As we approach the last 24 hours before the end of 2014, I feel it is time to reflect on the last twelve months in the world of Customer Experience. Twelve months is not a particularly long time in the context of a lifetime of experiences, yet it is remarkable what progress can be made in 365 days. If you can remember what you were doing on the 30th December 2013 you will know what I mean!
Today is the 30th December 2014 – a day that I am pinching myself at the amazing advance that has been made in the profession that Customer Experience has become. It is difficult to find a company at the end of a long twelve months that is not talking about Customer Experience. Most CEOs and other business leaders have integrated the words Customer Experience into most of their internal and external presentations. Most companies now have an individual or a team who are responsible for either designing or improving the Customer Experience (or both) – it is almost as if Customer Experience has ceased to be a ‘nice to do’ initiative and is now firmly ingrained in the way businesses do business.
On this very day, I went to collect a parcel at my local Royal Mail sorting office. The wall behind the lady serving me was decorated with ‘Customer Experience Certificates of Excellence’ – a sight that gave me a warm glow. Customer Experience training is pretty commonplace now – even to the point where the profession has its very own professional qualification – CCXP (Certified Customer Experience Professional – who would have thought twelve months ago that Customer Experience would be a professional competency?! There are now 129 CCXPs around the globe – these numbers will increase dramatically in 2015.
Despite this wonderful progress, the reality is that we as customers and as consumers are still having experiences that fall a long way short of meeting our expectations. Regular followers of my blog will have read a number of stories this year that are embarrassing to digest. Many of these stories originate in organisations who like to think they ARE customer centric – they have a long way to go in my opinion. If you want to read some of them, below is a small sample!
Customers and the experiences they have with businesses will always exist. The problem for the businesses that serve us is that our expectations are continually changing and evolving – that means that unless the customer journey provided by the business evolves with the needs of its customers, at some point there will be an almighty problem. That is why the job of the Customer Experience professional will never end. That is why the significance of Customer Experience in driving the sustainable growth of businesses must become even more prominent in 2015, not less.
So what should we be looking for in the world of Customer Experience in 2015? Recently, a very wise man called Ian Thomas told me a story on the eve of his retirement. Ian is/was not a Customer Experience professional – however his role was to influence, inspire, encourage and support his community and uphold the things he believed in. In a way, our roles are very similar. Ian described how important it is when leaving a place for the last time to ‘sweep the steps’ of that place to leave it in perfect condition for the person that follows you. What better way to start a new chapter in your life than to do so with everything looking spick and span. At the same time, clearing up behind you is cleansing for the person ‘moving on’ – enabling them to do so without regrets and only looking forward to the opportunities ahead.
I think this story is a beautiful analogy for what to expect in the world of Customer Experience in 2015. At midnight tomorrow, 2014 will come to an end. Twelve months of toil and effort in trying to improve the Customer Experience for your business. Some things will have worked. Some things will have not. Some people will have moved a little further forward on their own personal journey. Others may have slipped behind. Whatever has happened, we must be proud of what has been achieved. We must reflect on the progress that has been made before ‘sweeping the steps’ to get ready for the opportunities that lie ahead in 2015.
2015 is all about opportunity when it comes to Customer Experience. The fact that everyone is talking about it is a hugely positive thing – move on from 2014 into a world of possibility in 2015. If something did not work in 2014, try something new in 2015 – what have you got to lose? As long as you are doing the right things for the right reasons to benefit customers, employees and shareholders, you must believe in what could be possible.
What does not change in 2015 is the need to get the BASICS right. The reason why most consumers get annoyed is because the companies they interact with fail to do the most basic of things. I stayed in a lovely hotel over the Christmas period – four of the light bulbs in our room were not working – there is no excuse for basic things like that. Yet it is not just the basics that should be focused on in 2015. In my opinion, if companies want to take their Customer Experience to the next level in 2015, they should look no further than the strength of their EMOTIONAL engagement with customers.
The online revolution has led to the severe erosion of emotional engagement in customer interactions. The companies who can deliver the best functional experiences as simply as possible in the most EMOTIONALLY engaging way will be the winners in 2015.
So it is only left for me to thank each and every one of you who has read, contributed and commented on my blogs in 2014. I have thoroughly enjoyed writing every post and look back with great pride at the stories I have been able to share. But now it is time for me to sweep my own steps and prepare for another fantastic year of blogging opportunities in 2015. I wish you all a very happy and prosperous New Year!
This post was inspired by and is dedicated to my friend and blogging inspiration Ian Thomas. Along with his lovely wife Margaret, they have been a hugely important part of our lives over the last few years. A wonderful orator, I will very much miss Ian’s stories. On behalf of Naomi, Ciara, Caitie and Jack, I would like to thank you for everything and wish you a very long and happy retirement.