Every year, Temkin Group publishes a list of customer experience trends for the upcoming year. We identify some of the key things that CX professionals will need to be on the lookout for throughout the upcoming year. Well, it’s that time again.

During 2018, The Year of Humanity, we expect to see the following 15 trends:

  1. Metrics Reexamination. Although many organizations are using some CX metrics, such as NPS or satisfaction, as a core piece of their customer experience efforts, most have not built effective programs around these measurements. We’re seeing an increasing number of companies rethinking the CX metrics they use and how those metrics are driving change across their organization. In 2018, we expect to see many companies revamping and reconfiguring their CX measurement programs.
  2. Customer Feedback Pullback.More and more companies have jumped on the voice of the customer bandwagon, sending surveys to customers after any and all interactions. Rather than providing companies with actionable insights, this slew of activity often just generates a lot of unused feedback and sometimes annoys customers along the way. In 2018, we expect to see companies cut back on the number of surveys they deploy and instead focus their data collection only on areas where they are prepared to take action.
  3. Voice Recognition Momentum. Now that text analytics tools have become a staple within customer insights toolkits, many companies are moving on to the next hurdle – speech analytics. At the same time, tools like Amazon Echo, Google Home, and Comcast’s XFINITY remote are making people more comfortable interacting with digital products through natural voice interface. As a result of these two trends, in 2018 we expect companies to focus much more heavily on speech recognition for insights and interfaces.
  4. Brand Promise Alignment. Many companies that begin focusing on customer experience end up realizing that they don’t have a clear enough view of their brand to direct the priorities of their CX efforts. As a result, they recognize the need to undergo projects to clarify or redefine the meaning of their brand. In 2018, we expect many more companies to explicitly articulate the customer promises that will deliver on their brand values.
  5. Experience Design Orientation. Experience design is an area that has been steadily growing inside of companies, with many large companies employing some design thinking methodologies. As the discipline grows, more and more employees are getting exposed to its principles, which helps focus attention on critical topics such as empathy and customer emotions. In 2018, we expect to see significantly more investment in design-oriented projects and efforts as companies try to internalize this capability.
  6. Customer Journey Expansion. Customer journey mapping continues to deliver value to CX professionals as it helps them infuse the customer’s point of view into their activities. However, this tool currently tends to only affect a small portion of an organization. To help companies embed consideration of customer journeys into day-to-day decisions across the entire organization, we created Customer Journey Thinking. In 2018, we expect to see more companies realign their metrics, analytics, experience design, and innovation around customer journeys.
  7. Digital Integration. Over the last few years, companies have made heavy investments to build up their digital skills and capabilities. These efforts represented initial baby steps on the path towards true digitation. In 2018, we expect to see companies take the next step by building (and analyzing) experiences that tie together digital channels with contact centers and physical locations.
  8. Chatbot Rationalization. Over the previous few years, we’ve seen an unprecedented number of people and articles focused on chatbots. While these tools are undeniably valuable in certain situations, they are not important enough to warrant the massive amount of attention they’ve received, much of which has been siphoned off from other critical CX activities. In 2018, we expect to see more chatbot deployments, but the short-term hysteria for chatbots subside. Based on learnings from these deployments, a  longer-term wave of new AI-based applications will emerge.
  9. Persona Popularization. Design personas have been around for a while and are a great tool for communicating the behavioral attributes of target customer segments. While the use of personas has steadily grown, we’ve started to see a more dramatic increase in the number of companies employing them in a broader set of applications and sharing them more widely with employees. In 2018, we expect design personas to become an even more mainstream tool.
  10. Analytics Expertise Shortage. More and more companies are recognizing the value of new forms of analytics – such as behavioral analytics, predictive analytics, and speech analytics. As the business case for these capabilities becomes increasingly compelling, companies are looking to do much more with analytics and are searching for people with the appropriate expertise. In 2018, we expect to see companies aggressively recruit the relatively small group of available analytics experts and invest in retraining and retooling some internal employees to fill this role.
  11. Preemptive Problem Resolution. We’ve seen more companies actively looking for ways to solve customer problems before they escalate into larger issues, such as JetBlue providing credit for TV screens that don’t work or Safelite AutoGlass deploying its “Catastrophe Response” team to areas about to be hit by bad weather. In 2018, we expect to see service organizations apply predictive analytics to find the use cases where they can proactively identify and resolve/avoid customer issues.
  12. Newly Energized Executives. More and more senior leaders are beginning to recognize the need to jump on the customer experience bandwagon. However, most of these leaders don’t have a realistic sense of what it takes to drive customer experience success. So when they direct people to “improve customer experience,” it often creates a flurry of activity and some near-term chaos. In 2018, we expect to see more newly formed CX initiatives that lack the appropriate plans and resources.
  13. Customer Experience Dispersion. The customer experience movement is now about a decade old and has become a mainstream theme within many organizations. As it evolves, people have begun using the CX moniker to describe a range of different activities, some of which have nothing to do with customer experience. In 2018, we expect to see this misuse of “CX” continue, causing the term to become increasingly diluted.
  14. “People and Culture” Emergence. Culture has been a topic that companies frequently discuss but rarely focus on explicitly. We are starting to see this change as more companies are beginning to task professionals with creating a customer-centric culture, which is resulting in an increased number of people with titles that include the words “people” and “culture.” In 2018, we expect to see a dramatic jump in the number of efforts that are explicitly focused on creating customer-centric culture.
  15. Empathy & Emotion Dialogue. Over the past few years, we’ve done a lot of work on the human side of customer experience, connecting employees’ actions to customers’ loyalty. We’ve noticed that leaders are getting much more comfortable discussing what used to be considered “squishy” topics, such as empathy and emotions. In “The Year of Humanity,” we expect to see some executive agendas actually contain the words “emotion” and “empathy” on them.

The bottom line: 2018 will be another exciting year for CX.

This blog post was originally published by Temkin Group prior to its acquisition by Qualtrics in October 2018.