With the new year ahead, there is no better time than now to start discussing 2018 customer experience predictions.

While taking a look at how customer experience programs matured this year, we saw a “customer obsession” shift from an operational business standpoint — a prediction Forrester made in late 2016. 

A leading example of how this shift played out this year are the moves made by streaming service provider Netflix. Their efforts to understand and really get to know their customers viewing habits sets the stage for other companies to learn from.

Using the vast amount of data available to Netflix, they leverage user data and draw from interactions and viewing habits of its audience to not only recommend related content, but to steer the strategy behind it’s homegrown TV and movie production.

“As Netflix has shown on its climb from DVD-by-mail service to powerhouse original content producer, putting your customers at the heart of your business is possible with a few key ingredients,” says Anthony Smith, the founder and CEO of Insightly.

Long gone are the days where customers are merely recipients of a product or service. Thanks in large part to heightened focus on the consumer and associated data, consumers are now involved earlier in product and service development.

In the case of Netflix, this granular level of feedback and usage habit data is collected without any heavy lifting by the end consumer, yet, this “obsessed” approach results in a more personalized product.  

Even small companies whose target audience may have four legs instead of two like The Farmers Dog have positioned themselves as offering a highly personalized product and experience, clearly indicating the company is more about their end consumer; rather, end canine over their value propositions (i.e. healthy, convenient, fresh).

Related content: What Do Customers Want? (e-book)

In the customer obsessed year that is wrapping up to be 2017, the priorities that have been  displayed and followed through at companies big or small exposed the secret CX sauce to remaining relevant, competitive, and steadily growing.  

Customer Obsession

This business model is when business strategies and marketing efforts prioritize customer-focused initiatives. Being a customer obsessed organization not only requires data to be shared between departments, but silos to be broken down, and leadership to set the strategic tone.

In a nutshell, according to a recent study conducted by Forrester, customer obsession is comprised of:  

  • Executive engagement
  • Strategic contribution
  • Data strategy
  • Data sourcing
  • Data and analytics capabilities

It’s worth mentioning, the same Forrester study found that 90 percent of the 250 finance leaders surveyed, reported an uptick in cash flow due to the activity related to a customer obsessed strategy.

Customer Experience in 2018 Will Cater Toward Achieving Emotional Loyalty

“2018 will be the year that gaining emotional loyalty from consumers becomes the cornerstone for customer experience programs,” says Emilie Kroner, North American Solutions Director, Merchants at Mastercard.

Forrester predicts that change in the coming year will for CX wouldn’t let up any time soon, including a heightened focus on strategies around closing the distance between customers and brands.

“Technology once held the promise of closing the distance between brand and customer,” according to Forrester. “But as customers adapt, their behaviors harmonize with intelligent agents like Siri, Alexa, or Google Assistant. The distance grows again. In 2018, both brands and [Chief Marketing Officers] must begin to conceptualize how to broker a relationship where the likes of Alexa, is the one who mediate success.”  

Experts in CX like Mastercard’s Kroner have devoted years perfecting every single touchpoint a customer has with brands. Consumers expect to nearly instantly forge a deeper connection with any brand they do business with.

As a result of having closer brand relationship, it’s par for the course nowadays that businesses like the Amazon’s, Zappos, and other online retailers leverage behavior data to offer up more personalized sales. And consumers have come to expect their data to be used for retargeting and other marketing tactics as part of overall good CX.

“Emotional loyalty will require companies to have nimble CX programs, with distinct paths based upon consumer preference, behavior, and attitudes,” says Kroner. “To create programs or interactions that make it feel a company really know, understands and wants to serve me as an individual.”

Other predictions to consider as part of this conversation, according to David Beaumont, a Customer Support Professional, include emotional intelligence, continued customer-centricity and building personal connections.

“On a lifetime value basis, it has been said that emotionally connected customers are more than twice as valuable as highly satisfied customers,” says Beaumont.  

Doing so isn’t necessarily as easy in a saturated digital era. While pulling on emotional heartstrings has been the bread and butter for many leading brands for decades, what 2018 will begin to show is that fostering lasting connections, digitally, will be the best way forward.

Studies have long proven that when consumers pull the trigger and purchase, it’s for emotional reasons.  

“Emotions are key drivers behind our everyday decisions,” says Neil Patel and Ritika Puri. “They’re what keep us motivated to get up and go to work at 6 AM. It’s how we convince ourselves to run that extra mile on the treadmill. Similarly, emotions are what convince us to do business with the brands that stand out to us.”

And for marketers and CX professionals to continue to ride on the tail winds of success, customer obsession has proven this past year they must begin to think holistically and not just in moments of time, according to Patel and Puri.  

“What marketers needs to keep in mind is that conversion optimization is a process, not a moment,” say Patel and Puri. “It’s the whole marketing funnel — not just the five minutes that it takes for your customers to sign a contract or commit to a sale.”

Customers Will Continue to Be the Driving Force

“At the end of the day, we are all humans,” says Beaumont. “The person or company providing the service has to take the time to focus on what the customer is experiencing. Take a moment and walk in their shoes so that you can understand the full picture.”

Experts tell us that it’s plain as day: if you are not perfecting CX you are risking failure.

“Not only will your customers leave you, but your internal customers [employees] will not be motivated to deliver quality services,” says Beaumont. “Morale is bound to suffer because your customers will not be happy. Market share will be lost and profits will decline. These are all risks that you take when CX is not continuously perfected.”

What Do Customers Want? [e-book]