Customer experiences are stagnating in the US.
Forrester’s 2019 Customer Experience Index shows that the typical US company has barely improved the overall quality of the experience it provides customers with at all since 2018.
A startling 81% of brands haven’t significantly improved their customer experience (CX) scores, and 5% are doing worse now than they were 12 months ago. Just 14% achieved a significantly increased score.
This news comes despite the fact that CX is high on the business agenda. Gartner reports that 89% of companies now compete primarily on the basis of the experiences they provide to customers.
“Customer expectations are rising very quickly,” warns Colin Crowley, VP of Customer Experience at direct-to-consumer meal company Freshly. “Technology has been driving so many changes and technology changes so darn quickly that you really have to keep up with things!”
“It’s just natural that, if customers engage with more companies that are able to provide them with products and services here and now, the expectation that they have for other companies changes” – Colin Crowley, VP of Customer Experience, Freshly
In this challenging business environment, the world needs bold customer experience leaders more than ever before.
The benefits of delivering great customer experiences are well known. Forrester says that even a one-point improvement in a company’s CX Index score can mean a $244 million increase in revenue for a large retailer.
So, there’s a solid economic case for CX optimization and most companies are pursuing these initiatives. The issue is that many CX leaders are struggling to keep up with the pace of change.
Enterprises Struggle with Rising Customer Expectations
Customer experience leaders across the globe are working tirelessly to deliver products, services and experiences that delight their customers. But only a small minority of companies are keeping up with expectations.
That’s because customers today don’t just compare the quality of a brand’s CX to that of its immediate competitors.
“It can be hard for certain companies to keep up technologically with those expectations,” Crowley says. “These sorts of things are more and more ingrained in people’s consciousness.”
“Even if [people] haven’t experienced it themselves, they hear about it and it becomes more and more normalized” – Colin Crowley, VP of Customer Experience, Freshly
“It’s especially difficult for some of the bigger companies to keep up with those expectations,” he adds. “For them to turn the cruise ship around is a harder endeavor than it is at times for a small, agile company.”
This challenge is complicated by the fact that consumers in different markets can have very different expectations.
“We have seen that sometimes when things can technically be deployed remotely, for example, it’s still not the right business decision,” explains Geriel Thornburg May, Worldwide Director of CX at technology giant Lenovo. “That’s particularly true in some cultures more than others.”
“A customer in the United States may be satisfied with a remote solution deployment,” she continues. “In Latin America, although maybe we can deploy a technical solution remotely, the right relationship decision may be to actually work with someone on the phone or onsite.”
Younger companies often find it easier to adapt to this fast-changing global environment. They can build teams that genuinely put their customers first from the outset and don’t face the same challenges that come with scale or operating in multiple markets.
CX leaders at larger or fast-growing enterprises must be bold, decisive operators if they are to succeed in optimizing the business practices, mindsets and architectures within their organizations.
The Curse of the Low Hanging Fruit
Faced with more potential avenues for CX optimization than ever before, choosing which opportunities to pursue presents a second challenge for CX leaders and their teams.
Forrester argues that CX teams often walk the path of least resistance, rather than the one that delivers the greatest results.
This analysis suggests another explanation for the stagnant scores in this year’s CX Index. Once companies have exhausted the ‘low hanging fruit’, prioritizing the remaining opportunities based on their potential business impact can be challenging.
“How much time and effort are you going to put in ahead of launching any new solution?” asks Rami Sarabi, Senior Director, Global Customer Service at Tarte Cosmetics. “That will determine the success.”
“I like to use an analogy,” he continues. “Some companies will buy a system that’s considered to be a conveyor belt to facilitate movement, and then they end up using it as a bookshelf. That happens when no effort has been put in up front to set it up properly.”
“If you don’t understand the data behind it, then you can end up investing in technology that doesn’t pan out,” Crowley agrees. “That in turn can have a negative effect, where it warns other people in your organization away from investing in [these] technologies.”
Whether this year’s stagnant CX scores are down to rising customer expectations, poor technology investments or both, one thing is for sure: The world needs bold CX leaders more than ever.
Business leaders at stagnant organizations could learn a thing or two from the 14% that are breaking ahead of the pack.
This article is an extract from 2020 Customer Experience Agenda USA. For more exclusive insights from America's top CX leaders, click the image below now and download the full report.