Customer expectations are a moving target. New technologies, products and business models and an increased awareness of corporate ethics are forcing brands to rethink how they engage with today’s empowered customers
If you lined up 100 CCOs and CXOs and asked them how customer expectations have changed over the past 12 months, they would all say the same thing: Customer expectations are rising fast.
Customers feel the same way. When Salesforce polled 8,000 B2B and B2C buyers for the 2019 State of the Connected Customer report, the company found that 84% say the experiences a company provides are as important as its products or services. That’s up from 80% in last year’s survey.
“Customer expectations are constantly growing,” says Phillipa Cameron, CCO at news organization Stuff. “People know a lot more. There’s a lot more information that’s readily available influencing the choices they make.”
“Things are evolving so quickly all the time,” agrees Marina Shapira, Head of Behavioral Research at digital intelligence platform Quantum Metric. “So, we have these continuous experimentation and product design efforts to really catch up to where the modern user is.”
“APAC is probably the fastest moving and most dynamic of all the regions,” adds Troy Barnes, CCO APAC at Pizza Hut. “There’s a proliferation of start-ups, and business models are changing a lot.”
Every customer is unique, and the best techniques to use to engage different customer segments will vary from organization to organization. However, our research has uncovered three trends that will shape the work of every CCO and CXO in 2020 and beyond.
The Rise of the Trust Agenda
Customers today demand high levels of transparency from brands in exchange for their trust and hold brands to high ethical standards.
Salesforce’s research shows that 73% of customers say being able to trust a company matters more to them now than it did a year ago. What’s more, 54% say it’s harder than ever before for a company to earn their trust.
For MLC Life Insurance Chief Customer Experience Officer Louise Portelli, the rise of brand trust as a factor in customer decisions has its roots in the Global Financial Crisis.
“It happened across the globe really,” she explains. “The expectations of those customers and the regulators have changed quite significantly.”
“In Australia, we had a Royal Commission 12 months ago,” she adds. “Life insurance was investigated as part of that enquiry and what became clear was that life insurance wasn’t meeting customer expectations or regulatory expectations in a range of areas.”
“Customers really do have a lot of options and a lot of power to take their business elsewhere. Because of that, they do expect businesses to be at the top of the game” – Dr Violet Lazarevic, General Manager of Customer Insights, Telstra
Many of this commission’s findings could be levelled at organizations in a broad range of industries. Products are often too complex. Some companies allow products to be mis-sold, and communications with customers can be confusing or unclear.
As a result of practices like these, the 2019 State of the Connected Customer report shows that 65% of customers have stopped buying from companies that have violated their trust. Meanwhile, 89% say they are more loyal to companies they do trust.
Sustainability is Increasingly ‘Top of Mind’
Many in the business community once brushed off sustainability credentials as a ‘nice to have’. But this is increasingly not the case.
Three in four customers say a company’s sustainability practices matter more now than they did a year ago, according to Salesforce. A full 78% think companies are responsible for taking steps to reduce climate change and 76% think companies are responsible for giving back to the communities in which they do business.
“We recognise both our responsibility to the society we operate in and also the increasing need from our customers for businesses to really be aware of the impact on their environment” – Dr Violet Lazarevic, General Manager of Customer Insights, Telstra
“One of the things we're very active in is sustainability,” says Dr. Violet Lazarevic, General Manager of Customer Insights at telecoms giant Telstra. “One of our sub-brands at Telstra, Belong, just went carbon neutral.”
“The thing that I have noticed hugely is a real lift in terms of how people are considering their choices through a sustainability lens,” adds Cameron. “We’re seeing consumers making so many different choices to what they were making 12 months ago.”
“That, to me, is an extension of the whole ‘trust agenda’,” Barnes argues. “When you talk about real loyalty and association with brands, for me it goes well beyond the products and services they provide.”
Customer Expect Seamless Experiences
Certain executives may sneer at the notion of customer experience (CX) innovation. But the need for innovative new CX ideas has never been clearer. In fact, 67% of customers expect companies to provide new products and services more frequently than ever before. That’s up from 63% in 2018’s State of the Connected Customer survey.
“Customers really do have a lot of options and a lot of power to take their business elsewhere,” says Dr Lazarevic. “Because of that, they do expect businesses to be at the top of the game.”
“When you talk about comparing things, you’ve got to look at who’s world-class in giving a product or a service to a customer,” continues Barnes. “That’s where you need to look outside your industry vertical to your Netflixes, your Apples, your Hoovers, your AirBnBs.”
“Whoever you might think is fantastic from experience is something you then take across into other interactions that you have,” Portelli concludes. “You don’t suddenly drop the bar because you’re changing sectors.”
In short, customer expectations have never been higher, and they will continue to rise in line with the achievements of the world’s most innovative CCOs and CXOs. Companies really do have their work cut out if they’re going to succeed in providing these outstanding experiences to their customers.
This is an extract from Designing Deep Customer Experiences, an exclusive Corinium report featuring four of Asia Pacific's top CX leaders. Click the banner below now to claim your copy.