Over the past two years, consumer technology adoption and market forces have catapulted the field of customer experience into strategic stature. In 2012, this shift manifested itself privately through sweeping organizational changes at companies in nearly every industry — and shined publicly through professional organizations, the media, and even the courts.

However, it will be years before customer experience is embedded to the same degree as mature business disciplines like finance, human resources, and information technology. While many firms have been working diligently to improve their customer experience for years, still others remain woefully in the dark about the business value it can bring. The net result is that in 2013 — and for several years to come — the customer experience industry will be characterized by efforts that range wildly from systematic change initiatives to desperate shortcuts.

In our latest report, Ron Rogowski and I outline the changes that customer experience professionals can expect in 2013 and highlight the pitfalls that companies need to avoid during the upcoming year. For example:

  • Customer experience professionals will chase employee engagement. As customer experience professionals dissect the inner workings of their companies, they’ll soon realize that all of their efforts ultimately hinge on corporate culture — and its close cousin, employee engagement. Based on the sheer number of inquiries we’ve received about employee engagement over the past few months, we expect this topic to be white hot in 2013 and beyond. But it’s still a squishy concept that gives rise to a great deal of confusion and contradictory opinions. That’s why, in addition to excitement in 2013, we also expect to see a great deal of flailing about and missteps before individual companies and the customer experience industry at large sort out any clear definitions, assessments, or proven approaches.
  • Emotional insights will take center stage. The idea that happy customers are more likely to remain loyal, try new products and services, and spread good news about their experiences has started to catch on. Over the past several months, we’ve seen a rise in the number of companies pondering the connection between enjoyment and metrics like satisfaction and Net Promoter Score (NPS). In fact, one global company statistically demonstrated that several emotional factors trump NPS in predicting customer loyalty, effectively dethroning “would you recommend?” as the ultimate question. As firms start to emphasize customer emotion in 2013, we expect to see more vendors developing offerings like Beyond Philosophy’s Emotional Signature, which examines the rational, subconscious, and emotional elements of an experience.
  • Marketers will mistake messaging for experience improvements. In 2012, a major investment firm spent $40 million on a media buy to make its unhappy advisors feel better about their jobs. This is, quite frankly, flushing money down the toilet. If the firm had instead spent one-tenth — or even one-hundredth — of that budget on improving the advisors’ day-to-day experience, it surely would have realized greater, more sustainable business results. This lesson will remain lost on many old-school executives throughout 2013, and advertising agencies will reap the short-term financial benefits of whitewashing campaigns created to cover up experience blunders. However, much to the ad industry’s chagrin, this wasteful behavior will only last so long. When their empty promises fail, marketers will be forced to shift their ad budgets to experience initiatives in 2014 and beyond.

For a complete list of our customer experience predictions for 2013, please see the full report.

Ron and I will be sharing our predictions during a teleconference on January 15th at 1:00 p.m. Eastern time (18:00 UK time). We hope you can join us!