2023: Brands must not turn their back on customer experience in a down economy

Set against the backdrop of the cost of living crisis, customer experience is at risk of taking a backseat in 2023. But those that get it right will reap long-term rewards.

Cormac Kelly, Senior Director of Customer Success at Momentive, argues that organisations will need to look to redefine what data is valuable as well as recognising new customer entry points in 2023.

We’ve all heard the saying “the customer is always right.” Over the past few decades, it has been used by many companies to focus attention on the customer and their experience, with many distinguished customer service and CX teams being born from it. During the pandemic and the resulting shift in customer journey, businesses honed in on the customer and CX as they rapidly digitised to meet increased demand for online transactions.

While customer experience has made great strides in the past decade to close the gap between customer expectations and what they actually receive, businesses have still only scratched the surface. Set against the backdrop of the current economic situation with inflation, stagflation, and the cost of living crisis, customer experience is at risk of taking a backseat in 2023. Internal and external pressures to do more with less are beginning to take their toll on the CX experience, teams, and budget. Next year must see brands continue to harness the power of customer experience (CX) if they are to achieve long-term success.

Now is the time for business leaders to invest in their teams, in technology, and take their CX to higher levels. In order to do so, there are a few areas that brands need to consider when taking these necessary steps.  

Brands must embrace the economic downturn 

In 2023, the cost of living crisis will likely affect the CX journey and how customers interact with brands. Britain’s largest business group, the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), has already warned the UK that it is facing a year-long recession in 2023 due to rising inflation and negative business growth and investment. 

Marketing and customer experience budgets and teams are feeling the financial squeeze as a result with Forrester predicting that 2023 will see the loss of one in five CX programs across UK businesses. Alongside these cuts, UK consumers are also facing a cost of living crisis and are having to tighten their belts to make ends meet, with some turning away from their favoured brands toward cheaper options. Maintaining and building on the consumer-brand relationship can be the differentiator between companies who survive the recession and those who don’t. 

In order to weather this storm, customer experience must be top of mind for brands. Companies will need to drive sophisticated methods of CX to tailor their offering to new consumer needs. Moving forward, customers will become more price conscious and less patient with their time, which may have an impact on customer loyalty. Brands must evolve their strategies and become smart about the channels where they interact with their customers and meet them in the channel that is easiest for them. One bad experience can drive a customer away for good, and most brands can’t afford to make that mistake in this economy

Aligned with this, companies will need to clearly articulate how their product can help customers cut costs or generate revenue. This can transpire in multiple ways -  customers can use insights gleaned to improve their online purchasing journey by streamlining customer effort,  reduce their customer refund cost by a and improving packaging, improvement in the purchasing the journey, and increase customer retention rates by asking the right question at the right time to ensure satisfaction 

The need to mature a CX program 

Post-pandemic, many businesses saw an explosion in consumer touch points as they accelerated their digital transformation — new social media channels, expanded website capabilities, and more. These various touch points should be utilised to interact with new and retain existing customers across different demographics. Increasing the quality and quantity of the customer feedback collected can drive company strategy by uncovering what consumers really want and need, along with their pain points in the customer journey. 

By using a variety of touch points to uncover data, businesses can quickly adapt and tweak brand messaging and advertising to communicate in-demand products and services to retain existing and reach out to potential customers. By understanding customer concerns, businesses are also able to communicate in a more personable way and improve any pain points uncovered by the feedback. Listening to your customers and acting upon feedback shows your customers that you are investing in them, making them more likely to invest in you. 

However, when using these insights to make business decisions, companies must also be monitoring how effectively they are being utilised. Although there isn’t one single metric that you can measure, businesses can look towards things like their Net Promoter Score (NPS®) and Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT). Looking at these can help give customer experience teams an idea of where they are meeting customer needs, and where they are falling short and need to focus on. 

Embrace technology and your team 

While the CX industry’s main drive is to accommodate customers and deliver excellent customer satisfaction, organisations also need to think inwardly about how teams are coping with these socio-economic pressures.  Reducing menial, repetitive tasks from the team’s workload will enable employees to focus on high-value tasks that not only drive customer satisfaction, but can improve an employee’s skills and job satisfaction.

When collecting customer feedback data there often is a wealth of information to navigate. Technology can help businesses to be more effective with the data they collect, as well as supporting customer experience teams in this crucial period. Application and data-centric artificial intelligence (AI), for example, is saving CX teams valuable time by combing through large amounts of data and highlighting the most impactful findings which CX teams can review and turn into real, actionable insights. Alongside this, AI is being used to power digital assistants which can be embedded anywhere a customer may have queries to deliver personalised recommendations, complementary products and services based on interactions. These chatbots can handle simple customer queries 24/7, alleviating the strain on a CX or customer support team.

By powering CX teams with technology, businesses can improve not only CX delivery but also business functions across the board by incorporating vital feedback into future plans. It must, however, be stressed that technology works in tandem with CX teams, and cannot replace them. AI may be powerful, but it cannot replace the complexity of human interaction, only supplement it. 

It’s therefore crucial that businesses invest and prioritise their CX teams in 2023. Customer experience is a key pillar for growth and it would be disastrous for businesses should leaders not make this a main consideration for 2023. Even businesses who believe they have reached CX maturity shouldn’t forget its importance, as consumer sentiment shifts, there is always room for improvement. 

By Cormac Kelly

Senior Director of Customer Success