CPD session – What does the customer of the future look like?

On the topic of customer experience and product development trends, Gauteng Women In Insurance (GWII) hosted a Continuous Professional Development (CPD) session on 14 March, proudly sponsored by Old Mutual Insure.

Speaker Antonia Oakes, Old Mutual Insure’s Executive for Customer Experience and Responsible Business spoke about the customer of the future, the key customer experience and product development trends and how responsible business initiatives help customers see organsations as caring corporates.

Here are the key trends, according to Oakes.

Customer Experience (CX) versus Customer Service

“According to the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA) CX is the perception that customers have of an organization, one that is formed based on interactions across all touchpoints, people, and technology over time. In other words, customer’s cognitive, affective, emotional, social and physical responses to the brand, generated through both functional and emotional clues,” said Oakes.

“Customer service, on the other hand, is not the totality of customer experience. It is a business function; it is the focus of a specific group of employees (customer service reps); focusing on the resolution of customer requests, issues and answering questions. It impacts the customer’s experience,” added Oakes.

Using Disney Pixar’s WALL-E to examine the customer of the future, Oakes said that “the customer of the future will have different needs and desires.”

A rise customer experience

There has been a rise customer experience focus across all industries.

“The year 2020 and 2021 was a year where businesses grappled with major disruption as the world was forced into isolation. The Covid-19 pandemic took us by shock and five-year plans became redundant in no time. Human behavior changed, which was driven by uncertainty and the fear of the unknown. Companies quickly caught on to the changing customer needs and designed new products which addressed those needs,” said Oakes.

“Digital online interactions and engagements were heightened, together with online shopping, virtual parties/socials, change in office dress code was about top upper and a relaxed downer look! Expectations have been heightened to immediacy… SERVICE NOW and instant gratification. It was an eye-opener for each and every one of us. Despite the hurdles, companies with a strong and adaptive customer experience (CX) foundation emerged somewhat unscathed. They stood by their customers and continued to provide a stellar customer experience. The power of social media also became a thing,” she added.

“Insurance is also getting smarter. Digitally engaged customers make informed decisions and enhance their buying experience through research, reviews and ease of use. Changing customer behaviour and preferences is impacting the insurance industry and its distribution models. This is fast tracking the entry of digital players,” she continued.

2022 CX trends

  1. Consumer behavior and what it is telling you: The new “want it now” culture dictates the terms – instant gratification.
  2. Seamless omnichannel experiences replace physical- digital patchwork: 38% of customers expect you to know who they are and the context of their query immediately.
  3. Messaging and MobileFirst re-define delight: Consumers value speed more than ever. Their desire for speedy interactions and resolutions now govern how they choose to communicate.
  4. Experiences move from automation to prediction: 1 in 3 decision-makers implementing AI state that optimizing it to predict customer needs and deliver personalized experiences is a key consideration for driving ROI.
  5. The age of agent-led bot-enhanced experiences: Agents have had to face the brunt of recent pandemic-induced upheavals. Soaring query volumes, increasing customer anxiety, and adapting to a remote work environment.

“Anyone that is part of the customer experience journey needs to be aware of the strategy,” said Oakes.

The REAL customer of the future

“The sharing economy democratized travel, empowering more people to explore the world at better prices. Airbnb launched an offering on their platform called “experiences” to “discover things the locals do.” Airbnb advertises this offering as “activities designed and led by inspiring locals.” They immerse guests in unique worlds… “learn to bake with a famous pastry chef in Paris”, “take a dance class in Havana, Cuba, or get a photography lesson from an expert who will help you photograph the Sydney Opera House at sunset”,” said Oakes.

“People want to feel something: they want to experience all that this world has to offer and they want to share these experiences with the world. Customer experience must be geared to this modern customer, who values experiences over things, and expects the businesses they frequent to empower and assist them as they navigate modern life,” she added.

What is the customer of the future looking for?

  1. Experience Economy - People choose to spend their money on experiences over things.
  2. Social media and the shift in power and influence from the business to the customer. Social media and smartphones armed customers with a platform and a microphone. Suddenly customers were speaking about the experiences they had.
  3. Artificial serendipity – customers want positive surprises! Surprise your customers. Netflix and the shuffle button create surprises for their viewers by outsourcing the surprise with the shuffle button.
  4. Zero tolerance for digital inconvenience – customers expect good stuff.
  5. Customers want a partner in life – create positive change in the life of your customers. Don’t just throw stuff at them. Bring them into your world.
  6. Customers are starting to live in the virtual world! Metaverse Universe. The world of avatars. Huge market for fashion, vehicle insurance, holidays, etc. Making and selling virtual goods. Nike is quietly preparing for the metaverse. It is the customer who is going to dictate the future.

“Innovation starts with the customer. Customer experience must be geared towards this modern customer. Not forgetting our long-term customers. They value experience over things. Those companies that show that they care and partner with customers as life partners, will be the ones who win,” she concluded.

See photo album here