For years, we’ve been championing the idea that modernizing to an all-in-one cloud platform to power your contact center was an urgent “must-have.” The benefits of agility, flexibility, cost, reduction, and access to rapid innovations seemed obvious. And with the unprecedented past two years—it finally caught on in a massive way. What an exciting time to work in CX!
Since 2020, we’ve seen the importance of contact centers and digital customer service soar beyond their typical role of post-sales support. It started when businesses bought into technology as a reactionary accommodation for social distancing.
Cloud contact center technology became the solution for remote work, omnichannel experiences, and serving digital-first convenience to customers too impatient to wait one more minute on hold. But, as business leaders outside of the contact center started seeing the full potential of a distributed workforce connected to their customers via real-time voice and asynchronous digital—reduced cost, improved operations, decreased attrition, and more—we saw the role of the contact center completely shift. CX makes or breaks a business, and the contact center is the nucleus of a successful CX strategy today.
Now as we look toward 2022, we’ve entered the metaphoric “active recovery” phase. Businesses are catching their breath from the reactionary transformation and are preparing and designing long-term strategies. Much so, that even Forrester has deemed the upcoming year the “Grand Pivot” within its “Predictions 2022: Customer Experience” report. What’s this “grand pivot” means in terms of your CX strategy?
These are the Five 2022 CX initiatives in the forecast:
- Delivery of instant gratification
- Appealing to Generation-less digital preferences
- Accommodating hybrid, digital-first workforce
- Enabling proactive and predictive support models
- Focused attention to security and accessibility
If you’re interested in taking advantage of the revolutionary year to come, these are where you need to start.
Trend 1: 2022 is the Year of Instant Gratification
When a customer need arises, “later” isn’t an option. Precipitated by widespread digital adoption in 2021, consumers no longer have patience for anything but instant gratification.
Customers expect that you’ll deliver a 24/7, effortless response on their preferred channel. Whether it’s solving a problem, checking a balance, making an appointment, or any other need, every micro-moment along the end-to-end journey should be fast and frictionless.
Taking advantage of this trend strategically means optimizing three often-overlooked aspects, beginning with the traditional service model.
But, when thinking about instant gratification, a traditional service approach focusing solely on agent-assisted channels misses the full customer journey and set of needs.
As a customer, what’s the first step you take if you have a question or need information? We asked audiences attending our recent Digital CX Week:
Only 4% call first. We found that more than 65% search Google, and 24% will check the website. To put this in perspective, 96% of people are attempting self-service channels before they connect with an agent. Case in point? Service doesn’t begin with traditional channels. It begins with self-service.
Accordingly, to keep pace with customer needs and expectations, contact center leaders should be managing the journey earlier on. Instant gratification means optimizing self-service channels for fast and frictionless support.
Optimize customer content for frequently searched queries and FAQs. Optimize this content for search so that it appears at the top of Google results and so that customers can easily surface what they need on your website.
Optimize your chatbots to make your self-service smarter. Our findings tell us that 90% of businesses don’t think chatbots are smart enough for consumers to use regularly. The wrong chatbot technology can’t accurately process customer context, and these basic options create undue friction. But leading technology powered by more purposefully built conversational AI makes self-service smarter, transforming even complex interactions from, “I don’t understand,” to “Here’s the answer.”
Optimize the agent experience to support a seamless customer experience. For assisted interactions, you can’t deliver instantly if customers wait while an agent navigates multiple screens and folders for the answer. Unified technology is the answer. But, trending today and for the immediate future are also AI-powered knowledge bases and AI-powered coaching, which give the agents the right actions and answers faster, making both the agent and customer feel good.
To make this trend a little more actionable, perform an analysis of customer interactions, web search results, and/or keyword research to see what customers most reach out for and want information on. Even simply asking agents, is a great starting place for understanding what content to create and to better understand the key opportunities for improvement of existing copy. Beyond this exercise, implementing a knowledge management process can be a great entry and pilot to help justify and set the stage for a more complex contact center technology, showing great measurable improvement to both the agent and customer experience.
Instant gratification isn’t just about moments of satisfaction paying off in CSAT and NPS benefits. It’s the cumulative sum of customer experience. For more ideas and resources in getting it right, stream our recent webinars “When Self-Help Is the Best Help” or the 3-part “Digital CX Week” series on-demand.
Next well cover another moment for improvement worth considering.
Trend 2: shift To Recognize generation-less preferences for Digital
One of the seismic changes in consumer behavior is the shift from “digital natives only” to “generation-less” channel preferences. Previously, “digital non-natives” who didn’t grow up with the internet and social media, had vastly different channel preferences compared to the “Digital natives” like Gen Z and Millennial customers. But today, channel preferences have muddied and aren’t so narrow. We’re seeing a generation-less wave of customer preference for digital channels.
Since 2020, due to mandates and personal safety, face-to-face interactions were replaced with digital. These changes were not limited to younger, digital-native generations. All consumers upgraded their home technology as they started adapting to a new life. From shopping eCommerce for contactless delivery and using mobile banking applications to making online appointments for telehealth services. Even Baby Boomers and other digital non-natives were falling into the benefits of digital connection. And there’s no rebounding.
This generation-less trend impacts the CX industry in a few ways:
- There are no generation-bound digital channel preferences. Big majorities across all age groups want self-service, and there’s widespread adoption of self-service, messaging, and digital channels like email, SMS, messaging, and social.
- There are higher expectations for digital experiences. No longer can certain industries get away with less-than-stellar experiences. Digital-first consumers and even employees are judging experience based on the best they’ve had completely agnostic of industry or business size. And when they don’t get what they expect, digital offers a boundaryless landscape of alternative options.
- Customers and employees wield the power. If you can’t deliver on expectations, one-third of customers will walk away, and employees will quit (cue the Great Resignation). Businesses can no longer serve their own interests and must adopt a customer-centric approach to survive.
Customer-centricity matters more than ever. As customer experience has evolved into a business priority. The contact center is more important, with a larger role supporting the end-to-end journey for journeys.
Trend 3: Hybrid work will Be the primary workforce model
Hybrid workforces are not just the future—they’re right now. But what’s alarming, is that Forrester predicts, “[of] the 60% of companies shifting to a hybrid model: One-third of attempts at anywhere work simply won’t work” (Forrester Research, Predictions 2022 Guide). The reason for failure isn’t due to the hybrid model itself, it’s the lack of companies’ full commitment to getting the experience right.
Approaching the digital model, the same way you would an in-person model isn’t conducive to hybrid, digital-first workforces. Thinking about digital isn’t making a few tweaks to the in-person model, it means reimagining the model. Here are two examples:
- When workers are remote and juggling personal and professional lives, a rigid schedule doesn’t always work. From mental health, picking kids up at the bus stops, or walking dogs, flexible locations necessitate flexible scheduling.
- When it comes to performance reviews, supervisors are subconsciously preferential to who they can see. It’s the same science behind placing fruit and vegetables in areas of higher visibility when you’re trying to eat healthy. But aligning performance reviews to measurable outcomes will establish a non-biased approach.
This hybrid work failure is important to be mindful of because a model blending remote and in-person work has created new job opportunities, offered flexibility, and given employees the freedom of choice. It’s partly responsible for the “Great Resignation.” If the employee experience isn’t up to par, there’s more opportunity to leave.
To make hybrid work, leaders need a purpose-built strategy that prioritizes digital-first employee experience. No matter how many improvements to CX you make, if the employee experience (EX) doesn’t mirror the customer experience (CX), your attrition and CX will continue to suffer.
For instance, sixty percent of agents report lacking the tools they need to deliver meaningful CX (ICMI). Agents need to be equipped with AI-powered tools that empower them to quickly respond to every customer need. One solution for removing their friction might be an AI-based employee assistant that can automate routine tasks and provide real-time coaching and information. Or technology that enables you to better evaluate quality or performance metrics can help you understand training opportunities and where to improve friction.
Getting hybrid work right will engage and build lasting connections with your employees, and your customers.
Trend 4: Proactive is the pace of the customer
With this widespread adoption of cloud technology, the speed of the customer isn’t just real-time—it’s proactive. For instance, 45% of consumers will switch brands if a company doesn’t anticipate their needs (Salesforce). This percentage is growing as digital-first experiences continue to improve, which is why this is a big focus for 2022.
Reactive service means the customer carries the burden of support. Proactive support means you have a great understanding of who your customers are, and what causes or could cause friction in their journey, and then improving the experience to prevent or address the friction.
To better explain, here’s a few scenarios that highlight reactive versus proactive experience:
- A customer searches the web and doesn’t find what they need. Proactive customer service is optimizing customer content to appear in search.
- A customer searches your website for product information trying to troubleshoot their recent purchase. Instead, proactive CX is integrating your CRM with your chatbot and proactively asking if they need support for their recent purchase.
- A customer submits a contact us form and waits for a response. Proactive support means a customer can chat, email, call or message for any need, any time of day.
- A customer finds out their shipment is delayed, or product isn’t in stock when it doesn’t arrive by when it’s expected. Proactive support is automated outbound messaging to apologize and inform them about the delay with an alternative option.
- A customer must wait on a long hold. Instead, proactive support is automated callbacks or directing them to the channel with more immediate support, like messaging.
These are just five of countless opportunities for establishing more proactive CX. The best way to know where to begin or what to improve is to invest in an analytics solution that can help businesses better understand what’s happening and why. Another way to implement is through proactive conversational AI solutions that engage customers in conversations and can predict the context for their needs.
With this technology in place, contact centers will have better visibility on customer pain points, can better identify warning signals or customer need triggers, and can take advantage of opportunities. The benefits of actively reducing these aspects of friction are what will perpetuate and build loyal customers.
Trend 5: Security Cannot just be a Check Box
A shift from in-person to hybrid workforce and customer experiences can be a cybercrime buffet if not addressed strategically. Just take it from the SolarWinds cyberattack, which was a little more than a year ago. Beyond security, managing compliance has also gotten more complicated.
Even though cloud service providers continue to improve security around the storage and transmission of data, risks are still present and remain a concern for IT. Better integrated technology that minimizes access points and enables more control over a clearer view of all the data is essential to 2022 strategies.
A data breach isn’t just a way to gain temporary headlines. It takes one misstep to reverse years of CX improvements. Avoid negligence by taking these three steps today:
- Assess your technology and customer experience infrastructure for security and compliance. Look for a partner that
- Establish security standards for new technology
- Implement ongoing assessments and auditing
Also important is considering security and compliance vulnerabilities in a way that doesn’t hinder or limit the customer experience, which means thinking about security as part of the experience:
- Customers want a fast, effortless experience, and don’t want to be slowed by authentication and re-authentication processes. Considering how to speed up and ease the authentication process by using AI-based voice authentication.
- Customers value privacy and data transparency but value personalized experiences. Transparency around the benefit of opt-ins will ensure your customers have the control and personalization they are seeking.
There are many other best practices for data security, control and compliance, application security, qualifying technology, and disaster recovery you should consider in your 2022 CX strategy. This whitepaper will guide you on the CX security and compliance best practices you need to know.
That rounds out our list of the key 2022 CX trends. Subscribe to our newsletter to learn more about these trends and the other exciting CX focus areas taking shape. Or for even more 2022 predictions, take a look at what Forrester forecasts for the upcoming year in the “Predictions 2022: Customer Experience” report.
And most of all, myself and the team at NICE wish you a safe, proactive, productive, and gratifying 2022!