The challenges CX leaders will face in 2022 are unlike what they’ve ever faced before – the goal is still to attract and retain customers, standing proud above your competitors – but the landscape has changed. So have the solutions,’ states the ‘2022 Global Consumer Trends’ report by Qualtrics XM. It highlights key areas companies can focus on in 2022 to have the biggest impact on their consumers and business, and get ahead of the pack.

According to a recent survey by Qualtrics XM Institute that asked more than 23,000 consumers from 23 countries about their experiences with the companies they bought from in 2021, 63% said that companies needed to get better at listening to the customer’s feedback; 62% said that businesses needed to care more about them and a whopping 60% of consumers were willing to buy more if businesses treated them better! Thus, in its ‘2022 Global Consumer Trends’ report, Qualtrics XM brings to light key areas that companies must focus on this year to get ahead of the curve.

Customers Have Had Enough
Bad experiences are costing businesses some $4.7 trillion in consumer spending every year globally, as customers refuse to spend money with businesses that don’t meet their expectations. As the cost of switching trends toward zero, they know that if one company doesn’t give them what they need, it costs nothing to switch to someone that will. Consumers are 3.5X more likely to purchase from a business after a positive customer experience and 5.1X more likely to recommend an organization after a positive customer experience. 

As consumers weed out businesses that tolerate bad experiences, the risk for those that miss the mark is huge. And the opportunity for those that get it right is even greater. For business, 9.5% of their revenue is at risk due to bad experiences. 

Toss out the Pre-2022 Business Plans
Businesses and companies that thought 2022 would be the year the world went back to normal must think again. What consumers buy, where they buy and how they use their purchases have changed – and continue to do so. In the face of supply chain issues and labour shortages, businesses are struggling to keep up with the knowhow, infrastructure and people to respond. The result? The gap between what customers expect and what companies actually deliver is bigger than ever.

According to the Qualtrics survey, 8 out of 10 people believe customer experience needs to be improved. The survey found that the biggest areas of improvement for companies were in prices and fees, customer service, product capabilities and ease of use. Online resources and the buying process were also key areas where consumers wanted businesses to improve.

Key Focus Areas for Businesses
With customers wanting a seamless experience anytime, anywhere, it has become imperative for businesses to improve of their service support as well as price & fees. The Qualtrics XM report reveals that 50% of the consumers want companies to improve their price & fees, while 43% expect better customer service support from them. Other areas that need improvement, according to consumers, are product & service capabilities (30% respondents), ease of use of products & services (30% respondents), online resources (29% respondents), company communications (29% respondents) and the buying process (27% respondents). 

As people’s expectations have changed, companies haven’t kept up, perhaps waiting and expecting consumers to revert to ‘the old way’. That’s not going to happen, says Qualtrics XM. Products and services haven’t been updated to what consumers need now, and as people flocked to digital over the past 18 months, companies have failed to respond, leading to fragmented and frustrating customer journeys and support as they switch from one channel to the next. 

The Way Forward
As we move into a new era post COVID-19, businesses need to take a fresh look at everything to understand once more what’s working, what’s not, and identify the actions to take to close the widening gap between them and their customers. Qualtrics XM briefly suggests the following methods that businesses can employ: 

  • Radically overhaul customer service: A one-size-fits-all approach to service just won’t work anymore. As customers engage with a brand across multiple channels, businesses need to be able to understand what each customer needs, when they need it, and deliver a tailored service on the channels they prefer to use. Overhauling customer service involves not just blindly deflecting to self-service options but recognising which options work best for which customers and when. Questions to ask include – at which points do customers need the most support? Are they being offered a good combination of channel options? Is the business aware of the needs of different customer segments?
  • Think customer, not channel: From the buying process, to how people use the products and access support, how customers interact with a brand has changed. Businesses must look to understand what they need, break down silos between channels and look at the end-to-end journey to identify what’s working and what’s not. 
  • Make agility the default setting: With current global supply chain issues and labour shortages, finding smart ways for humans and technology to converge will help ease the burden on people. Business must equip teams with the tools and processes to automatically get insights to the right people, so they can take action on it quickly.

Consumers may stop engaging, unless…
Requesting feedback has become table stakes for any business. But consumers are clear – if they’re going to give their feedback, they expect a response. Yet, two-thirds of consumers say companies need to get better at listening to their feedback. There’s only so much time and feedback customers are willing to give before they feel ignored, disillusioned and move on. Customers want a two-way relationship with the companies they buy from, where they feel that their voice is heard, and their feedback is acted on.

For 2022, businesses will need to listen harder and demonstrate to their customers that they hear them, and their voice matters. Companies in every industry are becoming ever-more sophisticated at collecting and using feedback to improve the experiences they deliver, and customers now expect it in every interaction they have. So what can businesses do? Qualtrics XM suggests the following: 

  • Listen, wherever your customers are: Channel preferences have evolved, so the business’s listening programme should too.
  • See the whole picture: Make indirect feedback part of the strategy to understand what customers are saying, wherever they’re saying it. 
  • Track the ROI of experience: Unstructured data will help a business detect emotion, effort and intent — then connect it to a structured framework like CSAT, CES or NPS so it can see their impact on performance.

Treat Customers as People, not Commodities
Consumers have re-evaluated the relationships they have with businesses. They have more choice than ever, and their tolerance for bad experiences is as low as it’s ever been. They expect businesses to treat them as people, and to put them and their needs first. And, the good news is they’re willing to pay more if you do. According to the survey, 62% of consumers said that businesses needed to care more about them. In fact, 60% consumers said that they would buy more as a result. While listening to and acting on feedback is a good start, consumers expect brands to go further. They expect them to do the hard work to create genuine relationships with them. That means interpreting the signals they’re giving, understanding what they need and then tailoring the response.

Companies that can make use of customer data and find smart ways to personalise the experience will differentiate themselves going forward. It’s not all about human intervention either — with the right infrastructure in place, a business can effectively tailor and personalise experiences at scale. Qualtrics XM suggests the following ways to do it: 

  • Turn data into insight: Gather solicited and unsolicited feedback from every channel whether online, on the phone or face to face – and create a unified, 360 degree view of every experience to see where to improve. 
  • Sense and respond: Identify points of friction in the most valuable customer journeys, and use the warning signs and signals from customers as triggers to take action, step in, and get customers back on the right path quickly. 
  • Make one-to-many, feel one-to-one: Build new segmentation models based on experience data, rather than just demographics. By grouping customers by their expressed needs and preferences, a business can develop targeted offerings that feel 1:1, and deliver them at scale.
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