Four customer experience management predictions for 2014

By Michelle de Haaff

Marketing lead, Medallia

Where did 2013 go? As fast as the time flew, there was still plenty of time for the customer experience management (CEM) space to take massive strides in helping companies better serve and earn the love of their customers. At Medallia, we released some predictions for what would happen at the beginning of this year — and I think we did pretty well (if I don't mind saying so myself). The rise of social and mobile feedback together with agile frontline action were big drivers in CX this year, and I don't see them slowing down anytime soon.

As such, here are my predictions for CEM in 2014:

More companies will explore getting feedback through mobile apps and something called "geo-fencing"

For most B2C companies, no customer experience feedback is more valuable than feedback that's given while the experience is still happening. There's no need to rely on a customer's memory to recount actionable details after the fact nor on an intensely positive or negative experience to elicit feedback to begin with. Instead, on-premises feedback allows companies to receive the most specific and important feedback while providing customers and even non-customers a fast and easy way to give feedback. In exchange for this input, the company can provide real value like discounts and immediate fixes to customer issues.

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Though there is a variety of ways to solicit that feedback (through on-premises kiosks, paper and the like), the ubiquity of smartphones equipped with GPS technology has opened the door to a feature called "geo-fencing." This once dreamed-of idea — the collection of real-time feedback, via location-triggered mobile surveys — is now a reality. Imagine this: You're at one of your favorite stores. You've recently downloaded the brand's app, and it can tell you're headed toward the electronics department. You're immediately invited to complete a survey for 15 percent off your purchase. You're happy, and the store just received valuable feedback about the mess in aisle 9. Thank you, geo-fencing.

The challenge: How do companies avoid creeping out their customers with this technology?

The rise of A/B innovation testing IRL (in real life)

Traditionally, large companies don't test innovation — they bet on it. They pour months worth of hours and dollars into research before developing a strategy, only to see that strategy bomb in the market. It's an expensive way to fail and about as agile as a sloth. It's also the reason many companies choose to be conservative and then lose the long game to their competitors.

With the rise of CEM software, however, businesses now have the ability to do small tests as a precursor for larger scale innovations. They can do so without expensive research and without risking large amounts of capital and customer happiness. CEM software also allows companies to do this on a hyper-granular level. A hotel chain could put a new entertainment system in rooms on one floor and see how the experience of customers in those rooms differed from those in others. A large retailer could change the checkout experience in one location to see if it could improve customer satisfaction in all its stores. By leveraging CEM technology in this way, A/B testing has a whole new future in the offline world.

Rapid growth of CEM in the Asia-Pacific market

"The customer is always right" has not always been a mantra for some industries in Asia, but with the largest population of Internet-savvy and socially-minded customers in the world, many companies aren't just feeling the pain from their lack of focus on CX — they're going under. A recent report by Forrester ("Asia Pacific Technology Predictions: 2014" by Dane Anderson) concludes that, "Only customer-obsessed enterprises [in Asia-Pacific] will succeed in 2014 and beyond," and goes on to explain that it "sees empowered customers disrupting every industry where the only sustainable competitive advantage is knowledge of and engagement with customers."

This, combined with Forrester's prediction that APAC tech spending will accelerate by 4 percent in the coming year, points to a big opportunity for CEM growth. I've already seen our customers in Asia focus their efforts on providing great experiences for Asian consumers, and I expect this trend to quickly spread across APAC countries.

Feedback loops will be closed faster and faster

Immediacy. Instant gratification. Real-time. All words that not only describe the expectations technology have created for customers, but also the best way of retaining them. The dominance of mobile technologies and social media has created feedback loops that are spontaneous and public — whether it's someone who responds to your SMS survey or writes a negative tweet about your company. Acting equally quickly to respond and improve these relationships has become a make-or-break necessity for companies focused on customer experience.

As text analytics of unstructured data becomes more and more accurate and scalable in the coming year, these companies will be able to close loops faster than ever before. Through CEM solutions, free text in survey responses, social media posts, and even voice-to-text translations will become increasingly accessible and actionable in real-time. That means fewer emoticons standing between you and making your customers happy.

(Photo by Dan Moyle.)

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