For the last ten years I’ve been sharing predictions and trends, mostly focused on customer service and customer experience (CX). I approach these ideas with the customer in mind—what they are experiencing, what they want, what they expect. The pandemic has thrown many challenges our way. Many of us were forced to change the way we do business. I don’t believe anything completely new was invented. However, we were forced to use, change and adapt to existing technologies and business processes faster than we’ve ever had to in the past. Furthermore, leadership realized that long-term strategic plans had to be put aside and replaced with in-the-moment decisions to keep up with the challenging business environment. So with that in mind, here are the first five of my predictions and trends for 2022.
1. Customers are smarter than ever. The first prediction for 2022 is the same one I’ve opened with over the past several years. Each year customers become more aware of what great customer service and CX looks like. They are being trained by companies like Amazon, Target, Walmart and other iconic brands that tend to get the customer experience right. It doesn’t matter the type of business you are in, or how big or small, your customers no longer compare you only to your competition, but instead to the best service they have ever received from any brand.
2. B2C expectations are starting to become B2B expectations. Following up on the first prediction, customers in the B2B world are starting to expect some of the same levels of service and customer experience that they receive from their favorite retail brands. Earlier this year a client in the healthcare industry compared the poor delivery experience he had with a half-million-dollar imaging machine to the perfect experience he had with Amazon delivering toilet paper.
3. Convenience is a competitive expectation. Not even three years ago I wrote The Convenience Revolution when creating a convenient experience was a differentiator that disrupted competition and even entire industries (think Amazon, Uber, Airbnb and others). The pandemic accelerated the adoption of convenience as companies increased options including delivery, improved self-service solutions and better use of technology. It’s simple. The company that is easier to do business with will win.
4. Self-service options are increasingly important. Our 2021 Achieving Customer Amazement Research Study revealed that 41% of American consumers who need help now turn to a digital self-service solution over traditional phone support. Companies must understand that customers want quick answers to their problems and questions and are willing to forgo traditional phone support if there is an easy (as in convenient) solution. That percentage will grow, especially as forward-thinking companies provide easier, more intuitive digital help.
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5. Conversational AI continues to improve. When I was a kid, I was fascinated with Arthur C. Clarke’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. The computer, HAL, could talk and make decisions. At the time, it was science fiction. Today, it’s reality. Some of the more advanced conversational AI solutions are becoming so good that, in some cases, they are almost indistinguishable from human-to-human interaction. And here’s the reason it is a 2022 prediction: it’s less expensive than ever. Conversational AI applications are now within reach of smaller businesses. So not only will conversational AI improve, it will be more commonplace.
So, those are my first five predictions. Next week I’ll be back with five more. I’ll give you a hint about next week’s number ten. It has to do with The Great Resignation. I may be off on my timing, but I believe we’ll be able to look at the employment challenges brought on by The Great Resignation in the rearview