Through 2025, establishing customer experience application suites on a common platform will be the focal point of the drive to optimize customer and organizational engagement. Organizations that are passionate about improving the customer experience are choosing to empower processes and people with intelligence through smarter applications that embrace analytics, artificial intelligence and automation to personalize and optimize the customer journey, whatever the channel of customer choice.
As a result, CX executives are facing a barrage of complex choices about spending on technology and people. Among the challenges and questions encountered: Are their organizations fully prepared to provide effective customer experiences? A lack of readiness isn’t always apparent. Engagement across touchpoints may be inconsistent, and different channels (or processes, or applications) are likely siloed. At the same time, customer experience teams are generally newly formed, and still focus on the basics of interaction handling, rather than the higher-value analysis of the customer’s context. And organizations face pressure to elevate experiences to maximize the value of each customer, but rarely have the metrics or the resources to follow through on that goal.
The landscape these executives are navigating is significantly different from what it was pre-pandemic. Many organizations are rethinking the relationship between human work and automation because of the difficulty of hiring and retaining skilled customer service agents. Self-service has become more user-friendly and capable, enabling customers to do more without human intervention. Simultaneously, the available resources to help automate agent processes are growing. Automation can provide real-time guidance and suggestions during an interaction, allowing humans to move through more (and more complex) interactions more quickly.
Organizations are also experimenting with centralized authority for CX programs. A new type of C-level executive (chief customer officers, chief experience officers) has been tasked with arbitrating between competing needs and determining what makes sense for the organization as a whole, not just the contact center or the marketing department.
These CCOs and their executive colleagues are increasingly responsible for creating and maintaining strategies for customer experience that balance the cost-control ethos of the contact center with revenue-generation goals elsewhere in the organization.
Many organizations are using “CX thinking” as an excuse to create new models for measuring customer loyalty, engagement, value, longevity and satisfaction. These new models are often based on more complex analytics that view the customer as a long-term project rather than a one-interaction-at-a-time problem.
In considering what technology to adopt to encourage better CX results, it is important to note that vendor maturity has jumped far ahead of buyer maturity.
CX is inherently siloed and consists of traditionally separate functions and processes. Tools and platforms that encourage collective action across the customer life cycle require buyers to think about drastic shifts that they are often not ready to implement – for example, leveraging contact center data for marketing purposes, or using AI to provide agent assistance and guidance.
Fortunately, vendors appear to be getting the message. Across CX technology, point solutions are quickly consolidating into interdepartmental suites. Niche applications like customer data platforms, customer feedback, agent performance management, marketing analytics and customer success are being rolled into broader suites that are supported by integrated platforms needed to build processes that cross departments. By putting complex enablers like AI and automation tools at the bottom of the tech stack, they’re becoming available to a wide range of applications, thereby enhancing the value of the overall suites.
So instead of approaching software purchases to solve specific, describable business problems, buyers are often trying to balance the needs of a more diverse set of stakeholders who come from different departments and are steeped in the processes and tools prevalent in their areas.
Incorporating AI into the base of the tech stack is also fostering innovation across CX segments, including contact center agent management, field service and marketing (notably analytics and lead scoring). The transition to cloud-based applications (along with application programming interfaces and microservices) is facilitating both the integration into suites and the creation of automated workflows that tie together customer-facing processes.
To best position an organization to take advantage of these shifts, we recommend considering several action items:
- Establish an organization-wide customer experience agenda. This could be as simple as an application and process audit, or as wide-ranging as a digital transformation project. What’s important is raising the issues to the level of the decision-making teams.
- Prioritize personalized self-service for customers. Having an advanced, conversational and automated front-end is critical to elevating the entire customer-facing operation.
- Examine the entire customer life cycle. Journey management is familiar to some marketers and some contact center executives, but it is rarely understood or measured by broader teams who understand the relationship between customer health and revenue generation.
For more resources related to customer experience and best practices, visit Ventana Research’s Customer Experience Expertise Area.