3 snowboarders accelerating downhill
PHOTO: Yann Allegre

Just as the holiday party invites start going out, the business world comes alive with talk of predictions. What will take off in the next year? How can you stay ahead of the competition? What forces will accelerate or slow down? And how can you best prepare for the expected, not to mention unexpected, changes?

Looking ahead, here are a few thoughts for customer experience (CX) professionals to stay ahead of the curve.

Harness the Rise of Customer Success

Customer success will continue to gain momentum and mindshare in 2020 as companies hone in on the new economic realities of the recurring revenue, on-demand, customer-centered subscription economy. Because the customer success discipline focuses on the economic behavior of customers— t heir consumption, engagement, enrichment and retention records — it is a discipline focuses CX leaders on new dimensions of value delivery.

CX professionals' job is to intimately understand every part of the customer journey, and the signals to inform that understanding keep getting better and better. You’re trying to get inside their heads: What are they doing, thinking and feeling? But no signal is as strong as actual cold hard cash. The customer’s purchasing behavior — what products they buy, when and subscription retention — indicate whether or not the customer is getting the expected value from the product or service. And if you’re not meeting or exceeding the customer’s expectations, you have a CX problem, and ultimately a problem with the whole business.

Customer retention is the lifeblood of successful companies. Our research shows that in today’s economy, 84% of the economic value of customers comes through retention — almost double what it was in the past (see figure below). Acquisition is not enough. Customer success initiatives are uniquely poised to answer questions around product/service usage, engagement, retention and repeat purchases. Who is deriving value from your product and who isn’t? CS should not be viewed as a separate siloed function from CX, but a new set of tools in the toolbox to engage and serve customers and improve articulation of the business case.

transaction vs subscription economy

Related Article: Aligning Your Organization Around Customer Success

Prepare for Customer Master Data Management (cMDM)

Firms will reinvigorate efforts around customer data platforms to harness and use the most valuable asset companies have: data about their customers. Data alone is not inherently valuable. Its value depends on refining and using it at moments that matter most for customers. And like diamonds from the ground, it takes a considerable amount of work to turn siloed, unstructured data into valuable customer insights available at the right time within the right context to make a difference along a customer journey.

Every company produces increasing heaps of unstructured data in the form of notes, texts, surveys, sales, chats, call center logs and emails. It lives in silos from Salesforce, Zendesk, CRM, support centers and financial systems, and often with little or no governance around it. And this current state of affairs is one of the biggest barriers to CX and CS breakthroughs.

CMDM is an approach to data collection and analysis that breaks down the silos to provide a comprehensive view of all the relevant touch points your customers and employees engage with across the entirety of your business. The goal is to establish a system of technology, tools, people and processes that identify what data is important, where it comes from, how it’s collected, and how different streams are integrated to tell a cohesive story. The result of a cMDM effort is to provide governance for the four phases of data: collection, normalization, analysis, and finally using data-derived insights to make better business decisions and enable AI customer prediction paths.

Without a holistic approach to data, companies are left with a fragmented picture of customers’ past interactions, needs and expectations, causing conversion, loyalty and satisfaction rates to decrease drastically. On the other hand, by formulating a strategic approach including technology, tools and processes to ensure all important pieces of customer data are woven together — you can open up possibilities to quantitatively and qualitatively use data to analyze the customer journey in the past and use that analysis to optimize future journeys.

Related Article: Will the CDP Marketplace Consolidate in 2020?

Watch for the Reinvention of Marketing Automation

In 2020 we will see an acceleration of vendors succeeding at reinventing marketing automation. Emerging tools such as customer journey orchestration, enterprise feedback management, customer success and customer data platforms all vie to stitch together data across a customer journey to make it actionable within a point in time across a customer journey. This makes the idea of the traditionally static, out-of-context email (or any direct mail) campaigns seem “cute” (in an anachronistic sort of way).

Instead of thinking about scheduling an email with a simple A/B test, new software will allow you to program a customer’s path to success, advocacy, subscription renewal (and equally importantly avoid a negative path of failure, public detraction, churn and shrinkage). AI can be used to predict and anticipate the best possible experiences for every customer cohort, and even “next best” experiences that can keep them on that happy path.

Related Article: The Next Evolution in Email Marketing: Beyond Personalization

Once Again, Data Leads the Way 

When it comes to data, there is a tremendous amount of value to unlock — which is why all three 2020 CX trends spotlight data in some way. Focusing on customer success within CX bolsters your knowledge about customers with their real economic behavior. Getting your data house in order with a cMDM strategy lays the groundwork to create streamlined, unified databases that can tell a complete story about the customer journey. And finally, with properly identified, collected, and processed data the skies the limit in terms of AI and the reinvention of marketing automation.

With each of these trends and across all CX efforts in 2020, don’t lose sight of linking your success to business outcomes, as this will remain a crucial factor to continue the momentum and funding of your customer experience initiatives.