‘Understanding’ is the watchword in new customer experience (CX) service models for Douglas Hayward, a research director responsible for IDC’s Worldwide Digital Strategy and Agency Services research stream.

Hayward joined ITWC President Fawn Annan in April 2021 for an installment of CMO Talks, a podcast series produced by ITWC to address today’s marketing challenges. An expert on technology-enabled business transformation, he shared his thoughts on next moves for customer experience (CX) service providers.

Two CX Trends
Referencing an IDC report, Hayward described two predominant trends in the CX arena: a shift to commerce and a shift to heightened transparency. A third shift, he said, is geared towards purpose, a move that reflects the social unrest fomenting all over the world. “Demographic changes, job insecurity, unfairness in the economy, and a lack of trust in government all propel people towards wanting brands – and sometimes hero CEOs – to actually fix things for them,” he explained.

When asked by Annan to describe what key drivers mean for CX vendors, Hayward likened the new, borderless market to a double-edged sword. “Despite the obvious advantages, it creates fear and uncertainty for a lot of people,” he said, “and that comes at a time when, young people are being locked out of the housing markets and when taxes are set to rise because of COVID-19. It’s all very unsettling when those old fashioned, fixed linear careers disappear.”

Two CX Strategies
Commenting on two different CX strategies outlined in the IDC report, Hayward predicts an imminent move from defensive strategies – those intended to strengthen a firm – to offensive strategies that focus more on improving customer experience and creating new products and services. He sees this emphasis on growth as a great opportunity for both CMOs and CX vendors to design new products and services and make existing products and services more attractive to consumers.

Hayward isn’t surprised to see customer centricity now ranked as one of the top strategic business objectives. “It’s important to understand people, to empathize with them, and to understand their pain,” he said, “but you also have to do something useful. What’s important for CX services providers is to create ground level outcomes, using data, using technology, using process, change, culture change and so on. At the end of the day, if a relationship’s going to work between a service provider and a CMO, it has to produce tangible results.”

Transparency Rules
The next caveat is that whatever is done has to be honest. “Eco-washing is just going to backfire,” he said. “CX vendors and consultants can help you to define what you’re about. They can help you discover strengths you didn’t realize that you have, and they can help you to define your purpose. What they definitely can’t do is sell you a new purpose. People will see through that.”

IDC research shows that in order for customer experience services vendors and consultants to propose really great value adding technology or change processes, they need to know the organization inside out. In fact, one of Hayward’s key takeaways for the webinar is building the customer relationship. “Get to know the client’s culture and the organization and what are they capable of,” he advised. “Then get them to change that organization and change that culture, but do it subtly, in alignment with their purpose and identity. Give them a strategy, but stay pragmatic.”

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