Customer-facing brands have placed a renewed interest in customer experience as a top priority over the past two years. Customers today have higher expectations that the brands they do business with will provide an exceptional, personalized experience across all of the brand's channels, that they lead with an omnichannel philosophy and that the customer service they provide will be available 24/7. Customers are also demanding that brands enable them to control their own narrative throughout the customer journey. Here's a look at the top CX trends that brands should be aware of in 2023. 

Customers Want to Control Their Own Narratives

Quite often, customers feel like they are cornered into taking specific actions, and it makes them feel powerless and frustrated. For example, when a customer calls customer service and is forced to use an Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system that is tedious and takes forever to wade through when all they want is to press whatever number it takes to get to a live agent. A better alternative is to provide them with the opportunity to use an AI-driven chatbot, a knowledge base, a FAQ, or the ability to speak directly with a service agent. No matter how they choose to contact customer service, they will be in control of their own narrative, and it will enhance, rather than detract from, their customer experience.

Mathilde Collin, co-founder and CEO of Front, a communications hub platform provider, told CMSWire that a recent report by Front on the science behind customer relationships revealed that customers are looking for more autonomy. "Customers prefer being offered a few solutions to a problem over having a problem solved with a single solution," said Collin, who added that the report also found that our basic psychological needs (relatedness, mastery and autonomy) apply to customer relationships as well. 

Digital Customer Experience (DCX) Remains a Priority

As CMSWire's own 2023 State of Digital Customer Experience Report points out, DCX continues to evolve as a priority. 79% of those polled indicated that DCX is extremely or very important, while confidence in tools has also grown, with 75% saying tools work well or are satisfactory.

Viviana Bertinetto, chief customer officer at Language I/O, a conversational translation platform provider, told CMSWire that efficiency will be the key to CX over the next year. “Many B2B companies will have to focus on digital CX (DCX) and reserve their teams for larger enterprise customers. It will be critical for them to do this without completely losing personalization."

The report also revealed that brands with effective DCX tools are nearly four times more likely to have implemented personalization compared to those with tools that are considered ineffective, with 34% of those with tools “working well” already reaping the benefits of their personalization efforts.

The technology that allows greater levels of personalization is continuing to evolve, and now includes sentiment and intent analysis. "Tools that provide sentiment analysis will continue to be successful as they create efficiency by scanning and understanding content so it can be easily routed to the correct human. Tools providing insight into intent will be successful as well,” said Bertinetto. “This technology will be particularly helpful in gaining simultaneous efficiency and personalization since intent can accurately target stakeholders and buyers."

Personalization Is Not Granular But Remains Important

Personalization is important to consumers, and over the past two years, their expectations have dramatically risen after doing business with tech brands such as Amazon during the pandemic. This isn’t new, however, as even as far back as 2018, an Epsilon research report indicated that 80% of consumers are more likely to make a purchase when brands offer personalized experiences. Conversely, a 2022 Statista report indicated that over 60% of surveyed shoppers said that brands that delivered unpersonalized content would lose their loyalty.

Unfortunately for many brands, they are not delivering the level of personalization that customers expect. In fact, data in the State of Digital Customer Experience Report indicated that if anything, we seem to have almost gone backward this year in regards to personalization. The report revealed that the tendency is against granularity, with 65% of respondents describing their personalization as either “one to many” or “one to some.” Those brands that are providing customers with a more granular approach with “one to few” is relatively small at 12%, and even smaller for those with a “one to one” approach at 6%. This is indicative that truly granular, hyper-personalization is the exception rather than the rule where personalization is used.

This isn’t because there is a lack of interest in personalization. The report showed that the proportion of those brands that are considering an evaluation of personalization has increased to 23% and those indicating personas and/or personalization as a priority area of investment has grown from 20% to 24%.

Bradley Hearn, product marketing manager at ChannelAdvisor, a CommerceHub company, told CMSWire that as consumer behavior continues to evolve, it’s harder than ever for companies to keep up. “As a result, brands and retailers must prioritize personalization in 2023 or they will begin to lose customers at the beginning of the customer journey,” said Hearn. “Companies need to think creatively, and most importantly, think about the customer, to immediately capture their attention at the awareness stage of their journey.” Hearn suggested that customers need to know how a brand or product relates to them or fits their needs without having to dig. “Otherwise, they’ll look elsewhere."

Related Article: 5 Trends in Ecommerce That Will Impact CX in 2022 and Beyond

Customer Service Becomes a Top Priority

Consumer expectations are high when it comes to customer service, and they are only getting higher. According to a June 2022 Statista survey of United States consumers, 70% indicated that they expected a response from a brand on the same day, 46% expected a response by the next day, and 16% would be willing to wait three days. Additionally, a May 2022 Statista survey revealed that 94% of respondents stated that a positive customer service experience made them more likely to purchase again. 

Poor customer service is a huge driver of customer churn, as a 2020 Statista survey showed that 40% of customers said that they stopped doing business with a brand due to poor customer service. “Businesses lose $75 billion a year to revenue churn as a direct result of poor service — and that data is from a good year,” said Collin. “In the foreseeable macro environment, every minute a company waits to improve customer retention is a minute too late.” Fortunately, many brands are realizing that an investment in customer service is also an investment in customer experience. 20% of those polled in the State of Digital Customer Experience report prioritized customer service or call centers in 2022, a 5% increase over 2021.

The personalized experience that customers expect extends to customer service as well. By recognizing past purchase history and knowing the customer’s name, address and contact info, the customer service experience can be highly-personalized, and customers are able to avoid frustrating and time-consuming pain points such as requiring them to repeat information.

Consumers Expect Brands to Be Phygital 

Customers have gotten used to digital interactions with brands — even those brands that have a brick-and-mortar counterpart — and they expect to be able to seamlessly move from channel to channel and have a consistent experience throughout. More recently, customers have begun to have hybrid or phygital experiences that are a blend of physical and digital interactions. One example of the phygital is QR codes — they have appeared on product packaging, in stores, and even in restaurants, where they are used to enable customers to open a menu on their smartphone.

Learning Opportunities

Lisa Loftis, principal on the SAS Global customer intelligence team and a CMSWire Contributor, told CMSWire that although the rapid transformation to digital engagement required heroic efforts — and brands did their best to rise to the challenge — a closer look at the digital environment today is ripping off the Band-Aid for many. “Consumers increasingly demand a more immersive hybrid digital/physical environment where they can combine both mediums in a single transaction; engagements like buying online and returning in-store, ordering and paying electronically tableside while dining, using AR/VR to try-before-you-buy, and accessing a live human while transacting online, are here to stay,” said Loftis.

“In addition, experiences need to be consistent across various channels, both digital and traditional,” said Loftis. “As the dust settles on the pandemic transformation efforts, one thing is becoming clear — many of these were indeed Band-Aids that worked for individual channels in the short-term but will not suffice in a more holistic hybrid environment.”

Related Article: CMSWire's Top 10 Customer Experience Articles of 2022

The Human Connection Will Become Even More Important

As the interactions that customers have become more digital, the need for a human connection has also increased. The pandemic caused people to recognize the importance of a human connection, and how much it could be missed when we did not have the opportunity to do so. As such, in 2023 brands will continue to seek ways to enhance and improve the human connections they have with customers. 

Jason Finkelstein, CMO at Gladly, a customer service platform provider, told CMSWire that as we move into 2023, we expect to see an increasing emphasis on the customer experience and cultivating a human connection even in virtual environments. "With the adoption of technology that personalizes the customer experience — and puts the customer first, not the backend process — brands can break through the noise in the market right now and reach their audience in the way they want to be reached," said Finkelstein.

Emerging technologies such as OpenAI’s ChatGPT will ironically enable brands to add a more human touch to customer service chatbots. This AI-driven chatbot uses Natural Language Processing (NLP) and Machine Learning (ML) to be able to carry on conversations that make the user feel like they are speaking with another person. 

That doesn’t mean that human service agents will be out of a job any time soon. Drew Giovannoli, vice president of marketing at Rev, a leading transcription service provider, told CMSWire that consumers are picky — 78% demand human interaction after one digital mishap or mistake, according to a UJET report. "Given the significant risk of losing customers, businesses have to ensure human involvement when developing strategies around AI for accessibility services,” said Giovannoli. “While AI can be used to increase speed and quality of digital operations around customer service, it’s still critical to have humans involved in the process,” he said, adding that the human ability to provide context to the AI prevents errors that cause customers to jump ship.

Omnichannel Is Everything, Everything Is Omnichannel

Customers have become used to being able to interact with brands on multiple channels, including their websites, mobile apps, emails, phones and brick-and-mortar storefronts. They expect a consistent, frictionless experience across all of a brand’s channels, and they expect their interactions to be personalized. The omnichannel customer experience consists of all of a customer’s touchpoints, across all of a brand’s channels. Because these channels are seamlessly connected, customers are able to easily move from one channel to another without interruption or friction.

Bill Staikos, senior vice president of industry solutions at Medallia, an experience management software platform provider, told CMSWire that in 2023, omnichannel investments will accelerate. "Omnichannel, as a strategy, will turn 20 years old in 2023. Companies will accelerate investment in omnichannel capabilities, with digital as the foundational pillar, to drive down their cost to serve, and personalize experiences, particularly given the economic headwinds expected next year,” said Staikos, who added that customers are demanding more from the brands they buy from each day.

Related Article: How to Deliver a Customer-Centric Digital Customer Experience

Final Thoughts on 2023 CX Trends

Consumer expectations are very high today, and brands must continually work to improve the customer experience. Customers want to control their own narratives, they expect quick and efficient customer service, a seamless phygital experience and they demand that brands meet them where they are in the customer journey. Personalization will remain a key to customer loyalty, and a human connection will become more important. Finally, customers expect brands to provide them with an omnichannel experience that is frictionless and consistent from channel to channel.