Customer Experience Trends For 2018

With no exception, customer-experience solutions are key toward understanding what customers want, don’t want and so on. Only the right research solutions will help companies know where to invest their resources to keep their customers happy and acquire new ones.

And, as we head into 2018, The MSR Group thought it only made sense to examine some important trends gathering steam going forward, and how they relate to the overall customer experience. Of the eight we’ve isolated, most have a direct impact on banking and utility clients, and all of them demonstrate the impact of how companies communicate with customers, and how consumers expect to be treated from here on in.

Let’s take a closer look:

  1. The Customer Remains Always Right and Everyone Knows It. Nowadays companies may only get one chance to resolve a customer’s issue or risk not only losing them forever but risk the immediate world finding out why they disappeared. It’s imperative companies close the loop on customer issues when the customer is gracious enough to contact that company directly. That means banks and utilities must (if they haven’t done so already) modernize their legacy systems and prioritize customer experience. Already, 40% of consumers take their complaints public on social media and, as customers continue to see the likes of Twitter, review sites and forums as the great equalizer, it’ll increasingly be there in-case-of-emergency-break-glass solution. And tweets, much to companies’ chagrin, live forever.
  2. AI Continues to Be the Way. Hard to believe we’re 17 years removed from the Steven Spielberg film “A.I. Artificial Intelligence,” and AI’s impact still hasn’t reached its tipping point. All that, however, is changing fast, particularly in the customer-service space, as companies invest heavily in AI to resolve FAQs, therefore freeing up live bodies to resolve more complicated issues and innovate experientially.
  3. Understand the Voices of the Customer. From the consumer standpoint, there’s nothing more frustrating than interacting with AI and AI doesn’t understand you. While many issues are simple and suitable for AI, some are too complex or multitiered for IVR to resolve. Companies need to recognize that and give customers an appropriate option for just those situations which, more often than not, means rerouting customers to a well-trained service rep.
  4. Going Mobile and Never Going Back. About four-fifths of Americans own mobile phones and, soon enough, the household landline will go the way of the payphone. In a world where texting trumps talking, customers expect the same sort of quick-and-easy interaction with customer-service reps. This means optimizing banking and utility apps and websites for mobile live chats, which also affords the opportunity for reps to multitask and increase bandwidth elsewhere.
  5. Personalize It. Sometimes, to quote the “Cheers” theme song, you want to go where everybody knows your name. According to a 2017 Accenture survey, 56% of consumers are more likely to shop at a retailer that recognizes them by name, while more (65%) are more likely to shop at a retailer that knows their purchase history. Even if companies are worried about being too invasive, knowing a customer’s name, how long they’ve been a customer if there are any outstanding issues, and even what the weather’s like where they live, goes a long way toward treating customers with the respect they expect.
  6. Changing Focus (Groups). We understand marketing folks have been forecasting the demise of focus groups for years and, yet, here they still are. While we know traditional focus groups and other face-to-face methodologies won’t disappear in 2018, many researchers, like The MSR Group, are suggesting more real-time, data-enriched insights, as well as online-communication platforms that generate immediate feedback rather than selective memory that focus-group respondents often provide.
  7. The Cloud Has a Silver Lining. Familiarity with cloud technology has never been higher (Apple Pay reports a million new users each week), as concerns about privacy and safety seem either unfounded or, the opposite, inevitable, so what’s the point in worrying? Banks are embracing the move from a mainframe environment for its customers’ bank transactions, with expectations that cloud banking will displace private data centers by 2020.
  8. Brick and Mortar Still Standing. A record 6,700 brick-and-mortar locations closed last year, and it’s highly improbable old-school retail can ever fully rebound. What traditional retail can and is doing, however, is reimagine its purpose: There remains plenty of customers who demand face-to-face interaction with salespeople and want to sample the merchandise before they buy it. Customers still want to get out, so the challenge is creating retail environments that accommodate shoppers with short attention spans and high expectations enough so that they’d rather get up and go than log on and get it over with. Separate from retail stores but on a similar path are banks.  Banks have closed close to 10,000 branches since the recession. While that sounds like a lot, it leaves approximately 71,000 locations open. The footprint for most banks has shrunk, and will likely shrink even more, as banks work to balance the customers’ desire to use multiple channels including online and mobile.