Here are 4 Customer Experience Trends to Focus on in 2022

(This post, written by Dan Gingiss, originally appeared on the GetFeedback blog.)

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We are in unprecedented times. Customers are more demanding, employees are working remotely or even resigning entirely, and supply chain issues have negatively affected products ranging from automobiles to toilet paper. Even the best crisis and business continuity plans were thrown out the window months ago.

One silver lining of the COVID-19 pandemic is that there’s been a brighter spotlight on customer and employee experience. Both customers and employees know which companies have been supportive during these tough times and which have not. Brand loyalty has been built—and destroyed—at a record pace.

Seventy-two percent of customers agree with the statement: “I am loyal to certain brands, but as soon as I have a bad experience with them, I move on.” That’s one bad experience, not a series of mistakes. So customer experience, long a brand differentiator, is now a critical component to business survival.

In The 2022 State of CX Report, GetFeedback, the leading customer experience feedback platform, identified several keys to success when it comes to prioritizing customer experience and delivering tangible results. The study surveyed more than 2,200 CX professionals in the U.S. and Europe across 26 industries.

In this article I highlight the four key trends and takeaways that will lead to CX success in 2022.

Key #1: collaboration across business units

Customer experience is often thought of as “everyone’s job,” but in reality that kind of thinking can lead to it being no one’s job. Thus, a strong centralized CX team paired with a culture of collaboration across departments, allows companies to both see the big picture and dig deep into individual customer touchpoints.

About one-third of companies have a holistic leader or department that focuses on the end-to-end customer experience, according to the report; expect that number to rise significantly in the next couple of years.

GetFeedback also found that companies which significantly collaborate cross-functionally are 27% more likely to have a “high” or “very high” return on investment (ROI) for their CX program. In fact, among companies which reported significant collaboration between business units, 72% also reported “very high” ROI. (According to the study, ROI is most often measured as impact on new growth, impact on retention rate, and impact on cost-to-service.)

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A key component of collaboration is collecting voice of the customer feedback at every touchpoint and sharing that insight with all affected business units. Unfortunately, GetFeedback’s study found that collecting real-time customer feedback is the third-most prevalent barrier to CX program success.

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The best customer feedback combines quantitative and qualitative––touching on how the customer interacts with your business and how they feel when doing so. For more on how to collect and act on customer feedback, check out this free CX class taught by yours truly.

Key #2: happy employees equal happy customers

Think of the relationship between employee experience and customer experience as an infinity symbol (∞). When employees are happy, they better serve customers, thereby making those customers happy.

When customers are happy, it makes employees’ jobs more fun and satisfying, thereby making them happy too. It’s a continuous process that can build on itself, which is why companies known for a great customer experience are also known as being great places to work.

Unfortunately, the inverse is also true. We can’t expect employees to provide a great experience for customers if they don’t know what makes a great experience. And there’s no question that difficult customers make employees’ jobs harder and more frustrating.

In fact, GetFeedback found that “employee motivation” and “skills and training” are the two biggest hurdles to CX program success.

A recent study by Momentive found that a quarter of employees say they’re likely to leave their current jobs in the next six months; the main reason (46%) being “work stress.” Companies must stand behind their employees and ensure they feel healthy, safe, heard, and empowered. During the pandemic this has meant relaxing policies on work-from-home, allowing employees to take care of kids, pets, and sick family members during work hours. Additionally, it gives them more leeway to seek creative solutions for customers, and to take employee feedback seriously.

In addition, collaborating with Human Resources (HR) is critical to ensuring both employee and customer experience success. Here are the top three ways your ​​CX team can collaborate with HR for better results on customer and employee experience.

Key #3: more personalization is needed, as long as it’s the right kind

Personalization has become a popular buzzword in the customer experience space, but many personalization attempts fall flat with the customer. Why? Because too many companies use the wrong definition of personalization.

According to Dictionary.com, personalization can mean either:

  1. The act or process of marking with one’s initials, name, or monogram

  2. The act or process of tailoring something to meet an individual’s specifications, needs, or preferences

Adhering to the first definition often results in failed attempts at appearing to be “personalized.” For example, we’ve all received an email that begins, “Dear {FIRSTNAME}.” This simply tells a customer that the company has invested in fancy mail merge software that isn’t working. It’s inauthentic and more of a check-the-box activity rather than a true attempt at personalization.

Consider identifying more “variables” about your customer that go beyond {FIRSTNAME} and {LASTNAME}. This can easily be done while collecting customer feedback in surveys, website feedback forms, or even customer service phone calls.

For example, recognizing a customer’s birthday or other important life and career milestones is a simple, inexpensive, and personalized way to show that you’re paying attention and that you care. It improves the customer experience and engenders loyalty with almost no cost.

Similarly, online pet supplies retailer Chewy has implemented very personalized customer service emails that include the name of the customer and the name of the customer’s pet. These emails are likely templates, so they are scalable, but they don’t come off that way to customers.

The second definition by Dictionary.com is what is meant by “personalization” in a customer experience sense. Today’s customers are eschewing mass-marketed and mass-produced products in favor of customized, handmade, and yes, personalized experiences. They want products, services, and experiences, designed for them.

The 2022 State of CX report defines personalized customer experiences as: “Building products, services, and interactions––obtained from customer data points like purchase history, industry, location, etc.––that meet your customer’s unique and individual expectations, preferences, and requirements.”

The report found that 73% of respondents have increased their efforts in delivering a personalized experience to customers, with more than half of them focused on customer surveys and building customized products and services.

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Dynamic website experiences and segmented customer messaging were also popular methods. Luckily, the concurrent shift toward digital-first experiences makes this easier, but beware of depending too much on automation at the expense of authenticity.

Key #4: if home is where the heart is, then loyalty is where the wallet is

The link between customer experience and loyalty is clear: Customers who have positive experiences with businesses are more likely to stay longer, spend more, and refer their friends and colleagues. After all, wouldn’t every company like to say that their customers are their best salespeople?

Indeed, the GetFeedback report found that the top priority for 2022 among CX professionals is boosting customer loyalty. Interestingly, the other top priorities—such as collecting and analyzing customer feedback, taking more strategic action on CX data, and cultivating a customer-centric culture—are all means to the same end: increased customer loyalty.

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Companies don’t need a “loyalty program” to create loyalty. Yes, many customers enjoy collecting points or miles to get free stuff. But true loyalty is when customers want to do business with the company again and again without a financial incentive; they aren’t price shopping, or lured by a one-time new customer promotion. They aren’t even considering other brands—because they feel like they’re right where they belong.

The question, then, is how to get there. Start with these critical steps:

  1. Collect real-time customer feedback across all channels. Make sure to collect both quantitative (e.g., Customer Satisfaction Score) and qualitative (open-ended comments). No detail is too small. It’s important to understand what you’re doing right (so you can do more of it) and what you’re doing wrong (so you can stop doing that and do something better instead).

  2. Analyze customer feedback, quickly. Depending on the size of your business, the sheer volume of customer feedback can get overwhelming. That’s why it’s critical to analyze, summarize, and report on the key findings fast, so that leaders across the company know what they have to do to improve the experience. Note, however, that generating yet another report for executives is not the end game.

  3. Take action on customer feedback in real time. Collecting, analyzing, and reporting on customer feedback is worthless if it isn’t actionable. Track the key findings to specific projects to create, improve, or fix the experience, and then close the feedback loop by letting customers know you heard them and took action because of their feedback in a timely manner.

Customers know what they want, and as long as you’re not afraid to ask, they will definitely tell you. Companies that are willing to listen and adapt as necessary will gain customers’ trust and therefore their loyalty. And the ones that look beyond the individual transaction to the lifetime value of a customer will quickly learn that a loyal customer is well worth the investment.

No matter what business we’re in, we have to be ready for something like this to happen again. There is no longer any excuse to be unprepared. Take the time to map out a detailed plan that anticipates the next crisis, using learnings from the current one.

Download The 2022 State of CX Report by GetFeedback to uncover more emerging trends that are influencing the decision-making and strategies driving the new era of customer experience.