Elevating CX Planning in 2024: Budgets, Technology, and Beyond
After a tough and uncertain few years, 64% of CX leaders anticipate bigger budgets in 2024, and 59% say they plan to spend more on technology. Whether your budget is expanding next year or not, customer expectations for convenience, personalization, and digital payment options continue to rise. Understanding the latest emerging CX trends can help inform your organization’s planning and identify the investments with the strongest potential returns for your particular customer experience goals.
Reversing the CX quality decline
The first major trend that CX leaders need to contend with is the general decline in customer experience across multiple industries. The 2023 Forrester CX Index found that CX quality among all major sectors except for retail and luxury auto fell for the second year in a row, despite CX improvement being a priority for many CX leaders. This may feel like a surprising result when we think about how much CX technology companies have invested in since the pandemic in 2020, but technology alone can’t improve CX.
In fact, the Forrester data showed that positive emotions were strongly correlated with better CX quality. The best-performing brands in the index generated an average of 29 positive customer feelings like “feeling happy, valued, and appreciated” for each negative feeling their CX generated. Making customers feel good about their interactions with your brand requires not just the right technology but also a deep understanding of what makes those customers happy and how your brand can provide it.
Orchestrating customer journeys
It’s no longer enough to provide a one-size-fits-all experience for your customers, because different customer segments may want very different things from their engagements with your brand. For example, in ClearSale’s latest survey of consumer attitudes on ecommerce, fraud, and CX, clear generational differences emerged around preferred ecommerce channels and personalization.
Gen Z consumers in the survey expressed a strong desire for personalized experiences, while millennials had a moderate desire for personalization. Gen X consumers were open to personalization, and baby boomers were actively turned off by personalized experiences. When it comes to how they like to shop, Gen Z and millennials primarily shop via mobile and online marketplaces, while Gen X also shops on laptops. Baby boomers are most likely to shop on their laptop or desktop computers.
Delivering the right experience for each customer segment requires using customer data effectively across touchpoints to create a consistent, appropriately customized (even if not personalized) experience for customers in each segment. Orchestration platforms can provide these capabilities for businesses that have the resources to invest in the technology and integrate it with functions across the company including marketing, fulfillment, and customer service.
Integrating AI into CX programs
AI can help businesses improve their CX by learning what customers in different segments want from their brand interactions and delivering more of those kinds of experiences. Customer journey orchestration platforms rely on AI to function, but orchestration isn’t the only way to improve CX. For example, a properly trained AI-enabled chatbot can help customers find what they’re looking for on a brand’s website or app, suggest alternatives if desired items are out of stock, and recommend complimentary items or service plans. Customer service AI tools can help meet the expectations of 62% of consumers–according to the attitudes survey–who would rather use live chat for support rather than have to contact a call center.
AI tools can also analyze everything from the content of social media posts to customers’ tone of voice when they contact customer service to understand customer sentiment in the moment and map sentiment trends over time. These insights can help businesses identify processes they can improve to generate more positive customer sentiment (again, a key indicator of CX excellence) and reduce feelings of negativity.
Simplifying the CX tech stack
Another CX trend worth exploring is the focus on simplifying the customer experience technology stacks that many companies have put together since the pandemic forced an abrupt shift to online business. The coming year could be the ideal time to address issues like CX tech that was adopted but never fully integrated, or to make changes to technology elements that served their purpose early in the pandemic but are due to be replaced with more effective or more easily integrated solutions.
Within this trend, we see interest in making CX technology easier for employees to use. For example, 48% of CX leaders say one of their top priorities now is simplifying the employee experience within customer service centers. Simplification for employees can improve the customer experience by making it easier for employees to find answers, thus reducing hold times and time to resolution. Auditing your CX technology to see what needs to be streamlined and what can be deprecated or replaced can help your business get more value from your existing CX investments and point the way toward the right technology to invest in next.
Improving customer service
Not every CX improvement requires a technological overhaul or major investment. In some cases, simplifying processes, providing more customer service channels, or better training can address some of the basic issues that may be frustrating your customers and employees alike. These lower-tech fixes for customer service issues may not be flashy and exciting, but they matter because although only 29% of consumers in the attitudes survey listed great customer service as a reason they continue to shop online, 73% said they would abandon an online store after a bad customer service experience.
This customer service CX figure ties back to the idea that each organization needs to understand what its particular customers want from their interactions, identify the quick fixes, and then see where technology can be streamlined, expanded on, or added. Within each of these trends, we see the idea of iterating toward better customer experience. As those changes are implemented, you can evaluate the response and customer feedback to determine what your next CX investments should be.