By Gibu Mathew, VP and GM APAC, Zoho Corp.
2021 has definitely been a year of adaption, organizations and employees alike have acclimatized to the new ways of working. Brands, meanwhile, have refashioned their offerings to meet and complement the changing needs of their customers.
We have ushered in a new era of customer experience (CX). Customer service has expanded across different channels and has developed new practices to reach a wider audience. Many companies have strengthened their customer experience efforts to differentiate their brand from competitors who offer similar products and services and share the same audience.
Business leaders are beginning to determine which habits adopted during the pandemic will wither and which habits will stay. So, what will customer experience look like in 2022? Here are our top predictions:
- CEOs will take the lead on digital transformation (DX)
While digital transformation has been underway for several years, the past two years have seen it faster than ever. Now more than ever, the urgency to prioritize DX was pushed to an existential challenge. It doesn’t apply to just the IT infrastructure to optimize internal operations anymore but has extended across the entire business ecosystem, primarily driven by how customers now consume content and make purchases. This has resulted in a fundamental transformation for many organizations as a whole, especially as customers now prefer to interact with brands through digital channels.
According to a Consumer Insights report by PwC, among the top preferred channels of Singaporeans to purchase products are online via smartphones, online via Smart home voice assistants, and online via tablets. As such, in 2022, from a CIO’s responsibility, DX will likely transition to CEOs having a strong focus on improving customer experiences. As customer consumption behavior is rapidly evolving, it is now up to the CEOs to articulate a technology-led and outcome-driven business strategy, rather than seeking how to support existing strategy with technology.
- BizOps will be elevated to a strategic level
Digitalization and elevating business strategy go hand-in-hand. The pandemic has accelerated the adoption of BizOps, the strategic direction to unify the information flow from different business functions like sales, marketing, and customer service, so that decision-making is not done in silos, among businesses. 2022 is seemingly the year where it will be utilized at a strategic level to optimize internal operations. As technology becomes a primary driver of growth, rather than being an afterthought, the importance of BizOps teams shall only increase further.
While companies have already adopted the BizOps model, they will soon leverage it to gain a better competitive advantage to improve customer services and create better customer experiences. Given the pace at which brands operate today, BizOps teams will complement business teams and IT teams to manage internal changes more smoothly and include customers in these positive changes.
- Self-serve and conversational experiences will be brands’ priority
Brands have already begun implementing self-serve digital experiences, which are already preferred by customers for simple and transactional needs. From commerce and account management to compliance and personalization, customers now opt to have as much within their direct control as possible. All these will be simplified by conversational interfaces, which emulate a conversation with a real person to give a more convenient and more human interaction.
2022 will also see the beginning of Zero UI, where there will be invisible user interfaces that are triggered by natural gestures like movements, voices, and gestures. On the consumer front, the increased adoption of Zero UI in smart home setups is a sure indication of what will become the expectation for more consumer products in a few years.
- Trust-by-design will be an expectation from customers and an ultimate goal for brands
According to Forrester, 59% of marketers in Asia-Pacific only fulfill minimum requirements in complying with data privacy regulations and only 30% have developed a dedicated strategy to communicate with their consumers about their data privacy. These numbers are likely to grow and consumers will begin to switch to brands that offer better privacy and take consumer data security more seriously. They are also likely to pay a premium for such offerings. This has already started for many consumers and will only get stronger as a trend.
- Unified technology platforms will be the de-facto choice
As organizations accelerate digital transformation, they are adopting unified technology platforms to ensure a seamless shift. Over a landscape of integrated best-of-breed applications, unified platforms will become the norm as they serve as a one-stop shop that allows businesses to perform several functions, like cross-referencing customer context, automation, gathering and analyzing customer data, within a single platform.
In the long term, a seamless unified platform mitigates the potential technology and financial risk of patch-work implementation of applications from different solution providers.
Overall, we believe that 2022 will see brands raising their CX efforts several notches higher. Since customer expectations and behavior have changed, we are seeing brands having an increased focus on refining customer digital experiences and making them as faultless as possible. At this stage, while we’re still adapting and coping with the rapid changes, we predict that next year will be a significant year for continuing, simplifying, and permanently incorporating the best CX practices adopted in the transformation journey.