A tumultuous, calamitous, and unpredictable year. That was 2021. It was a year in which all of us became really familiar with a bit of Greek as names such as Delta and Omicron made their way into our lives. In 2020, shaken by the continued effects of the pandemic, businesses learned to do things differently. In 2021, businesses thought they had covered most of their bases when it comes to customer experiences, but there’s a lot to be done still. Any long-term CX strategy must have as its nucleus proactive support models, digital-first, instant customer gratification experiences, and complete attention to customer security and privacy.
Given what 2020 and 2021 gave us, how do we look forward to this year? Here are what I believe will be the major predictors for customer experience in 2022:
It may not look it right now, given the relentless surge of a mutated virus, but this pandemic will end at some point. Things will change. Its effect on our lives will reduce. But what I don’t expect to change will be the kind of disruption in technology this pandemic brought about. In CX, especially, post-pandemic consumers will demand the same digital and offline experiences offered to them right now.
I would go a step further and say those expectations will only increase. Disruption will gain momentum. A Forrester report from August 2021 shows that 57% of consumers believed companies should have learned how to handle pandemic-related disruption. Two years into this pandemic, what have businesses really learned? From online grocery shopping to telehealth to ed-tech to augmented reality experiences, customer experiences will continue to evolve.
We are already seeing many new ‘normals.’
2022 will show us just how normal the new normal will be.
I expect 2022 to be the year of EX transformation. Employee well-being will become a business-critical imperative. This means that EX transformation would be driven by senior leadership and not just the HR teams.
As businesses understand this, they will factor ethical responsibility and EX into their customer journeys. Forrester data expects 15% of enterprises to look closely at employee psychology and experience this year.
Human-centric tech transformation that merges CX and EX can result in a 3%-5% gain in productivity. We always knew that EX is key to delivering a great customer experience or CX. But this year will show just how important it is to amplify EX to realize transformative change for customers. Identity, data analytics, security, and collaborative tools that accelerate the ease of remote work will lay the groundwork for improving employee experience. Empathy will emerge as a key organizational capability this year. If you haven’t started building more empathy into your employee processes and interactions, now is the time to bridge that gap.
It’s not just WFH, but WFA – work-from-anywhere. Leaders will deploy a virtual-first and remote-first architecture for the ‘anywhere work’ and ‘anywhere commerce’ world.
I expect technology to revolve around offering mobility-first experiences – and customers will be willing to pay more for the kind of products or services that enable that experience. Businesses will have to focus on delivering high-quality customer experiences on the go rather than through physical touchpoints, and the degree to which they can pull this off will determine the revenue they derive.
Gartner estimates that by 2023, 75% of organizations that exploit distributed enterprise benefits will realize revenue growth 25% faster than competitors.
Brands collecting zero-party data will double – Forrester
There’s a wealth of data now available. So much so that companies that extract insights from this data should be looking to generate better customer experiences. Brands will close that experience gap with data-driven insights of the customer.
Analytics was always descriptive, letting you know what has already happened. But when companies invest in data insights, they will start to realize that data can be predictive, telling you what will happen next. I see 2022 being the year when businesses will start using predictive data insights to connect at a deeper level with customers, anticipate their pain points and behaviors, and identify opportunities in real-time. Would the next stage be prescriptive analytics, where organizations get recommendations on what to do next? Yes. We are on that path, already.
But transitioning data into insight and action will not be an overnight process. It will require changing mindsets, especially from CX leaders who would need to recognize that data and technology are their biggest strengths. It will also require breaking silos and building cross-functional teams. When you consider this from an organizational perspective, you would require new roles such as Chief Data Officers who can share insights across different regions and departments for comprehensive action.
One-quarter of US consumers use privacy and security tools to prevent firms from tracking their online activity – Forrester
Digital experiences are becoming increasingly complex, with almost 62% of customers preferring personalized products and services. Data is the key to providing that personalization. Yet, companies also realize now that people want more privacy and control of their data. As our digital identity continues to grow, decentralized digital identity or DDID will reshape and reimagine the way brands interact with customers. Forrester expects 10% of US firms to turn their attention to privacy and consent journeys this year.
The expected deprecation of third-party cookies will bring challenges in providing the personalization customers seek. The focus, therefore, will be on businesses that can capture unique data at scale and ensure a seamless flow of customer insights at all levels of the organization. Companies will also need to build their own ecosystems to collect data directly from customers rather than third-party sources. Are we going to see a zero-party data world this year? Yes. Very much so.
Let’s remember that acronym. ESG or environmental, social, and governance issues are everywhere. You would have heard a lot about ESG in 2021. ESG will be even more at the forefront this year.
Brands that have neglected their ESG values have learned it the hard way. Whether it’s diversity commitments or eco-packaging, customers want to see brands deliver on their promises. This means that expectations on brands will be higher: they should proactively create the best ESG practices rather than react and respond.
Will customers pay more for healthier, more socially conscious, and sustainable products and services? Yes, I believe they will.
“I will discontinue my relationship with companies that treat the environment, employees, or the community in which they operate poorly.”
76% Consumers. PwC Consumer Intelligence Series June 2, 2021
That’s a telling message if there ever was one. Meet the 2022 customer: The one who drives change through their purchase decisions.
Brands must deliver on agility, sustainability, and commitment more than ever before. Or face the brunt.
20% of enterprises will use explainable AI to debias their models and get transformational insights – Forrester
The Metaverse exploded into popular consciousness after Facebook rebranded itself as Meta. Immersive AI experiences are the future.
Why would Metaverse be so attractive for businesses? Because brands can use the Metaverse, especially given together with VR/AR to deliver new, enriching, and interesting customer experiences over virtual platforms.
Going by the massive upsurge in data-led insights, I expect generative or creative AI to be at the forefront of innovation, enabling businesses to provide personalized services without violating privacy norms. Gartner’s research points to an increased acceleration in the use of generative AI, stating that by 2025, this would account for 10% of all data produced, a dramatic surge from the less than 1% today. Large companies will introduce bias bounties to improve their AI models and identify biases in the algorithms. We already saw one example of that in 2021 when Twitter announced its first bias bounty challenge and said that “this is the first step of many that need to come.”
As we wait to see what this year unfolds, delivering positive CX experiences will be the catalyst for continuing digital business transformation despite the continuing volatility. 2022 will be the year for businesses that recognize that they must meet their customers where they are.
We are at a digital tipping point. The future of CX is now. And it’s brimming with promise.