Business leaders are wise to the importance of customer satisfaction, and it shows in their 2023 spending plans. More companies plan to increase their spending on customer engagement technologies than any other technology segment measured in Metrigy
’s 2023 Technology Spending Outlook global research study of 400 IT, CX, and business leaders.
Indeed, 65.1% plan to increase CX technology spending by an average of 24%. This figure is even more telling about the value of these technologies when you consider broader spending plans: Only 25.7% plan to increase overall business spending and 49% plan to increase overall technology spending.
Despite a very uncertain economy
, the value of technologies that enhance customer experience is quite certain. These technologies include contact center, CRM, and CPaaS platforms, as well as customer loyalty apps, analytics tools, and AI-based virtual assistants. Based on discussions with our enterprise, vendor clients, and research participants, and coupled with my analysis of the market, here are my eight predictions for 2023:
1. The three A’s: AI, analytics, and automation will become more prevalent and strategic. Through the use of AI in areas such as agent assist, customer support, and predictive tools, organizations will be able to achieve a few key goals:
- Automate both mundane and increasingly complex tasks
- Guide customers through self-service platforms for quick resolution
- Assist agents in helping customers through screen-pops and predictive analytics
They’ll also be able to use analytics tools to determine whether, and to what extent, AI and automation actually improved business metrics. For example, did the virtual assistant help or frustrate customers using the self-service FAQ? Did the agent assist screen-pops actually make agents more productive last month? Then, they can use those findings to make data-backed decisions on what changes they should — and shouldn’t — make.
2. Customer insights and feedback will become more vital and widely used: Tools from companies such as Dialpad and Verint make it possible to get customer satisfaction (CSAT) ratings from nearly all interactions — using either actual ratings or predictive analysis that assigns a CSAT score to any interaction based on patterns and behaviors of similar callers and situations. The data compared with their test groups is amazingly accurate, and it can help companies base staffing and technology decisions, marketing programs, and sales strategies on larger sets of data.
3. Technology will help augment worker shortages: Tools such as virtual assistants, AI-enabled transcriptions, customer intent triage, automated scheduling and capacity planning, and agent assist, among others, will help make existing employees more productive while back-filling for the shortages. In our Customer Experience Transformation 2022-23 global research study of 724 participants, we found that companies with shortages in their contact centers spent 52% more on technology. I expect that trend to continue in 2023 because they have already proven compelling results through the use of technology. For example, the use of conversational AI improved customer ratings by 26.7%.
4. CRM has supplanted the contact center as the “core” CX platform: CRM providers, such as Microsoft, Oracle, and Salesforce, will continue to add integrations between customer data and digital channels. Where it won’t be so easy is with voice. Voice is still king. Most interactions (65%) start in voice, and 24% of those that don’t have to be escalated to voice. As companies get better at resolving problems in non-voice, digital channels, the percentage of interactions starting there will increase. However, I do not ever see voice going away as an option. Some issues simply require voice (or video and screen-sharing), and others take significantly longer to resolve over SMS, web chat, or social media because for many, saying something is much faster than typing it.
5. CPaaS will be sought out for its ability to differentiate: While we’re addressing platforms, I predict companies will turn to CPaaS providers for the ability to differentiate themselves from competitors by improving customer touchpoints and communications. They’ll do this through no-code, low-code, and to a lesser extent, fully customized apps. The demand to integrate contact center, CPaaS, unified communications, and CRM platforms also will be on the rise, as CX leaders see the value in leveraging employee and customer tools to improve business metrics.
6. Success in the contact center will expand to other areas of the company: For example, automated coaching, performance analytics, gamification, and quality management will not only apply to contact center agents but also to sales, marketing, field service, and product development teams — potentially, using the same tools, as companies increasingly integrate UC, contact center, and CPaaS platforms.
7. Hold times will become a thing of the past for most companies: With the ability to do auto-callbacks, it astounded me that, for example, Southwest Airlines customers posted about their three-to-six-hour hold times during the 2022 holiday travel disaster. No one should have to wait on hold for more than a few minutes. The technology is solid, widely available, and affordable — particularly when considering the value to customers. Companies that don’t have this feature will lose customers.
8. Data will drive CX investments: Because the C-suite is under pressure to examine spending and return-on-investment, you'll see CX and IT leaders measuring success in ways they hadn't in the past. The smart ones will draw tight links between technology deployment and business success (i.e., revenue, cost, customer ratings, and employee productivity). The smart vendors will give them analytics tools to help draw these conclusions — and use the data in aggregate to promote what their technology does to improve business metrics.
I continue to be bullish on CX spending, activities, and transformations because customers wield too much power now to stop the progress. One viral social media post can make or break a company, which is one big reason companies in our research studies have ranked customer satisfaction as their top business priority for three straight years. The technology helps serve customers, reduces costs, improves customer ratings, and increases employee productivity.
Spending forecasts and actual spending support the value of CX moving forward. Our research success group (those with the highest measurable improvements through the use of CX technologies) spends twice as much on CX technologies than our non-success group. Companies with customer-centric leaders will invest in CX in 2023 and strategically use advanced technologies to bolster company performance overall.