Top 3 Influential Customer Experience Initiatives to Lead Us into 2016

Influential customer experience ideas, technologies, and companies to watch in 2016

John Archibald Wheeler, theoretical physicist, said, “Time is what prevents everything from happening at once.” And although it sometimes seems that everything is happening all at once—especially in growing areas like Customer Experience and Customer Service—it’s helpful to slow down, appreciate all that time has allowed us to accomplish, and envision where our achievements will lead us down the road.

As 2015 comes to a close, it is clear that 2016 will build on past successes, innovations, and trends. Here are the top 3 Customer Experience trends to eagerly watch in 2016.

1) Crowdsourcing Customer Service to Build Customer ExperienceCommunities

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Over the past few years, crowdsourcing has evolved as a popular and creative way to solve business challenges on a budget. Businesses have started harnessing crowds to augment customer service efforts by encouraging “power users” and “power customers”—those most passionate about the brand—to become brand voices and champions (tweet this!).

Micah Solomon, customer experience expert, details how Applegate, an organic meat company, crowdsources commentary and advice from existing customers to answer questions about the company’s meat and packaging quality. “The idea,” Solomon writes, “is to use the feedback from customers who have already explored these kinds of questions, and who are passionate about the questions and answers, to provide a richer version of customer support. Customers want to interact with, and contribute to, the brands that they love.”

The success of this customer community strategy is supported by the fact that that today’s consumers are more connected to social and community channels than ever before. They are consistently looking to friends and peers for quick and trusted answers; they expect to find what they need themselves without involving professional customer service teams. “Modern consumers are looking for ways to self-serve more often than using any assisted-service channel,” writes Michelle Brusyo, Senior Product Manager, Oracle Service Cloud in her article Transform Modern Social Service with Customer Communities. “Companies are recognizing this social service trend and are using customer communities as another platform to enable customers to self-serve.”

In 2016, we can expect to see more companies fuel their customer support efforts by reaching out to communities of happy customers to build their own versions of crowdsourced support systems.

2) Incorporating Social Responsibility into Customer Interactions

Incorporating social responsibility into customer interactions

Just about everyone wants to do good. And when doing good coincides with purchasing something consumers want, it’s an easy sell. Who doesn’t want to leave a purchasing experience feeling like they’ve just done a little something to improve the world?

2015 was a memorable year for this type of social responsibility effort. Maybe you heard about the new version of PepsiCo’s old Pepsi Challenge campaign, where PepsiCo pledged to donate $1 to the Liter of Light Foundation every time customers used the hashtag #PepsiChallenge on social media. And then there’s Coldwell Banker’s “Homes for Dogs” initiative, which aims to help 20,000 dogs find homes in 2015. And we can’t forget McDonald’s Super Bowl “Pay with Lovin’” ad campaign, which shows real customers at checkout being asked to pay for their food with caring gestures, like saying why they love their mothers.

For a company to be socially responsible, it must be concerned with more than just profit. So why does social responsibility even matter? It matters because a growing number of people make their purchasing decisions on more than just price and quality; their decisions are tied closely to their social conscience and they like being associated with companies whose social values align with their own. It will be interesting to see how companies will continue to develop social responsibility initiatives in 2016 to create meaningful experiences for their customers, and, of course, to do a little good in the world.

3) Self-Service as a Customer Experience Must-Have

Consumers today expect to find the information they need on their own, without slowing down to connect with a professional customer service team. According to a study by Forrester, shoppers are increasingly turning to self-service as the easiest path to issue resolution. The study found that for the first time in its history, web shoppers are using the FAQ section of websites for answers to their questions MORE than they are reaching out to customer service personnel through a phone call (tweet this!) . And contrary to popular belief that Millennials are driving this shift from assisted-service to self-service, the Forrester study discovered that from 2012-2014, the largest increase of self-service adoption was attributed to older ‘boomers (ages 59-69) and the golder generation (ages 70+). And certainly Millennials aren’t far behind.

This is why companies like Act-On Software and TireBuyer have chosen to invest in next generation self-service technologies and streamlined business processes to connect their customers with the right channel of support. Both companies have placed a context-sensitive website self-service tool, AnswerDash, throughout their websites as an immediate channel for their web users to find answers to common questions without ever leaving the page they're on. Since AnswerDash’s Q&A is built off knowledge base and FAQ content, the information that users find most valuable is no longer buried deep in the website; rather, that content is brought to the user's point-of-action, right where their questions naturally arise. 

Act-On uses AnswerDash to provide in-context support to its users.

In the realm of customer service, the ancient quote by Lucius Annaeus Seneca has never been more true: “He who gives when he is asked has waited too long.” 2016 will be the year that customer self-service becomes ubiquitous and synonymous with customer success.

That’s my short list—but let’s build it out and make this a discussion! I want to know your thoughts on the direction customer experience/success trends are taking and what specific initiatives you think will rise to the top in 2016. Did I miss any top trends in the list? (Virtual reality’s impact on the customer experience just missed the cut.) Leave a comment below and let's hash it out.

P.S.: Before I go, I want to leave you with this list of 75+ actionable insights and resources to strengthen your customer success efforts in 2016! It's an incredible wrap up of every step of the customer success lifecycle with links to the best strategies by CEOs and award winning bloggers, tips, case studies and the free/paid tools that you may need along the way.