5 Customer Experience Trends to Consider in 2022
Customer experience has always been mission-critical. But when the pandemic disrupted supply chains and exacerbated staffing challenges, many businesses struggled to deliver the experience their customers were used to, much less the optimized omnichannel experiences modern patrons actually want. Now, going into 2022, consumer patience is running out.
In fact, according to recent Qualtrics research, eight out of 10 consumers think businesses need to improve the customer experience. And failure to do so could cost companies 9.5 percent of their revenue. So what are the top digital customer experience trends for 2022, and how are businesses shaking things up to give customers what they want?
Trend 1: AI-Enhanced Contact Centers
In 2022, more businesses will leverage communications technologies enhanced by artificial intelligence (AI) that help customer support teams do more with less, yet without alienating customers the way first-generation automation often did. Instead of forcing customers to repeatedly "press 1" to navigate confusing menus or use unreliable voice recognition systems, AI-augmented contact centers feature voice assistants and chatbots with natural language processing capabilities that get better over time. These virtual agents can provide customers with the information they need and enable self-checkout or route them to the human agents who are best suited to help them. Leading communications providers like Vonage are also rolling out increasingly sophisticated sentiment analysis capabilities that analyze customers' voices and messages to detect frustration so they can escalate annoyed callers to human agents or managers before the customer experience suffers.
Trend 2: Human-First Digital Customer Experiences
Even as consumers become more comfortable chatting with robots and receiving automated messaging, they want to know a human is standing by, ready to jump in if needed. As companies continue to automate communications, they'll need to be strategic about where and how to use technology and ensure that AI is augmenting human interaction, not attempting to replace it. Research and consulting outfit Forrester predicts that in 2022, "tech execs will leap from digital sameness to human-centered technology transformations" by using "emerging technology to unlock the creativity of their employees and drive innovation that focuses on outcomes, not just financial results."
Trend 3: Channel Integration for More Seamless Omnichannel Experiences
Digitization has been at the center of customer experience trends over the past decade, but the pandemic pushed that transformation into overdrive. According to a McKinsey survey, COVID-19 accelerated the digitization of customer communications and supply chain interactions by three to four years in just months. But in the rush to open up new communication channels, many companies adopted solutions that fail to provide the secure, seamless omnichannel experience customers want. For example, Vonage research found that video was the fastest-growing communication channel during the pandemic, with 55 percent of global consumers using video to connect with businesses — up 11 percent from the first few months of 2020. Yet many companies deployed one-off video conferencing solutions that weren't integrated with the rest of their communications stack. In 2022, forward-thinking tech execs will invest in communications solutions that integrate all their communications channels into one platform and incorporate their customer data. This will enable them to provide a consistent customer experience across channels and let customers switch seamlessly from one channel to the next.
Trend 4: Using Predictive Analytics to Provide Personalized, Proactive Support
Deeper integrations mean data that isn't siloed, which gives companies a more complete picture of each customer's buying journey, along with the ability to better anticipate and meet their needs. By applying predictive analytics, businesses will gain invaluable contextual insights that let them provide more personalized and proactive support. According to industry analyst firm International Data Corporation, organizations that successfully shift customer experiences "from responsive to anticipatory" will win customer loyalty in 2022 because they'll be able to "create experiences that are empathetic, personal, compelling, and relevant."
Trend 5: Greater Focus on Employee Experience
To transform the customer experience in 2022, companies will need to attract and retain reliable and knowledgeable customer support agents. Simply put, to improve the customer experience, they will also need to improve the employee experience. And while customer and employee experience have always been closely linked, the stakes are higher in 2022 considering the record-setting turnover many companies experienced during 2021. To reverse this trend, organizations are looking for ways to offer more flexibility and enable hybrid remote/in-person work models without compromising the quality of service that customers receive. This means customer support teams need technology that works from anywhere — including home — and provides the same secure functionality regardless of location.
Ways to Prepare Your Business for 2022
To get ahead of these digital customer experience trends, forward-thinking tech leaders will want to consider:
integrating communications technology for a more seamless omnichannel experience or investing in contact center solutions that have already combined them and can be integrated with CRM and other key business systems
leveraging AI and human connections to build trust while improving efficiency
empowering hybrid workforces with cloud-based unified communications that provide a seamless employee experience regardless of location
Early in the pandemic, businesses had to innovate quickly to survive, but 2022 will be the year to thrive. Tech leaders will take a step back, reassess their customer experience and technology stacks with a strategic mindset, and ensure they have solutions and strategies in place to future-proof the business.