How To Improve Customer Experience, According To 30 Experts

Customer experience continued to be a hot topic in 2019, and 2020 should prove to be no different. Since consumers and corporate buyers have been given a public voice on social media, they’ve used that voice to demand better experiences from the companies with which they do business.

Many companies now have separate departments dedicated to customer experience (CX), while others are attempting to integrate CX into existing business units. Most leading companies have deduced that employee experience and customer experience are closely related, as happy employees tend to provide better experiences for customers.

Thirty CX experts and practitioners recently responded to a survey about what to expect in customer experience for 2020. In answering whether CX got better or worse in 2019, respondents averaged a 7.2 rating on a 10-point scale, with the majority selecting 7 or 8. This suggests that those who are in the trenches day-to-day are beginning to see forward progress with CX.

When asked to name a favorite brand for customer experience, respondents supplied a wide variety of companies; in fact, only four companies–Amazon, Apple, Costco and Nordstrom–received more than one vote. Other vote-getters included:

  • Airbnb
  • American Airlines
  • Chewy
  • Postmates
  • Proper Cloth
  • REI
  • Sephora
  • Starbucks
  • Trader Joe’s
  • USAA
  • Warby Parker
  • Zappos

So what’s the one thing that companies must focus on in 2020 relating to customer experience? The experts weighed in:

  • “That the employee experience can make or break the customer experience. Focus on asking your team what they need to best help customers and to care for themselves as humans, then implement it.” – Jenny Dempsey, CX Manager at NumberBarn.
  • “The chasm to leadership. CX is real on the front line, real for lower management and completely theoretical in upper management. They put on a show, know a few buzz words but have NO real understanding of CX.” – Tim Lynch, VP of Marketing and Business Development at OdinAnswers.
  • “Delivering convenience and security at once. Stop making me repeat the same info and still protect my data.” – Jeannie Walters, CEO of Experience Investigators
  • “I think loyalty rewards need to be simple and easy to use as well as the consumer provided autonomy to use them on the products they want instead of what the company wants.” – Ryan Baker, Social Media Customer Care Manager at Nutrisystem
  • “Here’s where you left off / here’s what happened since the last time you were here; personalize but also expand my world by recommending crazy things. Everything is being personalized so I want to see stuff I would not normally explore.” – Melissa Douros, Senior Director of Digital Experience, Discover Financial Services
  • “Up-skilling support agents turning them into digital customer service assistants. Hiring people and training them to let them master conversations across digital channels.” – Paolo Fabrizio, Digital Customer Service consultant, trainer, author and speaker
  • “Going above and beyond what is expected. CX is what drives loyalty to a brand; without it, it’s just another product to choose from.” – Lori Brown, Chief Experience Officer, The Results Companies
  • “I think it is very important to customize the care per customer. We deal with customer experience every day, whether we buy lunch somewhere or we call our internet provider. Too often are we receiving pre-scripted interactions that, on top of sounding fake, do not usually fix the problem.” – Guillaume Slama, Global Social Media Manager, Sitel Group
  • “At this point, great customer service is table stakes. To take CX to the next level in 2020, companies need to focus their energy on innovating ways to make life easier and more convenient for their customers. It’s clear that customers are flocking in droves from companies with high friction experiences to those who add convenience.” – Jeremy Watkin, Product Marketing Manager, 8×8
  • “This hasn’t changed since before CX was a thing. Spend time with your customers. Not with their data, not with their analytics or shopping cart abandonment rates, with them. Face to face. Whether you are in design, machine learning, personalization, UX/UI, or you lead an organization, face time with customers equates to better experience and a better bottom line.”—Mike Wittenstein, Founder and Managing Partner, Storyminers
  • “Do not confuse customer services with customer service. Customer services is all about how to speed up the transaction. Focus on the human interaction, not the tech driven transaction.” – Bill Quiseng, Customer Service speaker and blogger
  • “I believe we will truly see the convergence of data in the orchestration of meaningful experiences. Businesses will focus on mining data to identify valuable trends to drive better experiences for proactive customer care, premonition routing, journey shaping and experience design tailored to the customer based on their own actions, tendencies and business history.” – George Demou, President and CEO, Avtex
  • “Customer communication optimization, omni-channel service options, & constant investment in employees to best serve customers!” – Adrian Brady-Cesana, Founder and Chief Experience Officer, CXChronicles
  • “Companies must focus on making difficult tasks easier for the customer. Contact centers should better leverage the tools people have on them – smartphones.” – Howard Schulman, Director of Marketing, Lightico
  • “Understand and act on drivers of customer frustration, providing customers with all they need to enjoy their products/services without needing to contact the company. The goal should be eliminating all inbound contacts for customer care.” – Pete Weaklend, SVP Solutions, Sitel Group
  • “Expect to see companies no longer building out their multichannel capabilities, but instead, optimizing each support pathway to meet the tech-savvy needs of their customers. Support teams will look to infuse multimedia capabilities into their channel functionalities. Photo and video sharing, capturing screenshots, providing contextual data like battery life, and diagnostics will all become regular parts of support interactions.” – Anand Janefalkar, Founder and CEO, UJET
  • “Companies must stop pretending to do CX while focusing only on what they want. CX isn’t about improving short-term acquisition or lifting conversion rate. Too few CX programs focus on improving the customer and understanding how that also improves the brand.” – Augie Ray, VP Analyst of Customer Experience, Gartner
  • “Conversation! Relationship building so customers feel like they can communicate. 50% of the population is under 30 and shies away from negativity so brands will lose customers and never know why if they don’t have a communication line open, preferably a private one.” – Dr. Anna Stumpf, Professor, Anderson University
  • “Know who I am no matter how I contact you; Do not sell my data; Set expectations with me.” – Jeff Sheehan, Customer Experience Consultant
  • “Companies ask their employees to deliver remarkable customer experiences, but many employees don’t know what a remarkable experience is. Companies should focus on creating remarkable experiences for their employees and then use these as ‘teachable moments’ to train their teams how to deliver the same to their customers.” – Joey Coleman, Chief Experience Composer, Design Symphony
  • “Companies must improve consistency. Customers want to know they can count on a company to provide a similar experience, every time, without unpleasant surprises.” – Jeff Toister, author, The Service Culture Handbook
  • “Align your CX strategy with business objectives. As you gather this information, bake in metrics so you can demonstrate to leadership the return on investment (ROI) of an enhanced customer experience. By connecting the dots and showing how CX initiatives result in business positive outcomes, your initiatives will gain credibility and buy-in.” – Nick Glimsdahl, Director of Contact Center Solutions, VDS

The experts also supplied names of up-and-coming brands to keep an eye on for 2020. These included:

  • Afterpay
  • Allbirds
  • Away
  • Beyond Meat
  • Carvana
  • Evolved Chocolate
  • Glossier
  • Graduate Hotels
  • Kamikoto
  • Koopid
  • N26
  • Nubank
  • Sipsby
  • Stella Connect
  • Stitch Fix
  • thredUP
  • Turo

As planning and budgeting for 2020 are now top of mind, don’t forget that without customers, you don’t have a business. Make sure that customer experience efforts are fully funded and resourced to provide the best experience possible in a competitive marketplace.

Dan Gingiss is a keynote speaker and the author of Winning at Social Customer Care: How Top Brands Create Engaging Experiences on Social Media. Sign up for his bi-weekly newsletter of CX articles and tips here.