Magazine

Our trends to watch in 2014

Trends can be technical, social or economic. We favour focus on the behavioural. What do we see as emerging topics for the year ahead that could be worth getting involved in or putting energy into driving forward in our organisations? Our seven trends for 2014 are unashamedly focused on what we see as business trends in relation to customer experience.

Many future watchers seem to focus on external factors that will cause turmoil or opportunity and speak in a way that suggests the audience is either about to get rendered obsolete or is smart and on trend – like they are. Trends like this are a lot of noise. We think there is more value in looking at the conversations that we are all involved in and suggesting which ideas are worth pushing in the months ahead as they now stand a chance of being heard.

Customer experience gets more recognition in the boardroom

At every conference to do with customers you can predict the question will arise as to how to engage senior stakeholders. Boardroom sponsorship and mandating of customer experience programs is invaluable and will grow if we can show how customer experience concerns connect to the big boardroom issues from reputation to competitive advantage and even business mergers.

Related topic: Know the actors and factors in your customers’ world

Service design helps crack business challenges

2013 saw service design taking root in large organisations as the value of this uniquely creative and pragmatic approach to customer experience challenges was understood. Next we feel that good service design will not just help organisations better understand customers but begin to provide the clarity and structure to tackle business challenges. We hear more and more that ‘silos’ are the problem. Service design can connect and make sense across these internal divides.

Related topic: Follow customers across silos

Don’t understand cross-channel and are not ready for omni-channel

Omni-channel was the new buzz word last year and getting everyone excited. However, there is a huge gap between theory and practice. It has taken years for the best firms to get close to good cross-channel services and most are not there yet. To talk omni-channel is likely to distract people from the basics in search of a very hard to achieve nirvana. Customers will be delighted with simple sense making channel connections that are achievable now.

Related topic: Online, powered by call centres

B2B business – it’s all about people

Consumer sectors are generally ahead of the game with customer experience as there is a wrongheaded assumption that business customers are less swayed by experience as they focus on value and price. This is wrong as business customers have a lot to lose through poor experience that lead to lost time or failure to get the most from a product. B2B business that understand the human factors within their customers organisations will sell more and retain customers.

Related topic: Services add value to products

85% of consumers are dissatisfied with the phone experience

Service principles for the organisation: better service for customers

Service design of customer experiences can sometimes get lost in the details of delivery. We need to take a step back and realise that the best people to implement the service are those intimately involved in delivery. We see that service principles that guide good practice but also provide the flexibility for local interpretation will be more valuable to organisations who are in the customer game for the long haul.

Related topic: Service principles guide customer experience

Bringing customers into systems and processes

Too many businesses have back office systems and processes that have no connection to the customer. Given that the customer is the reason the business exists this can be a fatal flaw. Analysing how a given system or process relates to the ultimate customer is hugely valuable as it leads to leaner ways of working that also are able to cross business silos as the focus is on a common shared interest – the customer.

Related topic: Aligning the business with customers

Big data, what does it offer customers

Big data has been on the trend lists for a few years now – such a cool term that we love to throw around. Too often it is used to envision ways to collect and process data that is coming from customers and their behaviours but then is used without consideration of what value this activity brings back to customers. Big data will be most effective when it enables businesses to do a better job for their customer – not just market to them more.

Related topic: Data is not knowledge

How can the customer view help the business?

Looking over our trends we think there is a meta-trend to summarise them all. That is that customer focus/orientation/experience (call it what you will) will really add value when it helps an organisation make decision and changes to the business that create business clarity, efficiency and value. When the outside perspective makes internal sense everyone should see the value.

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