What will 2017 bring for Customer Experience?

“We do not learn from experience… we learn from reflecting on experience,” said John Dewey, the famous American educator.

The best thing about wrapping up the year is the space we get to reflect on the year gone by and the year to come. Last year I wrote The Obligatory Post on Customer Experience Trends 2016. As I started to write the follow-up post for 2017, I found myself taking stock of my predictions last year, and where they had ended up.

What did I predict in 2016?

Customer strategy is the business strategy

Prediction: Customer strategy will become central to corporate strategy.

Result: Bullseye! This was valid and will hold true over the next several years. Even though businesses wish to be more customer centric, most companies are still struggling to make it happen. (I’m happy to help, just reach out… )

Effort and responsiveness emerge as a key customer metric

Prediction: The focus of customer experience design will transition from customer delight to simplicity.

Result: I missed the target entirely. While most organisations recognise the value of a low effort experience, very few measure it as a key metric. For the majority, NPS is still the go to organisation level metric representing customer experience. Organisations assume that the NPS score reflects Customer Effort. This gives me an idea for a blog post… stay tuned.

Shift to proactive and pre-emptive engagement

Prediction: Customer experience will be designed with a ‘proactive first’ approach, using data to explore pre-emptive engagement.

Result: The shift has begun. While a majority of businesses are still reactive, businesses are getting closer to transitioning from reactive to proactive engagement with customers. A key driver is the availability of customer data and the emergence of AI, RPA, and IoT in mainstream business thinking. 

Contact centre becomes retention centre

Prediction: Customers will shift to digital channels, with the call centre becoming more a strategic asset than a cost centre.

Result: We’re not there yet, unfortunately. Even though organisations understand the role of establishing a human connection with the customer, the majority have some catching up to do when it comes to transitioning their contact centres to customer engagement hubs. Largely speaking, contact centres still operate as multi-channel transactional centres. 

VR/AR come of age

Prediction: Early adopters of virtual reality and augmented reality will gain substantial first-mover advantage in the market.

Result: I’m excited to see this realised. It was validated as retailers – Lego, IKEA, Nike, Tesco, Loews, Sephora and others – embraced AR/VR/MR. This trend is expected to continue. 

So, how did I do? A score of 3 out of 5 is a pass, but not the straight-As that I would have liked. 

Hopefully, I will do better with my trend predictions for 2017, fingers crossed.


What should we be looking forward to in 2017?

Automation will advance

Prediction: In the interest of offering low effort experiences, organisations will continue to invest in process automation.  A majority of human assisted transactions will be automated through intelligent systems such as virtual agents, chatbots, IoT, and robotic process automation.  This wave of automation, enabled by deep customer insights, will make customer interactions more efficient and effective.   

The humans will become more human (but more scarce)

Prediction: Automation will take over the realm of transactional customer interactions, freeing up human energy to deal with complex customer interactions. Humans will always be required for ‘high touch’ or customer challenges that cannot be resolved through automation. More will be expected of customer facing staff. They will be higher skilled, and customer-facing work will become more about making human connections.        

Personalisation will prevail

Prediction: With customers increasingly willing to trade their data for a better customer experience, businesses now have latitude to personalise customer experiences. Customer expectations are also changing rapidly. According to Salesforce, over half of customers are willing to switch brands if a company does not make an effort to personalise communications to them.   

Messaging and chat will merge

Prediction: Messaging apps will gain popularity in western markets, following on the footsteps of the success of WeChat in Asia. They will start to eclipse SMS and web chat as it exists today, and over the next few years will emerge as the default channel for communication online.  

Email will evolve

Prediction: The death-knell on email has already been sounded – but maybe prematurely? Emails is making a comeback with interactivity.  Email 2.0 offers features like a carousel of images from UK retailer B&Q and a live news feed with top stories from the Chicago Tribune.  E-tailers are able to configure order placement and shopping carts using tabs, menus, and dropdowns. Email makes personalised communications easier, and will likely re-emerge as a channel of choice among customers.  Who would have thought? 

Here’s to designing, delivering and receiving great customer experiences in the New Year.       

Make sure to share your stories with me. 


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