The Great CX Disappointment

With all the optimism of boosting Customer Experience (CX) with global digital transformation, one would expect the trend to progress unabated this year. Surprisingly, experts are portending stagnation and even contrarian trends.

Forrester Research’s Harley Manning opines that about 20 percent of companies will throw in the towel and give up trying to differentiate on the basis of CX. Instead, they will just try to not to make it worse and resort to price cuts to grow.

Also, since CX transformations are massive and can cost millions, shareholders may this year seek short-term results and question CX funding. For those organizations that have not connected CX to positive business outcomes, the risk of their CEO pivoting away from CX this year is very real.

Furthermore, Manning believes that in 2019, companies that want to retain CX talent will make it a strategic priority at the corporate level and designate an adequate budget to fund it.

“In the same vein, CX pros starting new roles will need to set realistic expectations about the duration and cost of a customer experience transformation. With all the change, companies looking for CX talent will struggle to weed out the qualified CX pros who were stymied by their environments, from those who simply underperformed,” he said.  

This will, in turn, increase the cachet of programs in user experience design at schools and CX certification courses.

A CX Reckoning

Customers expect their experiences to keep getting better. Trouble is, they haven’t — or at least not enough to keep up with their rising expectations. This has been going on for the past three years and will begin to boil over in 2019, leading to a series of systemic shocks for CX transformation efforts and turmoil for CX professionals.

What happens next? A group of Forrester’s top experts on customer experience came together to answer that question.  On top of what Forrester’s Manning has described, two other notable predictions will come into play.

Customer Success Management (CSM), which has gained little traction in industries like manufacturing, business services, and on-premises software, will become the next torch-bearing focus as more types of business-to-business firms become distracted away from CX programs. Rather than trying to justify building an entirely new customer success organization from scratch, companies such as Equifax are piloting customer success by retasking existing teams with skills and responsibilities that complement a traditional CSM function.

According to Forrester analysts: “Associates are being organized in tiered groups, with support personnel and automation freeing up customer success managers to focus on evaluating and optimizing client utilization, experience, and value derived from usage. As these experiments start to bear fruit, more B2B firms will see the value and start to plant seeds of their own.”

Next, the job of UX professionals and the skills that make them marketable will change substantially in 2019. In the Forrester Predictions 2019 Guide, analysts foresaw that “companies will prioritize hiring designers with a proven ability to influence; with experience mentoring non-designers in their craft, and who excel in relationship building and diplomacy.”

For example, to get promoted, UX designers might need to demonstrate how they’ve cultivated a better “design sense” in their product and engineering partners — demonstrating an intuition for what is good design and an understanding of when to engage a designer and when to make the call on their own.

Question of Ethics

In parallel with the predictions in CX trends, analysts do see that AI and machine learning will bring business benefits that will spill over into customer service personalization and behavioral predictions.

In turn, the collection and use of huge volumes of personal data in such technologies inevitably bring to mind the increasingly tighter general data protection regulations worldwide after incidents such as the Facebook-Cambridge debacle.

“People are increasingly concerned about how their personal information is being used by organizations in both the public and private sector, and the backlash will only increase for organizations that are not proactively addressing these concerns,” said David Cearley, vice president at Gartner in his predictions for 2019.

Therefore, as 2019 picks up speed, corporations recognizing and complying with data ethics and data management budgets can be expected to review and sanitize CX strategies that are dependent on personal data.

Meanwhile, Gartner anticipates organizations “lacking in privacy protection will pay 100 percent more in compliance” costs than competitors following industry best-practices.