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Flying Cars and Hoverboards

Release Date: February 18, 2020

Several years ago, many companies made predictions on the state of the customer experience industry. Walker was no exception, having published a widely referenced report, “Customers 2020.” Now having reached that milestone year in CX, guest host Pat Gibbons and CX thought-leader and Walker’s vice president of strategy and analytics discuss what was covered in that report, highlighting predictions that came true, those that didn’t, and covering what was missed altogether.

Read the Reports:


Customers 2020: A Progress Report
Published in 2017 as a follow-up to Walker’s 2013 “Customers 2020” report, “Customers 2020: A Progress Report” provides fresh insights for CX leaders.

Download the Report


Customers 2020
An insightful, thought-provoking study designed to reveal the customer experience industry of the future.

Download the Report

Transcript

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Pat:
Many years ago, companies including Walker were making predictions of what customer experience would look like in 2020. Well, it's 2020. Do we have our equivalent of flying cars for CX?

Troy:
You know, in are in the report. I think we had this view of, you know, in 2020, if we were to weight experience, the product, and the price, about 50 percent of the importance would be on experience. If anything, we've probably seen that get blown out of the water.

Pat:
Looking back at future predictions in customer experience on this episode of The CX Leader Podcast.

Announcer:
The CX Leader Podcast with Steve Walker is a production of Walker, an experience management firm that helps companies accelerate their CX success. Find out more at walkerinfo.com.

Pat:
Hello, everyone. I'm Pat Gibbons, guest host for The CX Leader Podcast. Today, I'm filling in for Steve Walker and thanks for listening. On The CX Leader Podcast, we explore topics and themes to help leaders like you leverage all the benefits of customer experience. Have you ever watched an older movie that predicted what life would be like beyond the turn of the century and thought, man, did they ever get that wrong? You know, I think of the movie "Back to the Future 2" that predicted that in 2015 we'd have flying cars and hoverboards. Well, in the not so distant past, specifically 2013, Walker published a report that made some predictions about the CX industry and what customers would demand from companies regarding their experience. Well, it's 2020, so we thought it would be appropriate to reflect and review on how well those predictions turned out. Did we get our flying cars and hoverboards in CX? My guest on this episode is well-known to our podcast listeners. Dr. Troy Powell is vice president of strategy and analytics here at Walker and is a thought leader in customer experience. Troy, thanks for being on The CX Leader Podcast.

Troy:
Thank you for having me again.

Pat:
So this is kind of an interesting topic, and on one hand, I want us to kind of be careful. This is less about just looking back at the past, but I think it's more about asking ourselves, where are we today in customer experience and what can we learn from some of the things that we thought were going to happen and where is it all headed? But it is kind of interesting and a little bit fun to look back on these reports as we were talking just a little bit ahead of time. You know, we don't often go back and read these things, but it's kind of interesting to see what we were predicting at the time. So let's dig into it. First of all, what do you… what do you think we got right? I mean, the main themes that we focused on were personalization, being proactive, and seamless. Did we get that right? And what were some of the elements?

Troy:
Yeah, I think, you know, what you're right is… I'm glad we're taking this look back. I think what you see, a lot of the industry and, you know, everywhere, people prognosticating about the future and then nobody ever going back and saying, well, you know, what was our hit rate on that? And so it makes a big buzz like, you know, the world's going to end in five years. Horrible things are going to happen and everybody gets all scared or vise versa. But… and then, you know, we never go and say, "huh, look at that. We were wrong about all of it." So I think it's good to take a look, but I'm glad we're doing it. And I think all in all, we did a pretty good job of understanding what was going to be happening, what customers were going to be expecting out of the experience. And I think part of the reason why is really this piece that I kind of forgotten about before reading it. But, you know, upfront we… we'd lay out the reasons why we're recommending or we're recommending personalization, why we were saying that, you know, they're really going to want things faster and a seamless experience. And it was all driven by the prediction or the hypothesis that customers were going to be increasingly well-informed and increasingly in charge of the experience that they get. You know, we had looked at a lot of the data over time and saying that, you know, in the past it was much easier to have a captive customer. There weren't as many options. They didn't know as much about the options and about what was going on. And so as much easier to say, hey, look, this is kind of the car that you need because, you know, when the Model-T came out, there really weren't option. So…

Pat:
It's all they had, right?

Troy:
Here you go. You want a car, no… or you want a horse? Keep that. So I think it's grown over time. And we saw that. And that was a lot of the reason why we said, customers are going to be dictating the experience more in the future. Therefore, what are they going to be wanting? Because we need to figure it out and we need to deliver that. So, you know, I think that is a piece that's definitely been true. And that's why some of the predictions that we had, you know, they weren't really that out there. Once you get that underlying view of customers are going to be more in charge maybe of what of customers want and really probably hasn't changed that much in 20 years. It's just the fact they can demand that more now and companies are starting to deliver better on it. So…

Pat:
Right.

Troy:
…better deliver, too.

Pat:
So, yeah. So they have… We could tell they would have more choices. There would be more… you know, we would have to be more knowledgeable about our customers. And it's probably appropriate to say that this report was primarily focused on a business-to-business audience, which in particular I think even found some statistics about how frequently business-to-business companies even talked to a person that they have the opportunity to do so much more research. Right?

Troy:
Right. Yes. And, you know, I think it was, I believe, mentioned in the report, you know, it definitely has been since then, you know, of this idea that, you know, a lot of their B2C experiences are impacting their B2B expectations as well. And I think B2C has been this consumer focused businesses have definitely, you know, enabled a lot of these expectations better than B2B have. And, you know, we are able to to look at some recent research and Gartner had done and they were talking about the buying process for business-to-business buyers. And their research they found that only 17 percent of the time that these buyers spend researching a solution is spent actually talking to the suppliers. And if there's multiple suppliers, you know, that gets divvied up amongst them. So a majority of their time is spent, you know, finding their own information, researching their own product, talking to other users. These things that we have much less control over. And so they really are often coming into these supplier conversations saying this is what we want and need.

Pat:
Right. And they're well informed. And it puts the onus on the seller to really understand their business. And if they can put that into the context, they can be successful. If they can't, they're just an also ran right now.

Troy:
Which, you know, in economics theory, this idea of information asymmetry is a really important piece and I think something to really keep in mind, but it is the idea that your information isn't a free resource. And in the past, it was much harder to come by for the customer. And so companies had more power in the relationship because they held more of the information. Now that has really flipped in some ways where, yes, the business, the company still has a lot of information that maybe is unique, but customers are increasingly able to get even more information about the entire ecosystem than we are. They'll know more about our competitors and we know if we're not being very diligent in getting that ecosystem information.

Pat:
Yeah. Let me ask you about one that I consider one of the most significant findings of the report. And in the context of that is it's the piece of the report that was by far covered by the media the most, and that was that we had a essentially a prediction saying that experience would outpace product and price as the best way to differentiate your… your company. That was covered by literally hundreds of media resources. What do you… how do you think that has unfolded?

Troy:
I think that has unfolded even better than we might have expected. You know, in the report, I think we had this, view of, you know, in 2020, if we were to wait, the three best… or the… that experienced the product and the price, if were to weight those three that about 50 percent of the importance would be on experience. I think if anything, we've probably seen that get blown out of the water. You know, some… there's a Dimension Data report back in 2017 even showed about 81 percent of organizations are citing CX or the experience of customers as a competitive differentiator. I know Accenture got some similar numbers out there. So there's quite a bit to suggest that that has definitely come true and even probably more than we would have expected.

Pat:
Yeah. Yeah. The other things that you see that we did a pretty good job of kind of predicting because we did go into some detail in some other spaces… other details that you see?

Troy:
You know, I think one of the pieces… we've kind of talked around it a little bit, but this idea of, you know, experience management, they do not… you know, that the importance of the experience is being recognized. And therefore, the companies are starting to try to figure out how do we understand and manage that. That's obviously something that's come about. We talked a good amount about, you know, being predictive and proactive and prescriptive, as… as a related to this idea that customers wanted things fast. You know, and we… we made a big point to say it's not even that they just want it fast. They almost want it before they even need it. They want to speak almost prescient about their needs and say, oh, hey, here's something you would like. And guess what? That is what I wanted. So having to be predictive and proactive. And I think that has definitely played out. I don't think we have achieved that state as much as we would have liked. But, you know, the buzz around predictive analytics around ultimately A.I. is that it is the ability to quickly understand and deliver upon what customers need and want. And, you know, and the idea of being much more prescriptive by bringing experience data and operational data together and bringing lots of data sources together, you know those things you can't have a conversation about CX and experience management now without addressing those. So I think that was something we definitely were on the pulse of back in 2013.

Pat:
Yeah. You know, I'm I'm looking at… I'm going to get specific here, I'm on page 28 and 29 of the report, but this is where we specifically said we're gonna go from this to this. And I would argue that all of these are at least trending in the right direction. I think we're still struggling with many of these, but here they are real quick: we're going to go from just making recommendations to talking about ROI. We're going to go from just spoken commitment to behavioral commitment. We're going to talk less about just getting information out, information delivery, to making customer information enterprise-wide accessible. We're going to go from just a rearview mirror approach to predictive and prescriptive. And we're going to go from just survey design to insight architecture. And, you know, I think all of those… I mean, I think CX professionals are still struggling with ROI. I think they are still struggling to have the right tools to produce enterprise accessibility. But clearly, these are on their agenda.

Troy:
I think you're exactly right. And the questions become, what have we not progressed far enough to to really achieve some of these things? I think in most cases, we probably haven't gone as long as far as we had hoped. Which again, is usually the case. These things are always more complicated in practice than they are in theory. But to your point, I think they are the things that are being discussed in most cases.

Pat:
So what do you think we missed or got wrong or just weren't really thinking about at the time?

Troy:
Yeah, we didn't… I don't know we missed a ton other than just some of the changes and, you know, in the market or and how things are discussed. We don't once mention artificial intelligence and I don't think we could. But the underpinnings of why A.I. is a trending topic now are definitely in this idea of having to know will be personalized and fast, OK? If you can get an artificial intelligence algorithm to really understand what's going on with the data, you can get much more personalized so much faster.

Pat:
All right.

Troy:
So there's certain things like that that, you know, we just didn't have foresight into. But some of the pieces that maybe we missed a little bit on: I think we were a little bit, too. kind of CX or customer experience focused. You know, and at the time, CX actually was fairly new.

Pat:
Yeah, It was hardly a term, really.

Troy:
I actually looked it up, so CXPA, it was founded in 2011.

Pat:
Right.

Troy:
And we were doing this report in 2012, releasing in 2013. So it really was kind of the early stages of CX in general.

Pat:
I remember we were still at a point where everybody was saying, let's refer to this by the same thing. Let's call it CX.

Troy:
Yeah.

Pat:
There was kind of a campaign around that.

Troy:
Yeah. Exactly. So I think we're focused a bit too much on understanding the customer and the experience the customer's having and how can we listen to the customer better. And that's obviously something that's core and we need to do and continue to develop on. But I think now what we're seeing is the importance of managing the entire experience that a company delivers, whether that's directly to customers, whether that's, you know, digital, whether that's with prospect's marketplace, given prospects especially. But also customers are having less direct interaction with our people and having much more interaction with, you know, our website or with people in the community or with competitors. If we're not understanding that product experience, that brand experience, that digital experience, then we're missing out on a ton of what affects the customers and their behavior. We did mention it in certain places. You know, this idea of… of an ecosystem, which was now if you look that up, the idea of a customer ecosystem, it's a very big topic of discussion. At that time, it wasn't yet. But… so we mentioned some things like that and the importance, but I don't think we quite saw the… the need for that breadth.

Pat:
Yeah. Yeah. So let's talk about kind of where we're headed. And as a preface to that, let me mention that we did a progress report in 2017. So a little more recent. And at the time, we cited what we called the big three. And they are not that different. They're very similar to the themes we had in the first one. Personalization, ease, and speed. And when we got feedback on that and asked people how they performed in those areas, less than 10 percent said they were very good at any of those, really. And for those that said they were not very effective, it was almost a third in each one. So at the time, we were like, my goodness, you know, we've… we've all… we all know where this is headed, but people are not making the progress they had hoped. So where do you think it is today or what do you think we should be focusing on?

Troy:
I would say, you know, we're still falling short for sure. And we're also really hard graders of ourselves, I tend to find…

Pat:
All right.

Troy:
…and the CX industry in general. But… but, yeah, everything seems to show there's a gap. You know, an experience gap between what customers expect, what we want to deliver and then what's actually being delivered. And so there's all sorts of things that people can do. But I think, you know, if I were to boil it down into one thing, it would be: to better understand the entirety of the customers' ecosystem, which you just mentioned a little bit of. Because the reality is anymore customers… your product is serving a need for a customer. But in general, it's not providing the entire solution the customer is looking for to solve their bigger problem. If you think of the real goal is how can we help the customer succeed and what they're trying to accomplish in their life or in their business world. How is it that we can play the best role there? And that requires and in most cases we're seeing this increase where your… your competitors are often sometimes your partners, whether directly or indirectly. So your solutions having interact with your competitors solution to help a customer get what they need to get. All right. If we're maintaining just a focus on our piece of the pie, the customer is going to eventually realize that and say, listen, this isn't helping me and my broader objective. So I'm going to try and look for somebody who can. So we need to understand that ecosystem. We need to delve much more into their life and into this customer dominant view of the world, which unfortunately in some cases is the way it is. right? They are dictating that experience. We would like to have more control over it, but we don't. So we have to recognize that, setup systems that allow us to understand it, and move forward.

Pat:
Yeah. Yeah, it really is interesting kind of reflecting back on and all of these things that of course you and I were both in conversations when we were developing it and now they kind of see how it's evolved. See how much progress the industry has made, but also see where we have a long way to go. So it's pretty fascinating.

Troy:
I think it is. You know one piece, I think… mentioning of things we maybe missed, but also hit on is this idea of more executive ownership of the experience. I think that's another piece that is definitely in our favor and is ever increasing, but it's also bringing you how to better leverage that and, and helping those executives understand what it means to integrate the experience and understand it. But, you know, we have seen a recent XM Institute research report showed that about 88 percent of companies do have senior… a senior executive who is in charge of the customer experience, who has got that on their focus and on their mind. And I think, again, as it's becoming more of a competitive differentiator, we're seeing that. But we need to figure out how we can better leverage that senior level focus to get done what we need to get done.

Pat:
Yeah, I think it ties exactly back to that. The statistic that we predicted that experiences overtaking product and pricing and executives realize that. So not surprisingly, it's a little bit easier to get them involved or in some cases they're kind of dictating. We need to focus. So okay, so we're at the point of the program where we ask for something that people can really take away: the take home value question. If you have one tip, what would it be as you reflect on all this?

Troy:
I think one tip is to… to get out of our own perspective more. You know, we still… I think it's stuck in our internal view, even though as CX professionals, you know, kind of, one of these hallmarks of it is to be the customer advocate. Right? I think sometimes we aren't doing that well enough or being the customer advocate just for, again, their interaction with us as opposed to really understanding the entirety of the customers that we're dealing with. So a little bit more of that external view, more, you know, qualitative type research and ethnography in these pieces of getting better understanding where the customer lives and interacts and how our product plays a role in that. I think it's something that's important and can be done in a lot of ways, but it falls into also integrating brand research and with customer experience and integrating more product data. You know, just kind of bringing in a lot more information sources. So we get a broader view of our customer and what they need.

Pat:
Excellent advice, as always. Troy Powell is Vice President of Strategy and Analytics here at Walker and he's our resident thought leader and Ph.D. Troy, thanks for being on The CX Leader Podcast.

Troy:
You're very welcome. My pleasure.

Pat:
And before I go, I should let people know if you do want to look at the reports that we've issued in 2013 and 2017, they will be on our CX Leader Podcast website. So I recommend you check 'em out. It's great to look back and see what you can learn from them. Again, that website is cxleaderpodcast.com and you'll find previous episodes, you'll find different series, contact information. We're always interested in understanding what topics you'd like us to cover and we'd love to hear your feedback. And if you want to talk about anything you've heard on the podcast or how Walker can help your business' customer experience. Feel free to email me at pgibbons@walkerinfo.com or you can get in touch with Steve at steve.walker@walkerinformation.com. The CX Leader Podcast is a production of Walker, we're an experience management firm that helps companies accelerate their CX success. You can read more about us at walkerinfo.com. Thanks for listening and we'll see you next time.

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