Like many other roles in today’s economy, customer experience professionals are facing uncertain times as macroeconomic trends impact team budgets, shrink headcount and massively alter customer spending habits. But the biggest challenge they face has remained constant: How to consistently meet and exceed customer expectations while facing heightened performance expectations.
To understand more about how customer experience (CX) professionals are experiencing today’s business climate, research and feedback platform SurveyMonkey has released a new study detailing the views of over 600 CX professional. The data shows how CX professionals are navigating this new environment and evolving their programs to stay ahead of the competition.
So what kinds of tactics are they employing to improve experiences? 43% are prioritizing faster responses to changing customer needs, highlighting the need for real-time data and insights, and 40% report their companies are focused on increasing revenue from existing customers.
On the plus side, 91% of consumers say they’re likely to recommend a brand after having a positive experience. Conversely, CX pros say poor customer experience is a leading contributor to churn—81% of consumers are likely to share a poor experience with friends or family.
The art of listening
So how can CX pros tackle it all without wasting energy or making counterproductive decisions?
It’s simple, really: They need to listen to customers. Take, for example, the issue of artificial intelligence (AI). CX pros are excited about the technology’s potential, with 82% saying AI is a priority for their company and 63% expecting the technology to positively impact the customer experience. On the customer side, it’s a different story. Only 25% of consumers expect AI to positively impact their engagement experiences and 32% believe it will have a negative impact on their brand interactions.
This goes to show that guessing and hoping won’t work in the long run. You need to actually keep a pulse on what customers want, need and expect.
“Leadership must spend time to better understand what customers experience, to recognize gaps between their perception of the company’s CX and what’s happening on the frontline,” said Shep Hyken, chief amazement officer at Shepard Presentations. “They’ll also need to showcase the right metrics—churn, satisfaction, etc.—to make a compelling case for greater investment in CX to close those gaps.”
Opportunities for advancement
The survey results indicate CX professionals have their work cut out for them when it comes to advocating for their work. Fully 40% said customer experience is not a priority for leaders, who sometimes talk about CX but do not act on it, and only 25% of CX professionals report having a single customer-experience leader who oversees and manages the entire customer journey.
Yet, based on further analysis, SurveyMonkey found a consensus on how CX teams can break out of the pressure cooker they’re in and realize better results:
• Technology with integrated tools can enable real-time CX data and insights being shared with key decision-makers at the right time. This is table stakes for any CX team, in particular as remote and hybrid work continues to rise.
• Improving retention and loyalty depends on keeping up with evolving customer needs. Combining feedback with operational data can allow CX professionals to show executive teams how customer sentiment is tied to retention and churn.
• Integrating feedback platforms with collaboration or analytics tools can empower cross-functional partners to make customer-centric decisions. CX teams that significantly collaborate cross-functionally are 27% more likely to have a “high” or “very high” rate of ROI on their programs, according to the SurveyMonkey study.
• Investments in flexible platforms that break down data silos and support a range of use cases can impact the ability of CX teams to perform effectively, especially in the face of budget restrictions and increased pressure from leadership.
“There’s often misalignment between CX teams and company leadership,” said customer-service expert Myra Golden. “Customer experience professionals must communicate the impact of CX on business outcomes, using such data as customer-satisfaction, net-promoter and customer-effect scores to demonstrate a return on investment.”
Act, listen and act
The core of any customer experience program requires mapping out customer touchpoints, identifying where and how to get customer feedback and understanding what insights will be most useful to pursue.
“The best way to understand your customer experience is to go straight to the source,” said Lara Belonogoff, senior director of brand management at SurveyMonkey. “For example, you might have an excessively complicated checkout process. You won’t know how customers feel about touch points on the customer journey until you offer them the chance to tell you, acting on their suggestions and ideas.”
Belonogoff also suggested resolving customer friction by keeping a pulse on the customer journey throughout purchasing funnels, including website visits, post-purchase and customer sentiment history, to reduce the chances of losing customers to a competitor.
“By acting on insights and quickly resolving critical customer issues, you’ll increase customer satisfaction and repeat business,” Belonogoff said.