Last Updated Oct 11 2019

CX trends for 2019

In November 2018, we asked 2,000 customer experience (CX) professionals about the state of their company’s customer experience strategies, methods, goals, and obstacles, and turned the insight into the report you see below.

Let’s dive into the data and show you what successful companies are doing differently, so you can follow their approach to improve your company’s customer experience.

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The top 5 most important customer experience trends for 2019

In November 2018, we asked a panel of 2,000 CX professionals from the US, UK, Australia, Canada, and the EU 19 specific questions about the state and success of their companies' CX strategies.

(For more information on the participants' background, check out the demographic data at the end of this page.)

In order to gain more meaningful insights into the results, we had respondents categorize themselves into one of four levels: ignore, novice, competent, and mature.

Levels

  • Ignore - These are companies that don’t view customer experience as a crucial differentiator. There are no efforts towards developing a CX strategy or measuring CX initiatives.
  • Novice - These are companies that recognize the need to improve a customer's experience. They’ve put basic steps in place to identify and measure CX-related issues, but don’t have a clear CX strategy in place.
  • Competent - These companies make an effort to deliver a high-quality experience for their customers. They have a clear CX strategy with processes firmly in place to measure results.
  • Mature - These are the cream of the customer experience crop. Their CX strategy is embedded in everything they do. Customer feedback forms the core of their strategy and decision-making, and they continuously iterate their CX practices to meet customer demand.

Only 12% of companies identify as being Mature CX companies, while 38% identify themselves as Young, 40% as First Steps, and 10% as Ignore.

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Categorizing companies in this way, we discovered that CX leaders reported much higher revenues than their counterparts. 
In fact, 42% of Mature companies have an annual revenue of over $100M, while almost half of Ignore companies make less than $1M a year.

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But that's not all—Mature companies also have very clear priorities and trusted methods they rely on when it comes to executing a successful CX strategy. Here’s what else we discovered:

1. CX leaders prioritize delivering an outstanding experience over everything else

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Hands down, Mature companies are focused on delivering the most outstanding experience possible—more than any other goal, including increasing their bottom line.

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  • 37% of Mature companies reported that delivering the most outstanding experience possible is the #1 goal of their CX initiatives, compared to 21% of Competent companies, 18% of Novice companies, and 19% of Ignore companies.
  • The focus on acquiring more customers decreases as maturity levels increase. Only 9% of Mature companies chose it as their top goal, compared to 12% of Competent companies, 15% of Novice companies, and 16% of Ignore companies.
  • Increasing sales and revenue was also less of a priority for Mature companies, with 12% of Mature companies choosing this as their main goal, compared to 19% of Competent and Novice companies, and 14% of Ignore companies.

CX leaders also see themselves as more customer-centric than profit-centric

As a company’s CX maturity level grows, so does the way it views its own culture.

4 out of 10 Mature companies see themselves as a customer-centric company that put their customers at the center of everything they do. That’s a 2.5X increase from Ignore companies.

Mature companies are also much less likely to see themselves as profit-centric. Only 1 in 10 do so (even though their revenues are much higher—see the above revenue chart).

customer-experience-company-culture
  • Mature companies (41%), Competent companies (37%), and Novice companies (28%) identify their company culture as being mainly customer-centric. Only 17% of Ignore companies see themselves the same way.
  • 22% of Ignore companies view themselves as profit-centric, compared to 17% of Novice companies, 13% of Competent companies, and 9% of Mature companies.
  • 26% of Ignore companies reported themselves as being mission-centric, compared to 18% of Mature and Novice companies and 14% of Competent companies.

2. Customer experience leaders focus on 'old-school' methods to execute their CX strategy

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Companies with successful CX initiatives prioritize ‘old-school’ methods, such as talking directly to their customers, having the best talent on board, and doing market research, much more than their less successful counterparts.

In fact, almost ⅔ of Mature companies rely on these on these methods as the top methods to successfully execute their CX strategy.

And they rely far less on ‘over-hyped’ methods such as chatbots, predictive analytics, and augmented reality than their less successful counterparts.

In other words, the more Mature companies don’t get distracted by ‘shiny’ objects and stay focused on what they know will deliver results.

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  • While voice-of-the-customer (VOC) feedback was the #1 method across the board, 27% of Mature companies chose it as their top method, compared to 22% of Competent companies, 18% of Novice companies, and 20% of Ignore companies.
  • Mature companies also prioritized having an outstanding team much more than the others, with 24% compared to 22% of Competent companies, 17% of Novice companies, and just 12% of Ignore companies.
  • Very few Mature companies prioritized chatbots (2%) and predictive analytics (11%), compared to Competent companies (3% and 17%), Novice companies (5% and 14%), and Ignore companies (11% and 17%).

What methods are companies relying on the most to better understand their customers?

Among Mature, Competent, and Novice companies, customer surveys and customer calls are the top methods used to better understand individual customers.

Ignore companies, however, tend to focus a significant amount of effort on live chat and social media—more than any other maturity level.

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  • Customer surveys were the top method, with 17% of Mature companies, 16% of Competent companies, 15% of Novice companies, and 9% of Ignore companies using them.
  • Customer calls and website analytics were a close second, with 10-12% of Mature, Competent, and Novice companies selecting these two each.
  • For Ignore companies, social media (20%) and live chat (17%) play a top role. That’s 2X the priority that social media plays for other companies, and 5X the priority that other companies give to live chat.

3. Customer feedback is the #1 driver of successful customer experience strategies

Not only is collecting direct customer feedback critical for companies to execute their strategy: feedback is also the building block for creating the strategy to begin with.

Almost half of Mature companies stated that customer feedback is the main driver of their overall CX strategy. That’s quite a contrast compared to Ignore companies, where only 1 in 5 companies does the same.

In fact, 2 out of 3 of Ignore companies base their strategy on either market trends, industry best practices, HiPPOs (Highest Paid Person’s Opinion), and gut feeling.

customer-experience-driver
  • Market trends (20%), HiPPOs (17%), and industry best practices (17%) are the main drivers of Ignore companies’ strategies. Those numbers drop with maturity, as only 9%, 12%, and 12% of Mature companies give the same methods top priority.
  • Strategies driven by gut feeling increase by almost 4X among less mature companies. Only 3% of Mature companies choose it as a top strategy driver, compared to 4% of Competent companies, 7% of Novice companies, and 11% of Ignore companies.

4. Lack of employee knowledge and training is the #1 obstacle keeping companies from achieving their CX goals

customer-experience-obstacles

Across all maturity levels, lack of employee knowledge and training is the biggest obstacle that keeps companies from reaching their CX goals.

However, 1 in 3 Mature companies reported they don’t have any obstacles keeping them from achieving their CX goals.

That’s 5X higher than the number of Competent companies reporting the same, and 11X higher than Novice and Ignore companies.

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  • Employees lacking sufficient knowledge or training was still the top obstacle for everyone else. 17% of Competent companies suffer from this, as do 14% of Novice and Ignore companies. Only 10% of Mature companies listed this as a top obstacle.
  • Competition was also high on everyone’s list, with 15% of Mature and Competent companies selecting it, 14% of Novice companies, and 8% of Ignore companies.
  • Lack of leadership buy-in decreases significantly as maturity levels increase. Only 2% of Mature companies chose this, compared to 4% of Competent companies, 7% of Novice companies, and 11% of Ignore companies.

How companies are prioritizing CX training

overcoming-obstacles

Even though a large number of Mature companies reported having no obstacles in the way of reaching their CX goals, they still prioritize improving employee knowledge and training.

1 out of every 5 Mature and Competent companies selected it as the main initiative they are taking, while only 1 in 10 Ignore companies prioritize the same thing.

Instead, Ignore companies are focused more on improving company operations and investing in new technology and software.

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  • 21% of Mature and Competent companies are overcoming their CX obstacles by improving knowledge and training, compared to 16% of Novice companies and 13% of Ignore companies.
  • Replacing existing staff and/or hiring better people was also a top choice for Ignore companies, compared to 9% of Novice companies, 5% of competent companies, and just 2% of Mature companies.

5. Waiting for a response is the #1 cause of customer frustration

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It doesn’t matter how mature a company’s CX initiatives get—everyone struggles to respond to their customers in a timely manner.

Across the board, having to wait for a response from a company was the #1 frustration that customers have during their experience with it, with 1 in 5 respondents across all maturity levels selecting it as the top pick.

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My image caption (I'm Optional!)

Also interesting: the number of complaints about rude or angry employees, which are perceived as another frustrating component of the customer experience, drops by almost 6X as a company goes from Ignore to Mature.

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  • 20% of Mature, Competent, and Novice companies selected a long wait or response time as the #1 source of customer frustration. That number was 22% among Ignore companies.
  • Rude and angry employees was another top frustration for customers of Ignore companies, with 17%. That number drops steadily among Novice companies (9%), Competent companies (5%), and Mature companies (3%).
  • 32% of Mature companies stated their customers have no frustrations with them. Only 13% of Competent companies, 7% of Novice companies, and 4% of Ignore companies can say the same.

Additional customer experience trends to watch for in 2019

CX leaders choose CSAT as their top CX metric

Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT, or how satisfied your customers are with your company’s products or services) is the most important CX metric for Mature, Competent, and Novice companies.

Ignore companies tend to focus more on First Response Time (FRT, or how long it takes for a company to first respond to a customer’s issue or request) and sales and revenue instead.

Not surprisingly, the number of companies that don’t track a CX metric decreases by 7X as their maturity level increases.

customer-experience-top-metric
  • 35% of Mature companies chose CSAT as their #1 CX metric, compared to 29% of Competent companies, 21% of Novice companies, and 16% of Ignore companies.
  • 19% of Ignore companies chose FRT as their top metric, compared to 14% of Novice companies, 9% of Competent companies, and 10% of Mature companies.
  • 14% of Ignore companies don’t track any CX metrics, compared to 7% of Novice companies, 5% of Competent companies, and 2% of Mature companies.

CX leaders see their CX metrics grow year-on-year

Again, companies with a Mature approach to CX outshine the rest.

3 out of 5 Mature companies have seen their CX metric go up in the last year, and only 1 in 10 have seen it go down.

Compare that to Ignore companies, where over half have seen their metric go down, and only around 1 in 10 have seen it go up.

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  • 60% of Mature companies have seen their main CX metric go up, compared to 40% of Competent companies, 22% of Novice companies, and 14% of Ignore companies.
  • 54% of Ignore companies have seen their main CX metric go down, compared to 16% of Novice companies, 10% of Competent companies, and 11% of Mature companies.

CX leaders involve the majority of their workforce in CX initiatives

3 out of every 10 Mature company employees have over half of their workforce involved in CX initiatives, while two-thirds of Ignore companies have just 1 in 5 or fewer employees involved in CX initiatives.

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CX leaders continue to make significant investments in their CX strategy

1 in 4 Mature companies is spending over half of their yearly budget on CX-related initiatives. 
The Ignore companies? Almost half are spending 10% or less of their budget on CX initiatives.

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  • 25% of Mature companies are spending more than half their yearly budget on CX initiatives, compared to 5% of Competent companies, 3% of Novice companies, and 5% of Ignore companies.
  • 45% of Ignore companies are spending just 10% or less of their budget on CX initiatives, compared to 13% of Novice companies, 10% of Competent companies, and 5% of Mature companies.

CX leaders are increasing their investment in CX initiatives

While 6 out of 10 Mature companies are seeing their amount budgeted towards CX initiatives grow, almost half of Ignore companies are seeing their CX budget shrink.

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  • 62% of Mature companies saw their CX budgets go up by 5% or more, compared to 65% of Competent companies, 57% of Novice companies, and 23% of Ignore companies.
  • 45% of Ignore companies saw their CX budgets shrink by more than 5% since last year, compared to 8% of Novice companies, 3% of Competent companies, and 4% of Mature companies.
  • 28% of Ignore and Novice companies saw their CX budgets stay about the same, compared to 22% of Competent companies and 12% of Mature companies.

Appendix - demographic info

Want to know more about who participated in this study? We asked each of our 2,000 participants the following questions:

  • In which department do you work?
  • What best describes your involvement with customer experience?
  • What best describes your role?
  • How many employees work at your company?

Here’s the breakdown:

In which department do you work?

customer-experience-leadership

What best describes you?

customer-experience-demographics

What best describes your role?

customer-experience-level

Counting all locations where your employer operates, what is the total number of employees who work there?

customer-experience-company-size

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