Seven customer engagement trends to watch for in 2020
Effectively engaging with customers is simple, but it’s not easy. As your means of communications evolve, you have more touch points for communication, more data to derive insights from, and an increased awareness of the impact of employees and other business stakeholders on your customers’ experience. Looking at 2020, rather than make predictions, which are difficult at best, let’s explore some key trends in creating and nurturing customers for life.
At Refresh 19 in Las Vegas, Freshworks CEO Girish Mathrubootham opened his keynote with the Freshworks Customer-for-Life vision. What does it take to enable companies and organizations to create and nurture customers for life? It requires preparing your company to effectively and productively engage with all stakeholders — your employees, your prospects, your partners, and, yes, your customers — to help you build the trust necessary to acquire, nurture, and support customers for life. Here’s what industry analysts and influencers said they felt were key trends to look for in 2020:
- Data – Use it and care for it wisely
- Get back to basics
- Out with the old, in with the new
- Every stakeholder is a customer
- Happy employees, happy customers
- Rise of conversation interfaces
- User experience will reign
1) Data – Use it and care for it wisely
Esteban Kolsky, principal analyst at thinkJar, says a big trend to look out for in 2020 is using data for customer engagement. A focus on data is not new, but his take is about using data and analytics to generate insights to better understand customer needs. “We need to have more people understand the relationship between data and experiences, and data and engagement,” says Esteban. “You cannot build experiences, you cannot build engagement.” When you have those insights, you can create better delivery towards those needs. That, he says, will ultimately create engagement and better customer results.
For analyst Phil Hassey of capioIT, it is all about data security. He asks “is your data secure — the internal data that you’re generating, the external data that you’re drawing upon? How is that data being managed? A lot of organizations are just not capable of data management.” This includes even the more basic aspects of data management that include governance, compliance, security, and privacy. Hassey says “people will start to really understand the value of individual data points, integrating those data points, making sure those data points are secure, and are covered from a governance compliance point of view.”
2) Get back to basics
Making sure the data is right aligns well with the trend analyst Nicole France of Constellation Research points to. “My trend for 2020, especially when it comes to all things customer experience, is back to basics,” says France. “I think what we’re seeing is of strong refocusing on the fundamentals. We’ve had a lot of interest in the whistles and bells of technology tools for quite some time. Whether you’re talking about customer service or marketing or sales, I think what customers and enterprise companies are starting to realize is that all of these tools are great, but they don’t buy you much if you aren’t really clear on what it is you’re trying to do and why. So, I suspect that we’re going to see even more focus in 2020 on answering those really basic questions that are pretty critical to getting all the other stuff right.”
3) Out with the old, in with the new
Getting the basics right is important — it builds a great foundation for moving forward with new initiatives and more complex processes. It aligns well with what analyst Laurie McCabe of the SMB Group sees as a trend for 2020 for small and medium-sized organizations: out with the old, in with the new. Time to get rid of old software and processes that are not up to the ambitions of these SMBs. Laurie says, “one of the things we’re really noticing is that a very high percentage of SMBs are looking towards new business initiatives, like new channels, entering new markets in the coming year. And I think what’s going to happen is more of them are going to start realizing that their older processes and software are not up to the job of adding these new business initiatives. I think it’ll be a year that a lot of them will be looking to see how they can do things better in terms of customer experience, customer engagement, sales and marketing.”
4) Every stakeholder is a customer
The next two trends are related. Analyst Jon Reed from Diginomica suggests you treat all stakeholders like customers.That includes your employees and even analysts like him. As Jon says, “it’s about putting the right information in the hands of your [stakeholders] to help them serve. We’re starting to understand that everyone is a customer. Every different stakeholder group is a customer in some sense. And we really have to start with employees because if employees are disgruntled or disempowered, your entire customer experience goes down. There are a lot of industries where putting proper information in the hands of employees can make a big difference to how they serve. You could open this up to suppliers as well, or any constituent group that’s connected to your business process. Now, that brings us into the challenging thing, which is data. he more you open up that definition, the more data silos you’re confronting. That can feel a little overwhelming. So, just start gradually. You do need a platform where you can start breaking these silos and seeing that full picture of the customer.”
5) Happy employees, happy customers
Analyst Roy Atkinson from HDI and ICMI presents a simple premise: happier employees make happier customers. “It’s been a story around the world of customer service, customer engagement and customer experience for a long time,” says Atkinson, “that happier employees make happier customers. A couple of years ago, I looked into our HDI research which showed that, in fact, companies with very satisfied employees had about a 5% higher customer satisfaction rating. I think this is becoming more universally recognized. Employee engagement and customer experience are joined at the hip, and recognition of this is going to be a trend.”
6) Rise of conversation interfaces
One of the most important aspects of creating customers for life is making it easy for your customer to communicate with you. While you hear a lot about omnichannel engagement and conversational interfaces in the customer engagement space, analyst Brent Leary of CRM Essentials has, for some time now, been particularly interested in voice interfaces like Alexa, Siri, and OK Google. “I think 2020 is going to be a big year for voice interfaces,” says Brent. “We will be getting a little bit beyond chat, and actually use natural language to speak to your applications and have your applications do things for you.”
7) User experience will reign
For our last trend Analyst Neil Raden of Hired Brains gives a new term to ponder. The term encapsulates a key element of user experience that contributes to creating customers for life: revealed complexity. As Neil describes it, “in order to make something simple for people to use, there has to be a fair amount of complexity behind it. And revealed complexity simply means that the effect of that complexity becomes apparent without them actually understanding or seeing the complexity.”
Revealed complexity is an apt description of the impact of applying the principles of Indian Democratic Design, a uniquely Indian approach to designing innovative global products that Freshworks incorporates to build our customer for life software. (For more information on Indian Democratic Design check out demdesign.in.)
So, there you have it. Instead of predictions, we have some thoughts and pointers from some pretty smart people within shouting distance. We’re glad they offered to share their views with us, and got us thinking on how these trends might apply to us and what we plan to do in 2020.
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