Forrester’s 2013 Customer Experience Predictions

Over the past two years, consumer technology adoption and market forces have catapulted the field of customer experience into strategic stature. In 2012, this shift manifested itself privately through sweeping organizational changes at companies in nearly every industry — and shined publicly through professional organizations, the media, and even the courts.

However, it will be years before customer experience is embedded to the same degree as mature business disciplines like finance, human resources, and information technology. While many firms have been working diligently to improve their customer experience for years, still others remain woefully in the dark about the business value it can bring. The net result is that in 2013 — and for several years to come — the customer experience industry will be characterized by efforts that range wildly from systematic change initiatives to desperate shortcuts.

In our latest report, Ron Rogowski and I outline the changes that customer experience professionals can expect in 2013 and highlight the pitfalls that companies need to avoid during the upcoming year. For example:

  • Customer experience professionals will chase employee engagement. As customer experience professionals dissect the inner workings of their companies, they’ll soon realize that all of their efforts ultimately hinge on corporate culture — and its close cousin, employee engagement. Based on the sheer number of inquiries we’ve received about employee engagement over the past few months, we expect this topic to be white hot in 2013 and beyond. But it’s still a squishy concept that gives rise to a great deal of confusion and contradictory opinions. That’s why, in addition to excitement in 2013, we also expect to see a great deal of flailing about and missteps before individual companies and the customer experience industry at large sort out any clear definitions, assessments, or proven approaches.
  • Emotional insights will take center stage. The idea that happy customers are more likely to remain loyal, try new products and services, and spread good news about their experiences has started to catch on. Over the past several months, we’ve seen a rise in the number of companies pondering the connection between enjoyment and metrics like satisfaction and Net Promoter Score (NPS). In fact, one global company statistically demonstrated that several emotional factors trump NPS in predicting customer loyalty, effectively dethroning “would you recommend?” as the ultimate question. As firms start to emphasize customer emotion in 2013, we expect to see more vendors developing offerings like Beyond Philosophy’s Emotional Signature, which examines the rational, subconscious, and emotional elements of an experience.
  • Marketers will mistake messaging for experience improvements. In 2012, a major investment firm spent $40 million on a media buy to make its unhappy advisors feel better about their jobs. This is, quite frankly, flushing money down the toilet. If the firm had instead spent one-tenth — or even one-hundredth — of that budget on improving the advisors’ day-to-day experience, it surely would have realized greater, more sustainable business results. This lesson will remain lost on many old-school executives throughout 2013, and advertising agencies will reap the short-term financial benefits of whitewashing campaigns created to cover up experience blunders. However, much to the ad industry’s chagrin, this wasteful behavior will only last so long. When their empty promises fail, marketers will be forced to shift their ad budgets to experience initiatives in 2014 and beyond.

For a complete list of our customer experience predictions for 2013, please see the full report.

Ron and I will be sharing our predictions during a teleconference on January 15th at 1:00 p.m. Eastern time (18:00 UK time). We hope you can join us!


Excellent Insight on Customer Experience

It is truly exciting to see predictions that companies will begin recognizing in a broader way the impact company culture has on the bottom line.

I totally agree. I think it

I totally agree. I think it will take years. In IT we have been stating that we want to be more 'customer focused' for 10 years and still this scores as a major dissatisfier. It's like groundhog day, every year I wake up to the same call. 'Lets' make this the year of the customer!'. See the blog we wrote that Stephen Mann of Forrester republished, in which he also made the call 'make 2013 the year of the customer'. It requires often a significant change in attitide, behavior and culture.

Disagree - customer has decided - experiences count

If you look at this from the 'outside-in' the customer/consumer perspective - its a done deal. For years consumers have been telling providers that when the choice is allowed to gravitate down to the cost factor - the game is over. All become a commodity.

Its not up to us to make it the year of the customer - we exist in the age of the customer and its up to us (IT?) to recognize that and add missing skills to our portfolio - how to design, map, inspect and improve the experience.

Outside-in thinking includes this but also is focused on 'successful customer outcomes'. As for Lean and other 'waste removal' or continuos improvement methods - if they ignore the effect on outcomes and customer experience they will continue to a case of guessing.... SWAG ?

I've been using outside-in for some years now and have matured it into a repeatable method that only requires customer empathy, pen and paper... its not a complex thing...

Not complex, but not easy, either

hi Ian,
Thanks for your comment. I completely agree that we're in the age of the customer -- that's one of our major research themes at Forrester.

As a designer, I also agree that the tools for improving customer experience aren't rocket science. They do, however, require massive amounts of cultural and organizational change in order to be adopted on a broad scale -- and this is where most companies find their biggest challenges.

Is this research based?

Neither your post nor the report outline that Forrester furnishes indicate whether you did any research to come up with your statements about the current situation as well as the predictions. Can you elaborate? thx

Yes, it is!

Hi Kevin,

I'm glad you asked. For our 2013 predictions report, Ron and I:
- Talked with 10 chief customer officers about their priorities and concerns for 2013
- Looked at soon-to-be-published quantitative data from our customer experience research panel and Technographics surveys
- Scanned the media for customer experience mentions
- Looked at third-party research, like the 2012 IBM CEO Study
- Solicited input from our blog and community

In addition, our predictions report is a bit unique, in that it aggregated research that our entire team of analysts conducted over the past year. During November and December of 2012, our team conducted trend analysis drawing from:
- Roughly 1000 inquiries – we look at what questions Forrester clients have been asking and the frequency with which certain topics have come up
- Daily conversations with our 150 CX Council members – we look at the activities, challenges, and questions from this group of customer experience practitioners
- Hundreds of briefings from tech vendors, agencies, and customer experience consultants
- Hundreds of strategy and consulting engagements – we look at what clients are asking for our help with, and again, the frequency of these requests
- Dozens of conferences that we spoke at, attended, or just heard about

Together, all of this data helps us understand the major trends from the past year and predict what we think will happen in the next.

I hope this answers your question. We’re always happy to share our research methodologies.

Employees first: In any Service Organization

Employee engagement is gaining greater importance as businesses are preparing to sell solutions instead of just products. It is vital in all organizations regardless of which business they are into. However, Services Organization need to focus on this as a high priority.

Thanks for sharing the predictions.