My colleague John Dalton and I recently published a report outlining our major predictions for customer experience in the coming year. What we envision is perhaps best summed up by the old William Gibson quote: "The future is already here, it's just not evenly distributed."
Here's why: As I wrote in a recent post, roughly half of the attendees at Forrester's three customer experience forums in 2013 said that their organizations are in the first phase of the path to CX maturity (Repair). Their priority is - and for the immediate future will remain - finding and fixing broken experiences.
A much smaller group of companies - no more than 10 percent - say that their organizations are in the ultimate phase of CX maturity (Differentiate). In contrast with companies in the repair phase, they'll build on their past success with well-funded efforts that leverage their skills in strategy, customer understanding, and design.
With that as background, we predict that two major themes will deserve the most attention in the coming year:
1. Companies in the repair phase will fight to advance along the path to customer experience maturity. Companies just starting to fix their broken experiences will find themselves in a struggle that's hard, slow, and increasingly costly. They'll focus on getting key infrastructure in place to assess what's broken, manage a portfolio of repair projects, and measure the results they need to build enterprisewide support for CX.
Their investments in customer experience will increase but not skyrocket. Where will they invest their larger but sill limited budgets? Mostly on solutions that help identify problematic experiences, like tools that support voice of the customer programs. The result: Their organizations will become systematic at ridding themselves of the worst problems plaguing their customers, but for the most part they'll still do business in a way that creates new problems. That means they'll improve steadily but not make the great leaps forward needed to challenge CX leaders.
2. Differentiated firms will commit big dollars to re-engineering their customer experience ecosystems. The customer experience elite won't miss out on the fact that competitors are trying to close the experience gap and disrupt their competitive advantage. We expect leaders like Target, JetBlue Airways, and Amazon.com to make eight figure investments in an effort to surge forward, with emphasis on integrating online and offline experiences.
For example, Apple made news in 2013 by stealing Angela Ahrendts, former Burberry chief executive officer, to head up the firm's retail business. Smart move. During Ahrendts' tenure at the luxury fashion icon, Burberry invested hundreds of millions in redesigning stores and digitizing experiences to better match its customers' perceptions of the brand. With now more than 16 million followers on Facebook and steady growth in e-commerce sales, Burberry hit Â£1 billion in sales for the first time, halfway through 2013. That's why we expect Apple's retail experience to get a serious makeover in 2014-and others to follow their example.
We'll also see customer experience leaders upgrade their organizational structures. Experience-obsessed Zappos.com recently announced that it will embrace a "holacratic" organization--no managers, no titles, no hierarchy--to give already-customer-obsessed employees even greater flexibility in their daily decision-making. In 2014, these kinds of experiments will go viral, as even well-established firms like Office Depot, Eli Lilly, and Wal-Mart explore flatter, more responsive organizational structures in an effort to build more responsive CX ecosystems.
If you'd like to see the rest of our CX predictions for 2014, check out our new report. And in the meantime, we'd love to hear what you think will happen in the coming year. Please leave us your comments.
+ + + + + +
About the Author: Harley Manning is a vice president and research director at Forrester Research serving Customer Experience professionals. He blogs at http://blogs.forrester.com/harley_manning and tweets at @hmanning