While the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic will be felt for years, how organizations responded to the challenges of the last 18 months has set a new benchmark for customer experience.

Consumers have set their own standards and they expect organizations to live up to these. There’s no going back to the way things were before and customer journeys need to be designed with this front of mind.

For the first time this year, we included a Voice of the Customer (VoC) component to our Global CX Benchmarking Report, giving us direct insight into the lived experience of customers

The top three things that organizations did well during the pandemic was to improve online functionality, respond faster and provide round-the-clock availability and this is the foundation that now needs to be built on. Organizations should remember that this was a giant leap forward in CX and these gains need to be consolidated now. This means that they should be aiming to meet these expectations rather than overwhelm customers in an attempt to exceed them.

This means getting the simple things right, including:

  • Treat customers as people, not reference numbers
  • Ensure they don’t have to repeat information when they contact you
  • Provide channels that work for them

Many organizations will know that making CX easy and effortless remains a challenge, but customers surveyed as part of the Report indicated that leading organizations are 31.4% easier to do business with. It is possible and those organizations that get it right are seeing the benefits.

Make it easy

Ease of contact is one of the top three factors entrench customer loyalty and should be a primary consideration in contact-channel design. This sounds obvious, but our findings indicate there’s still not enough thought and strategy going into customer contact management.

Getting this right isn’t just about creating as many channels as possible. Flooding customers with too many channel options can create anxiety. What’s more important is delivering the right channels, reducing the amount of effort required on the part of the customer and integrating channels. Having to repeat the same information causes frustration. Customers want to tell their story once and then have the issue resolved, irrespective of the starting and ending points of that journey.

Get the channel right

While simply creating multiple channels for customers is counter-productive, customers still want a choice in how they engage with organizations. Rather than forcing them to use a particular channel, give them options and let them decide. With the ever-expanding options available using, for example, voice bots to bring in digital capability as an option within the voice channel, offering the option of using a self-service site or a virtual assistant, or allowing them to simply wait to speak to an agent puts them back in control of the interaction. Constantly monitoring and optimizing these journeys using big data capabilities and unstructured data analytics are critical to understanding how the options you’ve created are being used.

However, organizations that choose a purely technological route do so at their peril. They should never forget that they are dealing with humans, and making customers and employees part of the process of creating and optimizing customer journeys is critical.

Take an inclusive approach

The Report found that organizations appreciate the need for continual optimization of customer journeys. 93.8% appreciate the need for CX design principles and guidelines that incorporate regular process and optimization review, but there’s still a significant lag in making this an inclusive process.

At the heart of getting customer feedback is a Voice of the Client program, but just 44.3% of organizations are using customer insight to inform service and product business improvements and 44.7% recognize a VoC program as crucial.

This gap between the intent to listen to customers and the ability to do so is proving to be a challenge for many organizations. It’s likely that a lack of skills, the ability to analyze and use the data generated by these initiatives in CX journey design and management alongside the difficulty in measuring direct results from VoC programs are contributing to this.

At the same time, only 38.9% of organizations say business functions are fully collaborating to define customer journeys and design CX.

So even though leading organizations are seeing the benefits of implementing customer journeys that are aligned with customer needs, there’s still a long way to go in actually listening to customers when creating and optimizing these journeys.

The new benchmark for CX has been set as a result of the improvements seen during the pandemic, but this acceleration has also exacerbated existing problems.

The disconnect between what customers want and what organizations think they want still exists and most organizations don’t have the structures in place to actively understand the views of the customers. It’s encouraging, however, to see a massive increase in board-level executives taking responsibility for CX, something that will hopefully lead to better interaction between all stakeholders in the design and optimization of customer journeys.

Learn more about how the CX landscape is evolving: Download the 2021 CX Benchmarking Report.

Get a head start in designing a connected and personalized customer and employee experience. Contact our CX Advisory team.