies provide lousy customer service and a negative customer experience. CX is a great way to differentiate your firm from your competition. A customer who has an issue that is resolved is more likely to become a long-term customer and spend more with you over time, than the customer who doesn’t complain. Providing great customer service and a “wow” customer experience can help create “raving fans” who will sing your praises to family, friends, colleagues, and even strangers via the Internet and social media.

A dissatisfied customer leaves and tells their friends, and possibly many others, about what a poor job you did. As such, you’re much better off resolving the issue to the customer’s satisfaction.

Use simple math to convince the CEO to bring marketing and customer service together.

Listen intensely to learn customers’ needs and expectations.

Empower everyone in your organization to provide outstanding customer service to end-user customers and colleagues.

Attitude is everything. When every employee considers themselves part of the customer service team, your company is able to deliver a level of customer service that’s a competitive differentiator for your firm.

Pay back customers for their business with excellent customer service. Your customers will become “raving fans” and will evangelize your brand.

Financial Services Companies Focus on Delivering a Better Customer Experience

As I conduct more interviews with IT professionals, it’s clear financial services companies (banks, brokers and insurance) are investing a lot of money and resources into leveraging data to provide a better customer experience.

As I conduct more interviews with IT professionals, it’s clear financial services companies (banks, brokers and insurance) are investing a lot of money and resources into leveraging data to provide a better customer experience.

Better late than never. Banks have long had a plethora of information about clients; whereby, they should have been able to suggest products and anticipate needs based on life events (college, first job, marriage, home, children, job change, retirement, etc.). Unfortunately, the data was in silos and they were not taking a holistic view of their customers.

Slowly but surely, this is changing as:

  • Rocket Mortgage enables customers to get approval for a mortgage or an equity line of credit in minutes.
  • Square enables sellers to process credit card transactions via smartphones or tablets.
  • Mint provides free, web-based financial management software.
  • Robinhood provides zero-fee stock trading.
  • Personal Capital provides online financial advice, personal wealth management and algorithmic trading, for much less than a traditional broker.

These companies are providing a seamless user experience (UX) across a multi-platform and multi-device landscape. They’re providing real-time information of value to educate customers and prospects. In a recent study, Oracle found that 80% of consumers are accessing their financial institution digitally.

Several banks have automated their loan processing so they are able to get more accurate and complete information upfront and provide loan approval the same day, rather than in 30 or 45 days. The process is better for the financial institution, as well as the customer.

But Are Traditional Financial Institutions Too Late?

After having moved half of my investment portfolio to the algorithmic trading arm of Edward Jones, I decided to move it all to Personal Capital, the algorithmic trading arm of Pershing.

As with most things, I believe we will see a range of activity and acceptance based on the people I interview in the big data, artificial intelligence (AI), and machine learning (ML) space.

I’m still waiting for the first FinTech, using AI/ML, to guarantee the security of my personally identifiable information (PII) and my money. The first FinTech to do this will quickly become a market leader for more conservative consumers and investors.

We will continue to have FinTechs using AI/ML to make customers’ lives simpler, easier, saving them money and giving them incentives to share their information. Consumers who are less concerned with the security of PII and more concerned with “deals” and CX will be attracted to these FinTechs.

It will be fun to watch it shake out over the next couple of decades. I believe companies that remove friction, eliminate pain, make customers’ lives simpler and easier, and do so securely will ultimately win share of wallet.

What do you think?

Customer Experience Failure, Times 2

Here are two instances of poor business practices that lead to customer experience failure — from the same insurance company.

customer experience failure
Credit: Pixabay by Mona Tootoonchinia

Here are two instances of poor business practices that lead to customer experience failure — from the same insurance company.

My sister-in-law (SIL) has been a client of this insurance company since moving back from England 17 years ago. She has maintained both home and auto insurance throughout the 17 years. A couple of weeks ago, she received a letter letting her know they were going to cancel her homeowner’s insurance because her house was vacant. This was news to my SIL, because she’s lived in the house since September 2001.

My SIL goes by her middle name, and the insurance company had her first initial on the auto policy and her middle name on the homeowner’s policy. So the insurance company’s data stewards hadn’t noticed in 17 years that this is the same person at the same address.

Get your master data management practices in order.

Needless to say, my SIL is surprised and disappointed in this customer experience failure. I suggested she get quotes from other providers.

Insurance CX, Round Two

About the time this is occurring to my SIL, unbeknownst to me, I receive a letter from Trinet, my employment management company, with a special offer from MetLife. Because I had not checked rates in a number of years, I decided to get a quote from MetLife for my auto and homeowner’s insurance. I was stunned when it came in at $1,180 less than I was currently paying annually.

I called my insurance provider of 35 years and told it about MetLife’s quote. My provider said that sounded good and they could come down $200.

Thirty-five years = $200.

Sorry, my loyalty only goes so far.

I look forward to saving nearly $100 per month on insurance, as well as following the disruption of insurance as FinTech moves from banking to insurance, providing a better customer experience, more quickly, at a significantly lower cost.

GDPR Leads Brands to Better CX

A year ago, most companies had no clue where all of their customer data resided, let alone whether or not it was secure. With the implementation of GDPR, and California’s digital privacy law scheduled to take effect in January 2020, companies have started taking their customer and prospect data, and its security, much more seriously.

A year ago, most companies had no clue where all of their customer data resided, let alone whether or not it was secure. With the implementation of GDPR, and California’s digital privacy law scheduled to take effect in January 2020, companies have started taking their customer and prospect data, and its security, much more seriously.

Most organizations keep their customer data in a customer relationship management (CRM) database. However, prior to GDPR, the information was incomplete, the accuracy of the data was not taken seriously, and the data was not secure due to a lack of business process management and master data management policies.

Based on the interviews I have conducted with IT executives involved in databases, big data, AI/ML and security, there has been a significant change in the past year; whereby, companies are now implementing and enforcing data management best practices and creating data Centers of Excellence. Employees are learning the importance of data and its security.

Given that a well-maintained CRM is necessary to deliver a great customer experience (CX), we can expect to see companies begin taking CX seriously, because they are getting their data in order and their competitors will begin using that data to deliver improved CX. We’re now in a race to see who can use data first and best to improve the CX.

Updated privacy policies and security protocols will increase the opportunity to deliver personalized and relevant information of value. In addition to getting consumers’ explicit permission to communicate with their customers and prospects, organizations will want to enact progressive profiling; whereby, they learn more about each customer or prospect every time they interact with your website or organization. The more you know about a customer, the more relevant you should be able to be to them by providing information of value while anticipating needs and wants.

Organizations need to learn what customers and prospects need and want to make their lives easier. This is key to building a disruptive business and earning a customer for life. Lyft has done this for me. Every time I need to travel to or from an airport, I no longer need taxis, rental cars or parking at the airport. Lyft has made my life traveling much simpler and easier. Lyft has earned a customer for life — or at least until its business model is disrupted.

A good CRM with proper data management processes is beneficial to organizations on several fronts:

1. The CRM serves as the repository for all customer data and enables customer-facing employees to have a 360-degree view of the customer so they understand the customer’s relationship with the company — interactions, products/services bought, considered, feedback. All customer-facing employees are able to see the actions that have taken place and know what actions need to take place in the future based on sales and CX processes.
2. Organizations are able to provide more relevant help and information; thereby, making customers’ lives simpler and easier. Some organizations, e.g. financial institutions, are already using predictive analytics to recommend the “next best action” for the customer to the employee.
3. The CRM can be integrated with calendars and marketing automation software for appropriate follow-up before and after a sale, for nurturing marketing qualified leads (MQLs) to sales qualified leads (SQLs) or to market to “lookalike” prospects.
4. The CRM provides real-time metrics enabling team members to see where prospects and customers are in the sales, post-sales, follow-up or problem/resolution cycle.
5. A sound CRM enables the organization to scale in a thoughtful way with proper data management, security and updates. Leveraging even more data to improve the CX.

How has GDPR affected your organization and its data management practices?

6 CX Best Practices That Aid in Customer Retention

Kudos to American Airlines for delivering a small, but very meaningful American Advantage upgrade — a great customer experience (CX). CX best practices like this aid in customer retention.

Kudos to American Airlines for delivering a small, but very meaningful American Advantage upgrade — a great customer experience (CX). CX best practices like this aid in customer retention.

Recently, I’ve had the opportunity to take a number of flights to user conferences that I write about. I always request American, because it’s the primary airline at my airport and I have a lifetime membership in its Admiral’s Club, based on my travel a couple of lifetimes ago.

After months of boarding with Group Six or Seven and playing roulette with whether or not I’d be able to get my carry-on in an overhead bin, I just got bumped to the gold level. That lets me board with Group Four — assuring me I will not have to check my carry-on. Little things mean a lot.

American never asked me about how important this is to me, but it’s huge — to me. Every customer will want something different with regard to a great CX. For customer retention, it’s important to “listen intensely” to learn how you can deliver a better CX.

Here are six CX best practices that come to mind for B2C and B2B organizations:

Document Your CX Best Practices

What are you doing for different customers, different personas? How are customers responding when you go above and beyond? Are you getting the customer feedback you expect?

Start With Your CRM Database

Start with your CRM database, your master data management practices and your business process management. A great CRM is necessary for a great CX. Your customer-facing employees need to know what has taken place with this customer previously, so they can provide more personalized service.

By the way, poor CRM data quality, poor master data management and documentation of business process are consistent pain points for companies attempting to make the digital transformation that will be necessary to provide a great CX.

Emotionally Connect With Your Customers

Understand what it takes to make an emotional connection with your customers — empathy. How do you get it? By having a conversation with your customers and learning what you and your competition are doing to help make your customers’ lives simpler and easier and what else you could be doing. Management hasn’t spoken with customers? Make sure your customer-facing employees are involved in this discussion.

Create a Customer-Centric Culture

David Ogilvy used to put an empty chair in the meeting, so participants would think about how receptive the customer would be to what was being discussed. In order for this to work, there needs to be a sufficiently diverse group of people creating the culture to accurately represent the customer’s point of view.

Engage Customers Via Social Media

Listen to them, respond to them, let them know you care about what they have to say by listening and responding in a timely manner. The faster you respond, the more your customers know you care about what they have to say. After eating 3,200 burrito bowls, Chipotle responds to my tweets in less than 30 minutes — I know they’re listening and appreciate me.

Check in After You’ve Made the Sale

Did the product or service your customers spent money on solve their problem or meet their expectations? If you don’t get a response, you have an engagement issue — especially if you’re a software-as-a-service provider. Learn what’s good and what you can do to improve. CX is a never-ending process.

What other CX best practices are you following or seeing others implement?

Creating a Culture of Wow Customer Experiences

I have urged many companies to differentiate on the basis of wow customer experiences, because the bar is so low. It’s also easier for a small and mid-size company than a large company to perform outstanding CX, because you can instill customer-centric values from the top down, as well as hire and promote based on the customer experience they are providing to both internal and external customers.

Recently, I had the opportunity to attend two user conferences in two weeks. Both of the companies hosting the conferences are fast-growing high tech companies. One is a hybrid multi-cloud management platform and the other provides an artifacts management platform for DevOps teams.

The segments of IT in which both of these organizations compete are rife with competition, yet both companies are growing quickly and are delivering consistently outstanding customer experiences. One has an NPS score of 92; the highest I had ever heard of was 83 from USAA. The other has 97% customer retention and 245% upsell to current customers.

Both of these organizations understand the importance of listening to customers and helping them find value in their technology investments. In talking with customers and employees alike, it’s obvious these companies are differentiating themselves by providing wow customer experiences.

I have urged many companies to differentiate on the basis of wow customer experiences, because the bar is so low. It’s also easier for a small and mid-size company than a large company to perform outstanding CX, because you can instill customer-centric values from the top down, as well as hire and promote based on the customer experience they are providing to both internal and external customers.

Where do you start? With employees. While it’s important to meet monthly, quarterly and annual sales goals, you can make the argument that providing a great customer experience is more important; especially if you’re selling a product or service from which the consumer can select another provider at any time.

A great CX starts with your employees. Are they more concerned with making sure the client is happy with the experience they are having with your product or service or making their sales goals? If your customers are happy, you’re going to make your sales goals – maybe not this month or quarter, but over the long-term.

Happy customers generate more revenue and help you attract other customers. They serve as references, provide case studies, testimonials and referrals; thereby reducing, or amplifying, your marketing investment.

Engaged, empowered employees help provide a great CX. Do your employees know that’s what you expect of them?

CX Isn’t Hard, It’s Common Sense

I continue to urge companies to differentiate on the basis of customer experience — the bar is so low, it’s doesn’t take a lot of effort or money to impress. Just some common sense.

I just returned a pair of shoes to New Balance that didn’t fit. New Balance sent them back to me because it didn’t have the cheap insoles that came with them. I bought a pair of $45 insoles to go with the shoes and threw the cheap ones away. Luckily, I had already bought replacement shoes and had not thrown those insoles out, so UPS is getting revenue from two unnecessary shipments.

Obviously, New Balance has a policy about what constitutes “like new condition.” “Missing insoles” renders the shoes to be deemed “not in like new condition,” regardless of what else the customer ordered — $45 insoles, $70 pants and another pair of $80 shoes — enough to earn “silver” status in its myNBrewards program.

I was in the process of changing from Asics to New Balance, because my workout routine has changed. But New Balance has made a less than positive impression. While the company has mapped the customer journey, it didn’t get to the point where it considered returns.

In the future, I’ll deal with Zappos. The business makes it simpler and easier for me to buy and return shoes.

What’s the first impression your company, product or service makes on a prospective customer? Are your parking lots/garages clean? Are your entries/exits clean? Are your bathrooms clean? Do you offer free, easy to access, Wi-Fi? Is your website secure, easy to navigate and purchase from?

These are basic considerations for any business, whether B2B or B2C. Artificial intelligence and machine learning will ultimately help improve the customer experience, but you will still need people to help you make a positive first impression. A first impression is critical if you’re going to turn a prospect into a customer for which you can provide an experience.

I continue to urge companies to differentiate on the basis of customer experience — the bar is so low, it’s doesn’t take a lot of effort or money to impress. Just some common sense.