2016 Prediction: The year of white hot debate, submission to customers, and crying uncle

By Peter Haid

Admittedly, I wasn’t spot-on with my predictions for 2015. Not because they weren’t key points that are important for businesses interested in true customer experience; rather, because they simply weren’t pursued the way they should have been.

Let me explain… These were the top trends predicted for 2015 and their status today:

  1. Employee engagement
    • It’s definitely getting more airtime, but not much application outside of the board room. Why? The best route to engagement is empowerment, which comes from decentralized authority/decisions. The thing with empowerment is that it scares people: especially upper management.
  2. Brands partnering across the ecosystem
    • We’re seeing some of these steps being taken in digital transformations (such as allowing website users to see and interact with data from up/down stream partners in the journey through APIs), but it’s time for the revolution in other channels as well.
  3. CX design and innovation
    • There’s actually good work being done in this area! Consulting firms are moving ahead of the simple journey maps and into designing the experience. Take Touchpoint Dashboard: we’ve developed journey management, i.e. ongoing actions and workflow required to correct or implement journey improvements.

All these things are important and will hopefully be further developed in 2016. But “woulda, coulda, shoulda,” and all, there’s still work to be done.

So let’s talk about 2016, and what it will really be about for organizations that want to differentiate.

The coming year will be filled with debate. 2016 will put organizations into discussion about “submission to the customers.” Companies are going to be challenged with how to give customers what they really want because, due to technology, customers are holding ALL the cards. Think #customerobsessed, #customercentric, and a whole list of other hashtags. The debate then will be how to incorporate those hashtags into the company culture and move beyond a nice social media campaign.

There are two ways to really get this into focus:

  1. Admit that products are subordinate to the journey
    • Let’s face it, customers are no longer buying products. Technology is normalizing competitive differences, leaving organizations with limited product differentiation. What remains is that customers are buying experiences. They’re buying interactions with the company at a multiplicity of touchpoints. Therefore, the key focus of submitting to the customer is understanding that you’re selling an experience.
  2. Transparency
    • I believe that customers and employees alike simply want transparency. This is especially true when things go wrong. Don’t avoid the question. Don’t pretend it didn’t happen because technology is saying it did. Remember how technology is normalizing competition? Well, a huge part of that is the transparency it’s providing. So take part in that work rather than trying to work against it. Part of submitting to the customer, and what is really going to give you competitive advantage, is transparency. In 2016, don’t hide.

The actualization of these 2016 predictions remain up to the organizations themselves. Don’t let the New Year be one of missed opportunities. Bring in the debate about “submission to the customer” and define that idea within your company. And, more importantly, make sure the customer feels that definition at every point in their journey.