Time passes in the blink of an eye. Soon, the consumers of tomorrow will become the customers of today. But, if companies hope to maintain success in the future, they must begin preparing their present customer experience strategies for this gradual shift, evolving alongside technology and integrating Big Data in ways that bring personalization and predictive analytics to the fore.
Recently, Walker collaborated with CustomerThink and the Chief Customer Officer Council to conduct a survey of nearly 300 customer experience professionals from large, multinational B2B organizations across industries in an effort to explore how B2B brands will need to adjust their experience approach in order to meet the customers' changing expectations. The "Customers 2020: The Future of B-to-B Customer Experience" report examines what the customer experience will look like in the near future, encouraging companies to cultivate flexible strategies that carefully and deliberately anticipate the needs of consumers in less than seven short years. The study focuses on highlighting what forward-thinking brand's can implement today that will positively impact tomorrow's results.
The following trends demonstrate how the B2B customer experience landscape will change by the end of this decade and what companies should look out and prepare for:
Empowered customers will drive the experience.
Because of the digital explosion and the acceleration of innovation, customers in 2020 will be even more informed than consumers are today, enabling them to take charge of the experience they receive. They will expect companies to understand their individual needs, personalizing and proactively addressing any current and future needs that may exist using predictive analytics. Customers will also expect companies to know their business intimately, bringing the "tell me something I don't know" element to the table in an effort to drive leads, sales, and trust. Moving forward, brands also seek to use incoming customer insight to design products and services that facilitate "frictionless" experiences.
- When asked how their company plans to invest in order to meet the changing needs of customers, 62 percent of respondents said they would focus on understanding individual customer characteristics, while 58 percent plan to simplify products and processes.
- Currently, 60 percent of those surveyed put much emphasis on metrics that describe what happened in the past, while only 15 percent expect to put a lot of emphasis on such metrics in 2020. However, when it comes to metrics that describe what customers intend to do in the future, only 15 percent put great emphasis on such measures today, but an impressive 83 percent expect to focus highly on these metrics by 2020.
Companies must adapt to changing expectations.
As consumer expectations continue to shift, companies have no choice but to adapt, or else risk failure. Primarily, brands must focus on leveraging Big Data in ways that help develop a single source of truth. Companies must also make customer intelligence available across all departments, aligning employee goals so they may execute their roles to improve the overall customer experience. Targeted customer intelligence will also be imperative, as brands move from selling solutions to selling insights that foster trust and ensure consistent customer support that grows and retains customers.
- Ninety-six percent of those polled believe the demand for customer intelligence will increase by 2020. Only 4 percent believe the demand will remain the same as it is today.
Brands will capitalize on customer engagement.
Companies will begin putting much emphasis on leveraging Big Data and predictive analytics to enhance and personalize the customer experience. In doing so, these brands will align the right resources, viewing the customer experience as a strategic C-level initiative that warrants buy-in from executives across the organization. "What gets measured gets managed" will still apply, but in 2020, companies will focus on the right metrics that allow them to evolve and meet customer needs, drawing attention to "insight selling" and providing customers with the skills and ideas necessary for future success. Customer service will also move beyond the "one size fits all" pattern, promoting personalized experiences beyond the sales and acquisition process.
- In 2020, 68 percent of companies expect to utilize online customer communities frequently, as compared to only 13 percent currently.
Key takeaway: Just as customer behaviors are destined to evolve, so must customer experience professionals. From strategy teams and intelligence advocates, to information architects and data scientists, new roles will begin to emerge as time progresses. However, the need to establish a chief customer champion will dominate as companies look to develop a role that reports to top executives while creating an unrelenting focus on the customer experience throughout the entire organization. Of those polled, only 39 percent indicated that they already have a C-level executive in place to oversee customer experience. However, by 2020, 81 percent expect to have such a role in place. This person will drive retention, growth, and profitability, ultimately foster customer engagement-the single most important source for future insight, as companies will look to one clear metric that predicts the future behavior of all customers, not just those who fill out surveys. Companies must begin to embrace these inevitable changes now in order to excel when these predictions become reality.