2011 was a pivotal year for the field of customer experience. A major increase in the number and types of consumer technologies had a wide-ranging impact on daily life: People controlled their TVs with tablets, asked their phones questions, and played video games without using physical controllers. The extensive reach of these changes — and the screaming pace at which they happened — triggered a corporate awakening to the value of great customer interactions.

Brisk consumer technology adoption may have been the ultimate driver of many customer experience initiatives in 2011. But an increasingly competitive industry landscape, the ever-increasing power of consumers, and a slippery economy will be the major drivers of customer experience efforts in 2012.

In our latest report, Ron Rogowski and I outline what these market drivers mean for customer experience professionals in the year ahead — and what they’ll need to do to keep up. The report includes predictions for how organizations will change the way they work, what types of interactions they’ll focus on, and the resulting implications for customer experience vendors. For example:

  • C-level execs will officially name customer experience as a top strategic priority. Toward the end of 2011, we started hearing of more companies in which the CEO or board of directors decreed customer experience to be a top strategic priority. For example, the chief information officers at several large telecom companies recently told us that, for the first time ever, customer experience was one of their top concerns. We expect this trend to accelerate in 2012, much to the delight of customer experience professionals who have been clamoring for executive support for years.
  • Companies will focus on delivering unified customer experiences. Today’s multichannel experiences resemble a patchwork of duct tape and bubble gum. At best, websites and call center conversations fail to reflect key brand attributes. At worst, companies force customers to wade through disjointed information and repetitive tasks as they move from touchpoint to touchpoint. The root cause? Disparate systems and functional silos that don’t play well together. That won’t cut it in 2012. To unify experiences across all channels, companies without a customer experience strategy — and that’s most of them — will finally take a stab at defining one. Firms will also create cross-functional governance boards to improve the multichannel experience while simultaneously streamlining internal operations and reducing costs.
  • Consultants of every shape and size will develop educational programs. We expect to see continued exponential growth in the customer experience job market in 2012, with firms continuing to fill many of these open slots with internal candidates from other departments. This trend, combined with a new understanding that delivering a great customer experience relies on each and every employee, will compel chief customer officers to put their own teams through customer experience skills courses and to roll out robust training programs across their organizations. That’s why we expect to see providers ranging from management consultants to service designers developing a variety of educational offerings to help fill clients’ training needs.

For a complete list of our customer experience predictions for 2012, please see the full report.

Ron Rogowski and I will be sharing our predictions (including a few that didn’t make it into the report!) during our teleconference on January 19th at 1:00 p.m. Eastern time (18:00 UK time). We hope you can join us.