I love the holidays, but I hate “trend season.” You know, how every blogger, agency, and media site has to publish its forecast for the hot trends in marketing and business. I saw a headline today that promised the megatrends that would change your business in 2018. I’ve got news for you: If there is a “megatrend” that will impact your company within 12 months and you are not already aware and acting, it is already too late for you.
Of course, I get particularly frustrated with the breathless headlines promising sexy trends in customer experience (CX), my area of focus at Gartner. These sorts of articles typically fall into three different categories: The obvious (Frictionless experiences become more vital!), the optimistic (VR will change everything in 2018!), or the misguided (Snapchat is essential to your brand’s CX!)
This year, I’d like you to ignore these articles. Why? One reason is that most of these essays are full of hot air, intended not to educate but to ignite a sense of FOMO and sell the writer’s services. More importantly, chances are your company is not getting the basics of CX correct, and the focus on hot trends and tech only obscures your best opportunities to improve your brand’s relationships with its customers. By all means, monitor how emerging technology (such as IoT, VR/AR, voice-activated devices, chatbots, and AI) is evolving, but do not lose sight that technology must serve your customers and their desired experiences, not vice versa.
Here are the real hot trends in CX, and they’ll be just as hot in two years as they are today: Start with your customers, understand their needs, measure their perceptions, identify your challenges and opportunities to improve satisfaction, and act. That is easier said than done when legacy systems, organizational silos, and short-term goals get in the way, which is why your best CX bet in 2018 will not be a trend or technology but improved processes that increase focus on your customer. This includes (with links to appropriate research for Gartner clients):
- Using your data to understand the relationship between customer satisfaction and positive business outcomes such as increased revenue, reduced churn and improved lifetime value. (See “Build Strong Brands by Delivering Customer Experiences That Earn Exceptional Levels of Satisfaction.”)
- Making effective use of VoC data and customer insight to recognize customers’ unmet needs, unsatisfied expectations, and outstanding wants. (See “Build a Voice-of-the-Customer Strategy to Harness the Power of Customer Data.”)
- Fostering a commitment to constant testing, research and customer engagement. (See “Build a Test-and-Learn Culture to Improve Customer Experience and Marketing Outcomes.”)
- Developing personas built on data to inform and justify CX strategies. (See “Where Marketers Get Data to Inform Personas and Journey Maps.”)
- Mapping the entire customer journey from beginning to end, planning strategies not just for purchase and usage but for loyalty and advocacy. (See “Use Gartner’s Buy/Own/Advocate Framework to Map Customer Journeys and Deliver Better Customer Experiences.”)
- Setting appropriate goals and putting in place the right metrics to evaluate changes in customer perception and business impact. (See “The ROI of Customer Experience Starts With Customer Outcomes and Ends With Business Results.”)
- Engaging senior executives to make tough CX decisions and lead by example. (See “Focus on the Most Difficult Customer Experience Decisions to Drive Employee Action and Deliver Success.”)
- Ensuring your UX and CX teams work collaboratively to deliver better experiences for your customers. (See “Four Ways CX Teams Can Leverage UX to Create Better, Successful Experiences.”)
No hot new trend will help an organization that does not get the basics right for CX success. No amount of AI personalization will fix a site that does not offer what customers want; no chatbot will improve customer perception if your product fails to deliver; and no augmented reality app will enhance relationships with customers who have lost trust in your brand to deliver as promised.
Your brand does not need a hot trend to improve its CX. It simply needs to execute a sensible, data-based, insight-driven, collaborative process that puts the customer at the center of your decisions, actions, and offerings.