After several years of improvement, the standards of customer experience organizations are delivering are in decline and technology could be the weak link.
This is why in our annual trends report — “Time to Act: The Customer Experience Trends Shaping 2023” — we advise organizations to rethink their approach to technology adoption and to reconsider the validity of existing investments to ensure they are in line with clear business goals and positive customer experiences.
When we polled business leaders back in 2021, we were surprised to discover how many incorrectly equated a business transformation solely with technology. Just 30% of executives surveyed correctly described a digital transformation as an enterprise-wide undertaking involving all aspects of the business. A concerning 36% of U.S.-based leaders said it was an IT project.
Yes, IT plays an increasingly important role in business, but technology is only one aspect of any project. This misunderstanding is why such a large percentage of technology adoption projects fail to genuinely meet business objectives. In fact, based on consumer feedback as part of our latest whitepaper into consumer behavior and preferences — “CX Landscape 2022; Evolution or Revolution?” — it looks like it’s the reason why so few customers are enamored of digital CX offerings despite their proliferation.
For instance, based on data gathered from over 6,000 consumers in Brazil, France, Germany, Spain, the U.K. and the U.S., just 27% of Gen Z are confident that a digital form of CX could meet their needs. Additionally, 20% of all respondents equate the use of the latest technology with a brand that’s committed to delivering a positive CX.
Standards are slipping
This doesn’t mean that consumers aren’t looking for digital means of engagement – one in four consumers would rather solve their own problem than have to engage with a contact center agent. What it does suggest, however, is that based on their experiences up to date, consumers are yet to encounter something good enough to convince them to move out of channels such as email and the phone.
So what is going wrong? What do organizations need to do to put things right? The correct use of technology simply within CX operations can unlock efficiencies, optimize performance, automate mundane and repetitive processes and even provide real-time customer insights. And in doing all of these things, deliver a sizable ROI.
The potential to revolutionize CX
If we consider the suite of tools and processes that come together to make up customer experience analytics, when placed at the heart of CX operations, this solution offers everything from predictive customer analytics (where agents can proactively steer interactions to positive conclusions), to the raw data for developing intelligent chatbots that speak a company’s brand language and genuinely meets customer needs.
And its capabilities and applications are growing all of the time, as is its accessibility as a solution. Indeed, this increased accessibility should mean that organizations of all sizes are now able to deliver a consistently positive CX.
But clearly that isn’t the case, as over a third of consumers feel current standards are below par and 45% of consumers have actually switched brands over the course of 2022 simply because of a poor CX.
Technology is more than IT
The most likely reason for the decline is the misconception about technological tools and processes being confined to the IT department. The price of software solutions is falling, but the effort required to integrate such systems into the wider business is not.
If a tool or technology has the potential to change numerous aspects of business operations, or if it has the potential to redefine how people work, then technology implementation is simply one aspect of the project.
The only route to a return on investment is through an initiative that recognizes and focuses on this wholesale change. Because if a project will usher in genuine change, then that change needs to be sponsored at the highest levels of the business.
Elevating CX positively impacts the business as a whole. Executives should be seen as being more than simply onboard – they should be helping to drive the change and articulating its benefits. This will ensure that employees buy in to the project. But that is simply the first step.
1. Set a clear goal
A project should be driven by a clear business case and should have equally unambiguous medium-to-long-term goals. They need to be in place before any initiative commences and should be tied to a measurable outcome such as a return on investment.
2. Invest in Upskilling and Reskilling
Introducing new technologies, tools and processes will make little to no difference to how an organization operates unless employees understand and feel comfortable in using them. Ensure staff training is in place and, crucially, make certain that people know the goals of the changes – to make their work more effective and engaging. The march of technology is such that people can understandably feel that any attempt to transform operations is about reducing headcounts. They need to understand this is not the case.
3. Build a team that reflects the business, not the technology
The team that leads the project should be cross-functional, multidiscipline and representative of the business – rather than of the IT department. This is the only way to understand how changes will impact different operations and processes and to identify and mitigate against potential risks before they become real-world challenges.
4. Build in checkpoints and deliver in stages
Any initiative should be guided by best practice project management methodology. This includes identifying and working towards agreed milestones or checkpoints where the project can be assessed and changes visibly have a desired impact. Delivering a project in stages also reduces the likelihood of lost momentum and increases the likelihood of being able to spot potential issues or alterations necessary before delivering the next stage.
For this reason, it’s also useful to prioritize areas of the business where quick wins are most likely. A quick uptick in performance is something that’s easy to identify and use to maintain wider stakeholder buy in. However, ensure that whether a quick win or a long-term goal, the change is tied back to a clear metric or KPI so that performance can be measured accurately and adjustments made as needed.
5. Allow for agility
Even with stakeholder buy in, a clear roadmap and the best project management methodology, things can change. Technologies evolve, markets pivot, the wider economy can shoot up or come crashing down. Therefore, build in flexibility so that the project can change course. Likewise, maintain this agile mindset once a project has been delivered, as improvements can always be made, new tools can be integrated or new processes can be identified.
Read our report to learn more about the trends shaping CX in 2023.