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What 2020 Holds for UX and Customer Experience

6 minute read
Debbie Levitt avatar
2020 promises change for professionals working in customer experience and user experience, but not necessarily what others predict.

What does 2020 have in store for the customer experience (CX) and user experience (UX) industry? Here are my predictions, in no particular order.

What Will Happen in 2020 

More CX and UX Jobs Can Be Done Mostly or Wholly Remotely

With the exception of some types of customer research and testing that must be done on site or in person, CX and UX jobs can be performed completely remotely. We do not need to come into physical offices, neither to whiteboard — thanks to digital and cloud alternatives — nor to collaborate with co-workers located in the US, Croatia, India, South Africa, Brazil and around the world.

Remote work is high in benefits and low in drawbacks. Additionally, if your company cares about diversity and inclusion, then you are headed toward remote working. This allows us the greatest diversity of where people are located plus better inclusion of people who need more flexible working situations due to medical conditions, family situations, ordinary human needs, and other important factors.

Related Article: Redefining Remote Work for UX and Creative Employees

Questionable Trade Schools and Boot Camps Will Start Coming Undone

Certificate factories that are not properly preparing people for entry-level or junior jobs will face change-or-die scenarios. While workplaces couldn’t tell qualified from unqualified UX workers, anybody who added “UX” to their resume could be hired. But as hiring managers become savvier, workplaces turn to consultants to help them vet CX and UX talent, and as more unhappy “grads” become more comfortable warning others away from bad UX education, schools will have to drastically change or go extinct.

Standards are always changing. A handful of years ago, it was amazing just to have UX trade schools at all. Their popularity and number surged as word got out of the salaries, putting people in search of a quick educational overview which provided a certificate that nearly assured them a job. But now the market is flooded with people who often received poor instruction and few or no reviews of their work. Students guessed their way through sample projects, and their portfolios betray their lack of readiness, leading these candidates to have trouble even getting an interview.

Most shocking is who the instructors are at many of these schools. Would you expect to learn plumbing from an electrician who has never done plumbing work? UX trade school and boot camp instructors sometimes are recent graduates of the program they are now teaching, or have held few or zero jobs in UX. There are too many examples of UX courses being taught by recent trade school grads, artists and others who have held few or no CX or UX jobs.

This will change in 2020 as potential students raise their standards, research schools more thoroughly and investigate their instructors’ backgrounds. Schools and boot camps will have to shape up or close down.

Related Article: Who Certified Your Business Certification?

Closer Ties Between CX and UX Work and Metrics, KPIs and ROI

The call to tie CX and UX work to measurable business goals is increasing. That way, when goals are achieved, CX and UX receive respect and that all-important “seat at the table.” Companies who can tell when a programmer is someone to keep or fire will wonder why they can’t tell when a UX practitioner is someone to keep or fire. They will need to start judging UX workers and teams, how they succeed and what stands in their way when they don’t.

If our workplaces believe in being agile, then we need to be able to look at what each teammate created, how collaboration went, and what can be improved. If CX and UX will be held responsible for meeting certain KPIs, then we will also need to invest in what will help them be successful, including their budget and headcount. We also need to plan much earlier for CX’s and UX’s involvement in projects rather than trying to give them the tiniest crumbs of a project’s “leftover time” after engineering carves out the time they need.

Prioritizing Quality and Customer Value

We have already seen a coalition of famous companies vowing to start caring more about customer needs than shareholder value.

Learning Opportunities

If we back our statements, promises, slogans and other claims with investment, then companies will require a business transformation towards customer value. For too long, everything has revolved around “what the business wants to build” or “the technology we want to sell to people.” Meetings that center around “a stakeholder describing the problem” will decrease or go extinct as cross-functional teams realize the stakeholder’s perspective is often quite different from what customer interviews and observational research reveal about our current and potential customers’ real problems and needs.

When companies decide they are investing in creating customer value, this investment must start in the CX and UX world. The fastest way to level up CX and UX maturity in a company is to bring in veterans who are senior level and higher, typically with six or more years of experience, and respect their approach and process. Then augment these teams with talented juniors who can receive mentoring from seniors and leaders. Managers will need to trust these pros to be problem finders and problem solvers, and not push them to be order takers or competitor copycats. CX and UX will require time, budget, autonomy and a place on the software dev team so they can break down silos and improve collaboration.

What Will Not Happen in 2020

Companies With Questionable Ethics Will not Improve

They are gaining and winning too much right now to change. They haven’t felt the pain of regulation or enough customers leaving, so they have learned that customers will stick around. These companies will keep pushing the boundaries of what they can get away with. Everybody predicting 2020 is the year when privacy, security and ethics improves is floating in a beautiful fantasy that is unlikely to be 2020’s reality.

Chatbots Still Won’t Be Ready for Prime Time

People have been saying for years that chatbots are going to be big, but 2020 won’t be the year. The technology is not yet there for chatbots to replace most human customer support. If these bots aren’t helping people accomplish tasks without submitting a support ticket, what are they really doing? This tech needs more time to mature to a level where they can deeply understand common problems customers are trying to solve, and how to parse the many ways they might ask for that help.

Related Article: How to Take Your Chatbots to the Next Level 

Everybody Will Not 'Develop Empathy' for the User

If stakeholders and others naturally had mountains of empathy for customers, your mention of a customer problem would immediately get you time and budget to research, architect, design, test, iterate and fix it. It’ll be another year of empathy being thrown around as a buzzword before people shift away from the fantasy that group exercises and teams making assumptions about the customer’s journey create empathy where it was naturally lacking.

Related Article: Can We Create Empathy in Others?   

Happy 2020! Let’s create change.

About the author

Debbie Levitt

Debbie Levitt, CEO of Delta CX, has been a CX and UX strategist, designer, and trainer since the 1990s. As a “serial contractor” who lived in the Bay Area for most of the 2010's, Debbie has influenced interfaces at Sony, Wells Fargo, Constant Contact, Macys.com, Oracle, and a variety of Silicon Valley startups. Her new book, "Delta CX," burns down what's hurting the UX industry and builds up what we must do instead to prioritize quality in every area.