Three Game-Changing Takeaways for the Future of Customer Experience Management

Customer experience (CX) maturity is a phrase we seem to be discussing a lot lately at InMoment. As a CX technology vendor, we often talk about it in terms of how our platform can power CX programs from beginners to seasoned veterans. We had the opportunity to explore the broader picture at the recent Forrester’s CX NYC conference.

June 19-20, a few InMoment teammates and I got to experience two days of customer experience centric conversations, many of which revolved around the maturity of the practice of CX itself.

Forrester described the next stage of the industry’s development perfectly with the conference theme: “Your New CX Mandate: Be an Engine of Growth.”  

“Mandate” is a strong word. And in this case, not an overstatement. The call from the analysts and other speakers at the event was for all business leaders to literally grow-up their CX efforts; to become better organized, deliberate and strategic.

Following are a few of my favorite takeaways that can help turn your customer experience management programs into full-blown business initiatives with definitive impact:  

Bring Real Business Discipline to CX

The opening keynote by Greg Marion, VP and Enterprise Senior Strategy Officer for USAA, set the stage for the entire event. USAA is a regular leader on several Forrester CX Indexes—and now I know why. Marion talked about need for organizations to treat CX strategy as seriously and methodically as business strategy. While this may seem obvious, it’s not what we’ve seen in most organizations.

CX may be suffering from its inherent “no-duh” value proposition: be nice to your customers and they’ll be nice to you. It made so much common sense that many companies  haven’t treated customer experience as a true business discipline. Adopting a customer-centric and even customer-obsessed mantra or mission isn’t enough.

Understanding how to design and execute customer experiences that are differentiated in ways that are uniquely valuable to customers AND achieve the right business outcomes requires specific work. Unfortunately, most brands haven’t connected and the right data or done the right (or any) data science to identify specific levers and prioritize efforts. So when or if they take action to fix or elevate their customer experience, it tends to be either completely uninformed, or in better cases, under informed.

Another imperative Marion highlighted is tying CX to larger business initiatives. When companies design customer experience initiatives to support what the CEO and board care about (while at the same time delighting customers), not only does CX get a lot more of that mythical “buy-in from the top,” it also genuinely improves the bottom line.

“Good” isn’t Good Enough for Growth

My second takeaway has to do with the difference between meeting customer expectations and going beyond. I want to be clear: providing “good” experiences deliver real value back to the brand. In fact, Forrester found that for customers who report having good experiences, 74% will stay, 66% will spend more, and 83% will recommend.

Not too shabby… until you look at this next set of numbers. Customers who say they had not just “good,” but “excellent” experiences, 83% will stay, 83% will spend more, and 94% will recommend. What does a 9 point reduction in churn translate to in savings at you organization? How about a 17 percent increase in spend? And how many marketing dollars would you have to spend in order to equal that that 9 point increase in authentic customer recommendations?    

Window Dressings Won’t Do

I have had the pleasure of working with Maxie Schmidt (Principal Analyst at Forrester) on multiple occasions—from webinars to our own CX Elevated event — and she always brings incredibly valuable insights to the table. Forrester CX NYC was no exception; she delivered a powerful mainstage presentation on the importance of shifting CX efforts from superficial changes to the deeper transformations that net real business value.

She used the example of redecorating a home versus renovating it. When redecorating, you change furniture and maybe hang some new paintings. When you renovate, you get down to the foundation, pipe and frame level, The latter is the approach you need to take with your customer experience. You have to get down to the bones of your business and make substantive changes to everything from how contracts are written and your supply chain runs, to who you hire and how they are incentivized.

Forrester CX NYC 2018 was an incredible experience and I know that we at InMoment take this mandate and its meaning to heart. Thank you to Forrester for a great event!

To find out more about how InMoment can be a real engine of growth for your company, schedule a demo with one of our CX strategists.

The Practical Magic of Artificial Intelligence

To be human is to continually look for improvement, to innovate and to cast an eye to the future. Simply put – we live in an ever changing world.

Economic, societal and environmental forces create constant metamorphosis in our thoughts, feelings, and actions – one way this is evident is in the way we as customers interact with brands.

One of the key drivers for change in perceptions of brands and our experiences with them is artificial intelligence (AI). For some, this technology feels alien – new, exciting and perhaps a little scary, yet it has been around for decades. As far back as the 50s when Alan Turing made waves in computing advancements, automation in technology and machine learning has been a constant in human innovation. Fast forward nearly 70 years and AI is everywhere – from spam filters ubiquitous in email technology to Alexa and Google Home.

This innovation, however, has come at a price, most fervently felt in the lack of trust towards brands in a so-called techlash against those at the frontier of tech – Amazon, Google, Facebook, and Apple. This techlash has also caused a wider issue around for any breaches of customer data. As we continue to innovate, we must consider the challenges technology such as AI brings, particularly for businesses that are looking to apply it to improve the customer experience.

For many brands, the key battle is between acquiring and enhancing use of data whilst nurturing customers’ trust. Trust is a funny, and sometimes elusive thing – difficult to attain but remarkably easy to lose. Keith Weed, Chief Marketing and Communications Officer at Unilever explains this as “a BRAND without TRUST is just a product. Trust arrives on foot, but it leaves on horseback.” The Facebook/Cambridge Analytica scandal cast a gloomy shadow over brands’ use of customer data, highlighting a major shift in power and expectations between customers and brands – and the need to fundamentally change the agreement and ground rules between these two groups.

With the fallout from Cambridge Analytica, the introduction of GDPR in May, and the widely-discussed perception that AI could cause job losses,  it could be argued that the drive to innovate is threatened. However, the opportunity to harness the learnings from our recent experiences with data is innumerable. GDPR (and other legislation) is in fact an opportunity, to drive transparent and authentic conversations with customers and move from conducting transactions to building relationships – enabled by technology. The key is doing so in a way that benefits the customer and does not border on a ‘creepy’ engagement, such as receiving a prompt from Google to post a photo at a popular location you’ve just visited. InMoment’s annual CX Trends survey found that 75% of customers find most forms of personalisation creepy, so it is imperative brands respect customer data and understand what level of personalisation enhances the customer experience.

To forge and leverage these relationships to create reciprocal benefit, brands must go beyond listening and engage customers in always-on, intelligent conversations. It’s about engaging rather than eavesdropping, using real-time analysis and response of customer feedback across all channels – from social media networks to CX surveys  – and harness predictive technology to respond to customers in a way that works for me. By doing so, brands will welcome customers as co-creators of the customer experience and create value-added relationships.

It’s time for brands to change their perception of AI and see the value it brings, augmenting human experiences and interactions. For example, AI could be used to take away mundane, repetitive tasks that could give employees time to focus on driving real change, such as investing more time in providing customers with authentic expertise.

Where AI will really show its mettle is in its ability to spot trends for brands when using a range of different touch points with their customers – critical in CX. AI will support the next stage in the evolution of CX, such as enabling more conversational surveys via chatbots and shifting reporting to predicting and eventually prescribing. For brands looking to harness AI in this way, success will rely on sourcing the right data, ensuring continuous testing, learning and adapting, measuring everything and setting appropriate expectations. With this, brands will be able to fly in the era of the relationship.

Multichannel Communications and the 24/7 Customer

With a rise in social media communications, the goal posts of customer engagement have forever shifted, demanding a more instant and personal approach from brands. Traversing each channel of communication can be a minefield, with each one requiring its own style and speed of response. At the same time, customers are becoming increasingly savvy to alternate ways to reach a brand and this has changed the expectations of customer experience. In this piece, InMoment investigates the current state of play for brands in the multichannel communication sphere and explores how they can find the balance in their own CX approaches.

Whether it be responding to a customer complaint or a more general enquiry, the multichannel approach is bringing the consumer into ever closer contact with a business. As a result, brands need to evolve their CX approach to ensure they can continue to meet the expectations of customers who demand a 24/7 response – those businesses that do this will thrive. This means a CX programme needs to take into consideration bricks and mortar retailing, online operations, mobile interfaces, social platforms and beyond.
While each channel is distinct they should not be looked at as siloed avenues – with the technology now available, brands can build an open response model, allowing them to successfully bring their CX strategy into alignment with the multiple channels available for communication.

What is key for businesses is to invest in technology that enhances the customer experience. InMoment’s latest CX Trends Survey, launched in April this year, found that brands often overinvest in technology for the sake of it rather than looking at what will impact the relationship with the consumer. The survey found that the most valuable experiences that involve technology reflect a desire for convenience: self-checkout at a physical store and the ability to give feedback via a mobile device. The fact that customers are so eager to share feedback is golden for brands, since it gives them opportunities to listen and act.

If brands are implementing new technology, they must ensure that it provides value to the customer experience across all channels. One example of a brand using cutting-edge tech to do just that is IKEA. Using augmented reality, they provide customers with a high-tech solution to very practical challenges: virtually seeing what a specific paint colour will look like in context, and seeing how a piece of furniture will fit into a room — both in terms of size and aesthetics. The key to investing in flashy new technology is to ensure they align with your overall brand strategy and follow through to ensure they make a real impact on customers.

Businesses should also see the 24/7 consumer as an opportunity to create new found levels of engagement with their target audience. Brands need to embrace the multichannel approach and renovate any outdated CX models that don’t encompass the nuances of each platform. In the last few months we’ve seen dozens of retailers and hospitality businesses significantly downsize or collapse, such as Toys R Us, Maplin and Prezzo. We’ve seen the ease of purchasing via online retailers and price-competitive grocers being blamed, along with falling behind with vital store updates, however, what many brands are missing is the importance of nailing the customer experience, in a relevant way for all customers across every brand touchpoint.

There are clear pressures for brands, such as increasing operational costs and squeezed budgets, but this is where understanding what is important to customers is paramount. Businesses that create memorable, positive impressions are the ones that will prosper – those that deliver what they promise, consistently across all platforms, and really listen to their customers. Staff interaction cannot be overlooked as it has a huge impact – both good and bad – on the customer experience. Consumers want real connections with staff who are well-trained to educate and inform across all channels. Over 73% of customers reported in InMoment’s survey that staff interaction is key when creating positive experiences – and a further 61% said poor staff attitude, lack of knowledge and slow or unhelpful service contributed to a negative memorable experience. Brands should look for ways to reduce customer pain points, increase frequency of opportunities to delight, and measure the change, and this must happen wherever a customer interacts with a brand.

One of the key opportunities for brands is to implement always-on listening, plugging in CX feedback technology into all channels to ensure customer feedback is being consistently collected, analysed and acted upon. AI will be key, opening up barriers to communication and empowering CX professionals by arming them with relevant and timely data. Brands that embrace this technology, listen to customers consistently and – most importantly – make operational changes based on this data will keep the 24/7 customer on side.

The Importance of a CX-Centric Mindset for Today’s CMO

As the chief marketing officer of a customer experience intelligence company, I am often asked for my thoughts on the intersection between marketing and customer experience (CX). The two are similar in many ways and related because both are focused on connecting with the customer. The how and why of the connection with the customer can vary fairly substantially, however, and I believe that is where opportunity lies for a CMO with a CX-centric mindset.

The role of the CMO has changed substantially over the past several decades. It used to be marketing was primarily responsible for the definition and stewardship of the brand and, along with that, considered a cost-center. This was the era for the famous quote of “I know 50% of my marketing is working, I just don’t know which 50%.”

Then came the digital decade where everything could be measured, tracked, and quantified. This changed the role of the CMO to more of a “revenue generator.” As a result, Gartner stated at the beginning of 2017 that, “over the past several years, we’ve witnessed an expansion of the CMO mandate, from what was largely a promotional role to what is now often seen as the growth engine for the business.” We were sitting on top of the world. Our influence was growing, our budgets increasing.

Looking back, I tend to think of this shift as a pendulum swing, with the brand emphasis being on one side, the digital components on the other, and the role of the CMO swinging back and forth between the two. This pattern has recently been interrupted, however; by the end of 2017 Gartner found marketing budgets stagnating and stated, “marketing leaders must now justify past budget commitments and who the returns they deliver to ensure the future fiscal health of marketing.”

What changed? There are a lot of answers to that question—market environment, consumer expectations, competitive pressures.  Marketing that is solely focused on an “acquisition” mindset isn’t working the same way it did even a year or two ago. Customers want, and frankly expect, a different kind of relationship with businesses. So, the pendulum is swinging back toward a middle ground where there is equal emphasis on brand promise/brand delivery and acquisition.

That middle ground requires today’s CMO to play a bigger part in the “end-to-end customer relationship,” which is where customer experience comes into the picture. Customer experience, when done well, is a holistic company initiative where every department plays an important role. The opportunity for the CMO is to help facilitate and coordinate this process. Often, a customer’s first exposure to a business is through marketing; if what they experience is inconsistent with their expectations, you’ve got a problem.

How do you understand if you are meeting customer expectations or not? You listen to your customers. How do you know if your brand promise resonates with them? They will tell you. Marketers have historically used market research, and traditional surveys to gain customer understanding, but they need something more; they need customer intelligence. Customers today are speaking to you and about you more than ever. They understand their voice has power, and they are willing to give loyalty to those brands that respect them and listen.

In order to make the move to customer experience intelligence, CMOs need a shift in mindset. The goal should no longer be just about acquiring customers, but also what the company needs to do to maintain and grow those customers. It should focus on the experience that allows for both of those scenarios. This doesn’t lie in just listening to your customers and doing whatever they ask, but rather optimizing the customer experience.

Optimization includes not only what matters to the customer, but also what matters to the business. Is what they’re asking feasible? Reasonable? Doable? Would acting on their demands have a positive impact on the business results? If you can’t answer these questions, you could focus your CX efforts on the wrong areas and essentially customer experience yourself out of business. Therefore, a focus on optimization is vital to a CX-centric mindset.

When a CMO focuses their efforts on the things that satisfy their customer and their business goals, they can lead their company to true CX intelligence and fulfill their evolved role of fostering relationships while also proving ROI every step of the way.

CX Trends: The Human Factor

Despite apocalyptic talk that artificial intelligence will replace people at some time in the not-too-distant future, InMoment’s annual US CX Trends report revealed that the human factor continues to be the primary force in making or breaking the customer experience. Consumers value genuine connections with staff who are well-trained to care, educate and inform, whether in-store, online, or on the phone.

More than six out of ten (65%) of US consumers report that “staff interaction” highly influenced their decision to buy more products from a brand, while another 65% reported that access to educators and experts is highly influential.

In researching factors that contributed to positive, memorable experiences, we found good alignment between what consumers prioritize and what brands felt was most important to their customers. Consumers’ top 5 contributors to positive experiences were staff interaction, access to experts/educators, loyalty treated differently, trial / testing options, and exclusive products/services. Similarly, brands ranked their top five as staff interaction, loyalty treated differently, customization options, exclusive products/services, and access to experts/educators.

While human interaction is key to positive experiences, it’s also the top factor in poor experiences. And while brands recognize this fact, they significantly underestimate the real damage employees can do to the relationship with customers—and to the bottom line.

Almost three-fourths (74%) of consumers report that poor staff interactions (due to negative attitudes, lack of knowledge, or other reasons) were the key contributor to the type of bad experiences that they remember. By comparison, only 29% of brands reported the same.  This shopping 45% gap in understanding was the biggest disconnect in the study.

With human interactions so clearly influential in customer relationships, brands must ensure that employees who work directly with customers can make the kind of emotional connection that reinforces positive, memorable experiences. While this can be challenging, especially in industries with high, front-line turnover rates, the stakes are too high to ignore.

So what else should brands so to ensure positive experience? In addition to their own staff, brands can leverage outside experts to boost the experience. We’ve seen this work well for brands that partner with both professional “experts” and respected peer voices—particularly on social platforms. With more customers than ever crowdsourcing their buying decisions, it makes sense to invest in authentic relationships with others who can speak on your brand’s behalf.

Outside of human interaction, nothing makes an experience more memorable than ensuring your customers feel special. Loyalty perks were mentioned in the top five positive experience influencers for both brands and consumers, so leveraging a loyalty program can be a major differentiator. However, our research also indicated that not all perks are equal. It’s important to do the proper work of understanding what benefits truly deliver value that enhances the relationship. Finally, consumers also value the ability to try new products and services before they purchase. This makes an impact because it both allows them to feel special, and demonstrates a measure of trust.

In a world so focused on technology, it can be easy to underestimate the impact of human interaction. Given these findings, however, it’s clear that if brands should invest in hiring, training, and technology that supports their human talent delivering the most positive, memorable experiences possible.

To learn more about the latest findings in customer experience, download our 2018 CX Trends Report!

3 Myths About Millennials That Can Damage Your CX

The media has painted millennials as killers of many things — whether it’s napkins, diamonds or bars of soap. And if you pay attention to any of these headlines, you might view the generation as a group of ruthless avocado toast fiends who aren’t interested in any of the traditional products or marketing tactics that have worked for other generations.

But are millennial preferences really killing all of these industries and products? Despite what headlines imply, the answer is no.

Millennials are certainly influential (and as of this year, they have more spending power than any other generation), but this isn’t a generational issue. It’s a brand issue. Retailers only have themselves to blame for their inability to effectively connect with this generation. The danger in making false assumptions about millennials — or any customer segment — is that those assumptions can result in dramatically misguided customer experience (CX) strategies.

InMoment’s 2018 CX Trends report, a survey of 2,000 U.S. consumers and 1,000 U.S. brands, discovered several disconnects between what millennials actually think and what brand assume when it comes to retail CX.

Myth No. 1: Millennials Don’t Care About Privacy

Brands often believe that millennials have fewer privacy concerns than other generations. It’s an understandable impulse. Members of the selfie generation are comfortable with technology and use it to communicate, find love interests, and shape the outside worlds of who they are — much more so than their older counterparts. But that doesn’t mean they don’t care about privacy. In fact, they’re even more concerned about online boundaries than their parents.

Millennials are more aware of brands crossing privacy lines, according to InMoment’s research. More than one in five (22 percent) millennials report they’ve had “creepy” experiences with brands over the past year, compared to only 11 percent of the silent generation and 13 percent of baby boomers.

This shows a heightened concern for brands that breach the thin line between “cared for” and “creepy.” While personalization efforts can create stronger connections and more engaging experiences for shoppers, they can easily go awry if shoppers feel violated. Brands must prioritize transparency and ensure they’re making it worth it for millennials to share personal information.

Myth No. 2: Millennials Are All Digital

When strategizing for millennials, brands often misinterpret digital native to mean digital only. Millennials are obviously engaged in digital channels, but they’re not shopping online only. Instead, they prioritize variety and seamless omnichannel experiences.

For example, nearly a third (32 percent) of millennials rank in-store pickup options for items purchased online as very important. Brands estimated that number to be half (16 percent).

Additionally, 29 percent of millennials rank physical locations for e-tailers (like Amazon.com or Bonobos) as very important factors for positive customer experiences, indicating that sometimes they want the in-person experience with products and services, even for those brands that traditionally only played in the online realm.

Myth No. 3: Millennials Are Unique in Wanting Brands to Be Aligned With Their Causes

Millennials get a lot of flak for being militant “social justice warriors” who expect brands to advocate for specific causes. But the data tells a more complex story.

While 58 percent of millennials report that it’s important for brands to invest in social causes (e.g., environmental advocacy groups), this number doesn’t differ much across generations. In fact, 55 percent of Gen Xers and 51 percent of baby boomers reported wanting brands to be aligned with their priorities.

In this case, a good percentage of all consumers — not just millennials — are putting pressure on brands to improve corporate social responsibility efforts. However, the fact that all demographics rate this in the 50 percent range indicates that while it’s important, other factors are as well. By viewing this issue as a niche millennial concern and over-rotating, brands risk alienating millennials who may not be activists, or activists across other generations.

Listen to Your Customers, Not Generational Stereotypes

These myths reveal a broader truth that retailers can’t ignore: MIllennials can’t be shoved in a box, and neither can other generations. It shouldn’t be a surprise that different generations have developed different shopping and brand relationships, but generalizations about age aren’t always universal.

Many brands make too many assumptions that don’t accurately tell the story of what customers want. To better inform CX strategies, brands need to listen to their customers rather than rely on stereotypes.

The voice of the customer (VoC) is far more important than the age of the customer. While much has been said about the preferences of millennials, nothing replaces the opinions of millennials themselves, which are diverse and wide ranging.

Brands that can actively listen to their customers, find the real meaning, and the leverage this intelligence to make real changes to their customer experience will be the ones that thrive — not those relying on outdated misconceptions. Research that illustrates generational and preferential trends can be useful, but only if it’s supplemental to an active, effective VoC strategy.

Customer Experience Trends: Getting the Essentials Right

In our 2018 CX Trends report, our research delved into some of the aspects that make experiences memorable, including how elements like staff, environment, technology, etc. impact the customer experience, and to what degree.

We also wanted to explore some of the new fangled ways brands are either delivering products and services (e.g. pop-up stores and pre-packaged cook-at-home meals), or pairing the experience with things like augmented reality. We evaluated these elements on whether and how much consumers said they valued these additions (basically an understanding of a customer’s initial response on whether or not they feel something’s useful), as well as how much of an impact these elements have on creating positive, memorable experiences.

The high-value factors included self-serve checkout, human interaction, and being treated with special consideration, where the low value factors included pre-packaged meals, pop-up stores, virtual reality, and facial recognition.

Then there were the memorable factors, which included human interaction and being treated with special consideration. On the other hand, self-serve checkout, mobile, and social were deemed to have low memorability,  

While brands, and even some consumers may think some of the newer elements of customer experiences (social, mobile, VR, etc.) as intriguing, almost none bubbled up as either being categorized as “valuable” by consumers, or having a significant impact on long-term memorability.

The one outlier was self-checkout. Consumers ranked it as a valuable service, but ranked it low when it came to its impact on making experiences memorable. Perhaps surprisingly, we saw consumers rank mobile and social low on their impact to memorability. One possible explanation is that we may be seeing cases where newer elements of customer experience emerge and quickly go from “shiny” to expected.

The two basics of “human interaction” and “being treated special” (exclusive offers, loyalty programs, etc.) came through again as being highly influential on memorability, emphasizing the critical nature of getting this part of the experience right.

With this revelation in mind, it shows that it pays off for brands to be thoughtful when rolling out new tech or delivery models. Though they are innovative and exciting, they should prioritize those that lead to long-term, positive memorability. Additionally, brands should ensure that those new additions align with brand aspirations, are presented with consistent messaging, and double check that they make a real impact.

In summary, nothing replaces the power of people making other people feel special. Hire, train, and coach to that end.

To learn more about the latest findings in customer experience, download our 2018 CX Trends Report!

Why Utah Won’t Birth the Next Twitter (And Why We Shouldn’t Want To)

This article was originally published in the Spring 2018 edition of Silicon Slopes Magazine.

For years, Silicon Valley has served as the standard for the tech industry. Its innovations have fundamentally and forever changed the ways we store data, connect with peers, track our customers, call a cab, and receive news. And while success breeds success, it also invites exorbitant costs of living, traffic congestion, and ballooning salaries.

For this reason, many startups, venture capitalists, and top talent have found homes in non-coastal locales where the lifestyle is inviting, and cities put out big welcome mats in the form of tax breaks and eager workers. For up-and-coming technology hubs, “becoming the next Silicon Valley” is not a misguided goal, but I’m not certain it’s an ideal aspiration either.

Our local tech boom along the I-15 corridor has been seismic. Well-known drivers of our up-to-now success include exceptional quality of life in the mountains, a supportive business community, and a local pool of technical talent from the surrounding universities make this an extremely fertile ecosystem for Utah-bred startups.

There are three more factors that don’t get as much air time, but in my outsider’s opinion, are just as critical.

Invested Investors

We still hear a lot of chatter from both insiders and outsiders about the lack of large VC firms hindering our growth. As someone who’s played that game, I have a different perspective. I think Utah companies actually have a unique advantage in a rare breed of local funders who have both the structure and mindset that allows them to invest in companies at different stages of growth. These “invested investors” mean that entrepreneurs spend much less effort trying to fit into someone else’s boxes, and more time building products and organizations that work.

Everybody Wins

The local business ecosystem possesses an ideal balance of humility and ambition, and a general willingness to help others. A climate of collaborative competition, where motivation and support are both in play, is a much more productive environment to grow a successful business. A naturally-occurring, recognizable entrepreneurial culture like this simply can’t be manufactured.

Homogenous Diversity

Part of the reason we’re such a collaborative bunch is that we get each other. Our business leaders have shared experiences that breed both connection and openness to new people and ideas. And while we’ve gotten a lot of mileage of out of it so far, this sameness can also limit us. The next big opportunity for Utah’s entrepreneur and tech community is to harness that openness to seek out people who are different than us — to create environments that attract the unfamiliar and unexpected. This type of outside-in diversity is what fuels that creative spark and leads to next-level innovation.

Utah shouldn’t want to birth the next Twitter. There was a time and a place for that kind of leap, and it’s already been done. This next phase of business-building will be a time where all new companies are technology ventures. And with a rich heritage of foundational tech, paired with our unique strengths and opportunities, we’re more than ready to take the next step that’s all our own. Yes, Silicon Valley will always have wisdom to teach, but its path isn’t ours. And that’s a good thing.

Don’t Let Distractions Be Your CX Kryptonite

Sometimes CX programs simply need to be saved.

Whether insights seemingly dry up, executive leadership changes, or things simply feel “stale,” sometimes companies need to hit the “reset button” on their CX programs. And more often than not, it’s because businesses get distracted by elements that ultimately do not support their goals.

I don’t need to explain what a distraction is (e.g., your co-worker who insists on showing you videos of his children every five minutes). In CX, they’re no different. Anything that detracts focus from your business objectives and delivering on your brand promise is detrimental to your program’s success. Ultimately, a CX program is about understanding what your customers — and employees — are telling you and focusing on what matters most to them.

If you’re getting distracted from this essential mission, it’s time to shift focus. The path to CX success is riddled with potential pitfalls, and just like Superman navigates Metropolis’ many traps, today’s CX experts should be aware of looming dangers and how to avoid them.

Don’t Get Distracted, Get Focused

For CX in particular, it’s easy to be distracted by NPS, OSAT, and other CX metrics. It’s even easier to become distracted by the sheer amount of data available to today’s organizations. There is of course value in being able to trust your technology, and brands should feel confident about the integrity of their data and the accuracy of reporting. However, many brands are unable to differentiate between metrics and real-world consumer desires and behaviors.

Dedicating too much energy to metrics creates a decision-making environment where stakeholders overemphasize numbers and stop paying attention to emerging trends that positively impact customer and/or employee experiences. In their attempts to be the superheroes who can save the world, CX champions often struggle to support key business objectives.

While some brands cannot dedicate team members to CX research just yet, simple technology integrations make it easier to get on the same page with consumers now. Solutions exist to source and manage important customer feedback, and the most sophisticated can do this both quantitatively and qualitatively. These technologies can also incorporate employee voices to generate a holistic understanding of what an ideal customer experience looks and feels like.

The Benefits of Being a Customer-Centric Organization

There are many benefits to adopting a customer-centric approach to business operations, but the biggest is the ability to pivot and grow with target audiences.

For a multitude of reasons, most companies will come to a crossroads with their CX programs. However, only brands that have committed to learning more about customers and their desired experiences will know when it’s actually the right time for change. If a score stagnates, it’s simply a sign to focus your efforts on things that truly impact the customer experience — not just the score.

Learning more about customers helps stakeholders realign their roadmaps to both address lingering CX concerns and improve outcomes. For example, a brand may be funneling too many resources to mobile application development when in reality, talking to customers reveals that improvements to payments/returns would make a more positive, immediate impact. Rather than getting caught up in its own preconceived notions of what defines a strong CX, this brand would be better off hearing directly from its customers.

Direct customer feedback leads naturally to a blended, productive relationship between metrics and customer behavior information. An organization’s existing KPIs may be what’s holding back its CX program, as these metrics are measured against what was once thought to be true of consumers. In 2018, brands need to revisit their KPIs and allow modern consumer opinions to speak louder than existing operations.

The more comprehensive the review of one’s CX program, the easier it is to identify elements that do not support, and actually distract from, true business goals. And when brands can do this, they open themselves up to a world of new opportunities that trickle down to improvements for customers and employees.

And what superpower is better than that?

Customer Experience Trends: 3 Millennial Myths

As I have discussed in previous posts, the findings from our 2018 CX Trends Report highlighted several misconceptions brands have about their customers. These disconnects show up in different ways, including memorability of experiences or the creepiness of personalization efforts. In this post, I would like to discuss the false assumptions many brands make about Millennials.

It’s safe to say that Millennials (born 1981-1997) have been the subject of a lot of debate and generalizations by brands. It is incredibly common to see articles on their buying preferences and the way they are changing and even killing some industries on a regular basis. Organizations — many begrudgingly — have made changes in an attempt to connect with this generation, but our findings reveal that there are a few myths they have about Millennials that could be misdirecting their attempts.

Myth #1: Millennials don’t think twice about sharing personal data.

Brands tend to believe that Millennials are more excited about new technology than older generations, with few privacy concerns and no hesitation to give away personal information. In fact, the opposite is true: Older generations report fewer creepy experiences from brands, while Millennials report the highest (at 22%, compared to 11% for the Silent Generation and 13% for Baby Boomers).

Myth #2: Millennials are all-digital.

The next misconception brands seem to hold is that Millennials are exclusively digital, preferring to conduct all of their personal and commercial interactions from their mobile devices. Our research finds that there’s a lot more to the story — in fact, Millennials are true omnichannel consumers who find value in shopping online, through mobile apps, and in physical locations. For example, 32% of Millennials rank the ability to buy online and then pick up in store as very valuable, and 29% rank physical locations for e-tailers like Amazon as very important.

Myth #3: Millennials are unique in wanting brands to be aligned with their causes.

While there’s a lot of chatter about Millennials nearly forcing brands to advocate for their specific causes, the data tells a more complex truth. Yes, 58% of Millennials do feel that it is important or very important that brands they support invest in causes near and dear to them — but so do other generations. About 55% of Gen Xers and 51% of Baby Boomers said the same thing.

When it comes down to it, it’s vital that brands understand that Millennials are not all they’ve assumed. To combat misunderstandings, organizations should be transparent in how they use or Millennial data, offer choices in how to engage with the brand, and pay attention to the causes that inspire them without forgetting the basics like price, ease, and functionality.

To learn more about the latest findings in customer experience, download our 2018 CX Trends Report!

Customer Experience Trends: Is Your Personalization too Personal?

In my last post, I discussed findings from InMoment’s 2018 CX Trends Report. In this annual study, we explore brand/consumer perspectives on various areas of the customer experience, which allows us to identify where there is alignment as well as disconnects in perception and expectations.

One area where we saw a significant disconnect was around personalization efforts and the requisite need brands have to mine and hoard their customers’ personal details and preferences. While brands brazenly claim they’re asking for these private bits “in an effort to improve the customer experience,” consumers aren’t so sure they’re benefiting from the exchange. In this year’s study we asked consumers and brands to tell us whether these efforts made them feel “cared for” as brands claim, or whether the result instead makes them feel “creepy.”  We put a slight twist on the questions to brands, asking on which end of the spectrum they feel their own actions lie, and the answers were fascinating.

A whopping 75% of consumers find most forms of personalization to be at least somewhat creepy, and 25% found these efforts to be very creepy. Surprisingly, 40% of brands admitted that some of their efforts were creepy, with 10% admitting they are very creepy. Kind of scary.

So what are some examples of “creepy” personalization efforts? Well, you don’t need to rely on second-hand interpretations because true to InMoment’s passion for providing forums where customers can have real conversations about their experiences, we asked several open-ended questions to understand what creepy sounds like in their words:    

  • “[The experience] was intrusive and too personal, and also presumptive about me and my wants and likes.
  • “I didn’t like being emailed about a product I had left in a cart on a website, or emailed about products I have recently searched. Also, I do not like targeted ads on websites. It feels like I’m being stalked.”
  • “[The brand] wanted me to enable/install the app to get a great in-store experience, but of course it ALSO asked for permissions to [access] my contacts, location, emails, etc. NO WAY.”
  • “I had an ex-boyfriend that lived beside a restaurant. I would sometimes take pictures of his cat. Google would immediately suggest that I upload those pictures to Google and review my experience at that restaurant.”

These comments helped us understand two things. First, consumers are keen to the exchange inequity. And second, the biggest violation occurs when there’s a crossover between the physical and digital worlds, like when they think Facebook or Instagram are listening to and then benefiting (a la targeted marketing) to their conversations.

Customers are creeped out and brands know they’re being creepy. So what? As luck would have it, our study went one step further and asked consumers not just how they felt about personalization attempts, but also what action they took when they veer into creepy. The results: 20% will leave, 22% will begin looking for another brand to serve their needs, and 31% of consumers will trash talk a brand after a creepy experience. So while the initial sting of the loss of business may not feel too painful, the compounding damage to a brand’s reputation may result in a compounding effect — kind of like throwing a stone into a pond. The damage continues to echo.    

At the end of the day, you want to build a relationship with your customers, not creep them out. The balance is tricky, but understanding what your customers truly value — what elements transform a creepy experience into one of real value — is worth the effort.  

To learn more, download the full 2018 CX Trends Report!

Preventing Employee Turnover with Artificial Intelligence

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has been heralded by many organisations as the answer to a myriad of business tasks, such as data analysis, stock management and customer service. Behind the scenes, AI is being used to drive automation and efficiencies that make businesses more responsive to customers in relevant ways to augment staffs’ abilities, and empower them to have more personalized and helpful interactions. AI is also being harnessed to improve the customer experience by intelligently listening and responding to customer feedback and making connections that would most likely elude a human.

In recent years, brands have started to take the journey approach they’ve applied to customers — viewing their interactions as a series of distinct, yet connected experiences – and applying it to employees. Employees sit at the intersection of your business and your customers’ experiences, and thus have a unique perspective on what’s working, what’s not, and most importantly, why.  AI can be utilised to ask employees for their perspective at key moments, for example, immediately after they’ve resolved a customer concern to support in improving overall customer experience.

Learning from the customer journey

Customer demands continually change, with shifting expectations and competitors creating new barometers, metrics and points of comparison each and every day. Nearly all brands survey customers about their experiences, and to a widely varying extent, use that intelligence to make improvements. While this myopic approach may have worked in the past, it will not continue to work in the future. Consumers interact with increasingly sophisticated technologies through multiple channels on a daily basis, and in the process, gain increased expectations of timeliness, personalisation and ease.  For example, dating site apps provide user-friendly, intuitive experiences, whilst many banks offer mobile banking to enable customers to lot into a personalised mobile app and move money with scan of their fingerprint. This means when a customer interacts with a brand and the experience is perceived as more difficult or even archaic in their use of technology, their view of the laggard brand will be tainted. Despite its clear benefits, only one in five businesses across the globe, out of 3,000 surveyed by MIT Sloan Management Review, have adopted some form of AI in their operations. Those brands that readily adopt AI will have a vast range of data at their fingertips and will be able to make critical business decisions much more easily and provide experiences that meet customers’ continually changing expectations.

Forward looking brands are already turning to AI to drive automation and augment human interactions to be more responsive to customers in relevant ways. For example, AI technologies embedded in customer experience feedback can aide in channelling customers to the “right” customer service agent with the suitable emotional and professional background, armed with the customers’ past and recent history, as well as recommendations on how to best engage. Emerging “whisper bots” may serve as virtual real time counsellors, analysing a customer’s words and tone, and then providing coaching to front line staff in the moment of interaction.

Empowering employees with AI

Leveraging AI to empower your employees is one important application of this technology. Wise brands are also harnessing AI to bring employees even deeper into the customer experiences. Specifically, it can be used to prompt follow up questions within an employee and customer experience feedback programme, keying in on what the employee is saying, analyse the data individually, and in aggregate, and then report this intelligence to the relevant people and places across the business who can make changes and key into opportunities. For example, if the AI senses a spike in employees mentioning that customers are calling in with questions on how to operate a product and finding that the problem stems from a part that’s malfunctioning, information can be automatically routed to product, marketing and customer care. Not only does this address customer satisfaction and efficiency issues, employees experience less frustration and a higher level of satisfaction in their own jobs.

The key is harnessing AI across a full range of listening, analysis and reporting processes – in an always-on, systematic fashion – to what employees have to say about both their own experiences, as well as the customer experience. Giving them ownership, as co-creators of the business’ success, creates a fundamental shift in the way employees view and engage in their own jobs, in the success of the brand, and in the relationship with the customer. It’s a non-zero-sum game.

Beyond making efficiencies, AI can be used to understand how employees are faring along their own journeys and professionals and help prevent turnover. The biggest challenges when it comes to understanding employees’ attitudes towards their work and the wider business is keeping open communication. By applying the same technologies and practices more common in customer listening to more systematic and deliberate employee listening, businesses can keep up a continuous flow of understanding about their employees and gain valuable insight into their engagement levels and whether they’re likely to leave the business or perhaps be a key candidate for promotion.

Employee turnover is a key area that if tracked and better understood, major savings can be made. There comes a certain time in the employee journey when they begin to question if they’re a right fit in the organisation. This rings especially true in high-turnover industries like retail, food and hospitality. Predictive technology can determine when an employee’s engagement drops and use this to proactively intervene and provide critical support, reducing turnover and lowering the costs of replacing human capital.

With high training costs and the potential for reduced workload with new staff, retaining employees – even in high-staff volume sectors – is much more cost effective. By closely analysing the employee journey brands can better understand why an employee becomes engaged or disengaged, whether they’re a new hire or a long-time employee.

AI also works to spot patterns in historic data to predict future behaviour. If the data shows that engagement falls at a certain point for specific roles or at distinct milestones, then there is the opportunity to try to change that pattern, and break that cycle. If there is something more profound, for example the company often acts as a stepping stone for millennials in their careers, then being mindful of this pattern can help ensure that recruitment is set up to deal with this engagement curve. As a result customers don’t suffer due to unpredictable employee churn, and their satisfaction does not take a downturn.

Artificial Intelligence should be seen by organisations as a key area of investment over the next five years. Besides improving operations, it can help analyse the points of truth along an employee journey, inform employers about why and when an employee becomes disengaged, and alert managers so they can take the most effective course of action.

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