staying ahead of the cx curve

The CX Revolution

Technology is driving a CX revolution but businesses shouldn’t forget the need to build trust with customers

Why do customers return to a particular website, app or retail outlet again and again? It could be because the products are great and the prices are competitive but it’s equally likely that the repeat business is being driven by superior customer experience. In a competitive trading environment, buyers usually have a range of options, with multiple companies offering similar products at competitive prices. Increasingly, the differentiator is customer experience. 

That has long been the case but what we’re seeing today is a seismic change in the customer experience (CX) battleground as new technologies come on stream. 

Artificial intelligence and data analytics are currently the main drivers of change. For instance, in the field of Generative AI, new content creation tools are enabling businesses to personalise their offers as never before.  At one time – when content was relatively expensive and time consuming to produce – brands could really only personalise their marketing collateral to a limited degree. Today – in theory at least – content can be automatically generated and personalised almost to an individual level.   

The personalisation process is underpinned by ever more sophisticated data and analytics tools using algorithms to gain insights into customer preferences and frustrations. Equally important, predictive analytics is capable of providing insights into future customer requirements.

Meanwhile, customer service has been revolutionised by chatbots. As these tools become more effective businesses that might have operated customer service between, say, 08:00 to 18:00 can now answer queries around the clock, although some human intervention will still be required in more complex interactions.

That’s the technology. On the human side of the equation, the simple truth is that CX strategies are also being driven forward by the demands of customers. Today, the natural expectation is that businesses will offer a seamless experience across devices and channels.

The challenge for businesses is to stay ahead of the CX wave.

The Omnichannel Imperative  

What will this mean in practice? Well, the technology revolution isn’t likely to stop. The rollout of generative AI tools is set to continue at pace in the coming year, with chatbots playing an increasingly important role in company strategies (Forbes 2024). 

It would be wrong, however, to think of the CX revolution as purely an online phenomenon, physical stores are also a crucial part of the mix. Fundamentally, in all channels, customers want a seamless experience whether in a store or shopping online (Forbes 2024). It is now an expected standard that customers are provided with different touchpoints across the whole customer journey. So, the imperative should be to create a truly omnichannel and seamless experience.

The Need for Trust

However, brands must ensure the experience of customers matches their expectations. For instance, if chatbots become the key tool for answering queries at 2am in the morning, the technology has to deliver a consistent level of service. Equally, any personalisation strategy has to serve up genuinely relevant and helpful content.  

The key to success is to leverage the data gathered from multiple touchpoints at interactions. The better and more abundant the data, the more accurate the personalisation.

But even then, trust can be an issue. There are growing concerns about how businesses use customer data. For instance, some kinds of personalisation may raise fears that data is being used intrusively. Organisations must be able to assure customers that their data is not being abused (Forbes 2023).

More fundamentally, businesses should be confident of delivering on their CX promises. 24/7 service shouldn’t be at the expense of lower quality interactions. A poor experience – whether caused by an issue with a shopping cart or an AI-driven chatbot, potentially undermines trust. Those who gain the trust of their customers will capture loyalty and retain their customers within their ecosystems.

True Differentiators

So how does an organisation take advantage of new CX technology without undermining its relationship with customers?  Some argues that the most compelling CX strategies start with a profound understanding of the customer (HBR 2023). A good starting point is to use the technology to create an experience that enables customers to achieve their goals.

There is also a continuing role for humans, particularly around customer contact. Particularly new stresses have been placed on the need to retain empathy with the customer. As things stand, access to humans is often the best way to achieve this, although this can be a basis for training AI. 

Equally important, personalisation will drive sales. It’s vital that – in addition to data protections – businesses have the technology in place.

The Road Ahead

Customer experience is a neat catch-all term for something that falls across multiple functions with organisations – including marketing, payment, customer service, complaints, query handling and returns. It also straddles the complete range of online and offline channels. It’s vital then, to build multi-functional teams. 

Technology is supercharging CX but the importance of human involvement – and the empathy that brings – should never be forgotten. The CX strategy should put the customer’s needs first. 

That said, technology is the enabler. Businesses should be investing now to avoid being overtaken by rivals