Thought leaders, research firms, and industry blogs are all fans of making annual predictions. It’s the kind of content that gets good click-through-rates and attracts backlinks. But how often do you retrospectively go back and check whether they were right or not?

I never do, so I thought it’d be interesting to take a look back at three of the strongest predictions of how customer experience would look in 2020 and compare it with what things actually look like in early 2020.

Let’s remember that predictions should always be taken with a grain of salt. Here’s why:

1. “By 2020, the average person will have more conversations with bots than with their spouse” – Gartner (2016)

This was a pretty ambitious prediction to make back in 2016. Back then, chatbots weren’t nearly as common as they are today. Maybe the person who made this prediction really liked chatbots, or maybe they just really didn’t like their spouse. Either way, I would hope this prediction isn’t true for anyone.

However, that’s not to say chatbots haven’t become an important part of customer experience in 2020. The use of chatbots has increased dramatically, and will likely continue to do so. According to the 2019 “State of Service” survey, 23% of customer service professionals were currently using AI chatbots. In addition to this, a further 31% planned to introduce them within 18 months. This equates to a 136% growth rate.

Chatbots have been proven to help customer experience executives focus on other tasks while making sure every customer gets a quick response.

So while we’re hopefully not ever going to speak to chatbots more than our spouses, it’s likely many of us will be talking to more of them in the coming months.

2. “Personalization will help drive customer loyalty” – Forbes (2017)

Did this prediction come true? It’s a little complicated.

In some cases, personalization has been proven to drive customer loyalty. Research revealed that 79% of customers only consider brands that show they understand and care about “me”. Furthermore, 56%  are loyal to brands that deeply understand their priorities and preferences.

So personalization can drive loyalty. However, it’s hard to say how much personalization is currently helping companies as most are not using it effectively.

It was predicted companies outside of the top 5% would experiment with and role out hyper-personalized CX in 2020. Increasingly, it was predicted more companies would invest in predictive analysis, artificial intelligence, and automation as the importance of personalization moves from technology focused brands to the mass market.

However, hyper-personalization is difficult without customer journey analytics. For this to become widespread, businesses need a good understanding of individual customer journeys. They need a thorough understanding of how to personalize each customer journey.

3. “Customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator by 2020” – Walker (2016)

Walker made this prediction back in 2016. At the time, customer experience was really just at the beginning of its boom. It was a fairly bold claim to make.

However, I think it’s pretty safe to say this prediction holds true. As of early 2020, 86% of buyers are willing to pay more for a great customer experience.

This increases with the price of the product, research from PWC finds. Customers are willing to pay a price premium of up to 13% (and as high as 18%) for luxury services, just because of a great customer experience. In addition, 49% of buyers have made impulse purchases after receiving personalized customer experiences.

Companies are well aware of the impact of customer experience. The majority now compete on this basis more than price or product. In 2010, only 36% of companies competed primarily through customer experience. This number has risen to more than two-thirds in the year up to 2020. It is predicted this figure will soon rise to 81% as well, according to Gartner.

The state of customer experience in 2020s

While not all of these predictions were true in 2020, I think it is safe to say digital transformation will continue to shape customer experience in years to come.

Blake Morgan, keynote speaker and author of several books on customer experience, summarizes: “As we enter a new decade, customer experience is firmly positioned as a competitive advantage and something most companies are prioritizing. It’s never been more important to deliver a consistent, seamless experience for customers and to look towards the future to find innovative ways to meet their needs.”

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