Article

Cormac Kelly
Cormac Kelly 17 February 2023

How Economic Uncertainty Represents a Customer Experience Opportunity

The arrival into the third decade of the 2000s has been anything but smooth sailing for businesses and their customer experience (CX) departments. The pandemic saw many brands quickly digitise to meet consumer demand for online interactions and transactions, which resulted in an explosion of new customer touchpoints and more customer data than many organisations knew what to do with.

Customer expectations changed nearly overnight, and still continue to shift at breakneck speeds even now. Businesses rapidly came to the realisation that their CX capabilities needed sharpening.

These past two years have therefore bore witness to companies further investing in and acknowledging the impact of CX on the health of their business. While CX proved its worth during the pandemic, business budgets and bottom lines subsequently fell victim to global lockdowns and ensuing economic uncertainty. 

While customer experience has come far in the past couple of decades to meet customer expectations, businesses have only scratched the surface of the potential of CX.

With rising inflation, a cost of living crisis, global recession, and restricted budgets, CX is at risk of being put on the back burner this year. Businesses are already feeling the pressure to do more with less as budgets, and teams are feeling the pinch. 

This year, more than ever, brands must continue to prioritise CX if they hope to remain competitive and successful long-term. In fact, there is an opportunity to stand out amongst the competition by offering top-notch customer experiences while others are cutting back.

In order to achieve long-term success, here are a few steps that brands could take to improve their CX offering, and keep their edge in a crowded market.   

Don’t Let Budget Cuts Affect Business Performance 

With Britain set to face the longest recession in the G7, business outlook remains uncertain with economists already predicting there will be little opportunity for growth and investment in 2023.

As a result, companies are beginning to scale back operations and make budget cuts with Forrester predicting that 2023 will see the loss of one in five CX programs across UK businesses. 

However, CX teams are needed now more than ever. The cost of living crisis is impacting consumer shopping and spending habits with some turning away from their favoured brands toward cheaper options.

One study found that 88% of Brits planned to switch to lower-cost generic products to save money. That has an impact on how consumers are interacting with brands.

If past economic crises have taught us anything, it is that those who invest in strengthening consumer-brand relationships have a much better chance of weathering the economic downturn than those who don’t. 

It’s therefore important that brands don’t allow budget cuts to impact their performance. With customer loyalty low, one bad experience is all it takes to drive a customer away for good. CX will now need to be tailored to meet evolving customer needs as they become more price and time conscious.

Brands need to move away from traditional channels and engage with customers in the channels they are most active. For example, monitoring for feedback in existing customer channels (like the comments section on your brand’s official TikTok account) is a low-cost, effective way to show customers you value their opinions.

The Need for a Sophisticated CX Program

Moving away from these more traditional channels of brand-consumer interaction requires businesses to provide their teams with the capabilities to build a more mature CX experience.

During the rapid pandemic digitisation, businesses witnessed their customer touchpoints multiply in the form of new social media channels, instant messaging systems like Whatsapp, and other novel environments. These varying touchpoints will only continue to increase as consumer needs continue to evolve. 

Businesses need to recognise the need to utilise these and determine how best they can interact with customers to receive quality feedback. New points of contact can offer new voices and opinions, opening up a business’ reach to different demographics.

Once gathered, this increased quantity and quality of feedback can aid brands in their business strategies as they uncover what different customer segments need and expect. 

Brands who listen to their customers demonstrate that they value them and are prepared to invest in them, increasing customer loyalty by doing so.

However, with a wealth of feedback steering business decisions, companies must monitor how effectively they are being utilised and ensure they aren’t falling short on meeting customer needs. Although this can’t be done using one metric, tracking Net Promoter Score (NPS®) and Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT) are good indicators. 

Teams Are at the Heart of Excellent CX 

As well as putting the needs of the customer front and centre, businesses need to remember the teams who drive customer satisfaction. With new sources of feedback comes a wealth of information that is time-consuming for CX teams to review and identify relevant feedback that can drive business outcomes. 

Companies need to look towards tools that can help to reduce menial tasks and allow employees to focus on initiatives that improve customer experience as well as their own job satisfaction, all while remaining cost-effective in the current climate. It’s a tall order, but there are technology solutions which can tick all of the boxes. 

By enhancing CX teams through technology, businesses can be more efficient and effective when collecting data. Artificial intelligence (AI) is already being used to save valuable time by combing through large amounts of data and presenting CX teams with actionable insights.

As well as reviewing data, teams can utilise AI to power chatbots across different touchpoints where a customer may have queries, and deliver personalised recommendations and products based on individual interactions. 

By understanding the importance of CX and not allowing budget cuts to affect the performance of these teams, businesses can improve their CX delivery, customer loyalty and longer-term, their business functions. For those who may be thinking they already have a sophisticated CX function, it’s important to remember there is always room for improvement. 

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