This time last year we were all evaluating how the world turned upside down and what that would mean for everything from travel to business, to technology. A year on, while we’ve all learnt a lot, we’re certainly still seeing a constant and significant shift in trends, making it hard to predict what’s next. When it comes to customer experience (CX), this is no exception.

So, what does the future hold for CX? From distributed workforces to consumers growing their digital maturity, to businesses realising the value of the contact centre, we’ve unpacked the five things we predict for 2022 and beyond:

  1. Employee experience will become the next battleground for CX

In 2022, employee experience (EX) will become the new normal for providing differentiated customer experiences. Over the years, organisations have shifted focus from putting customers at the centre, then employees, and swinging back and forth between the two. But if recent times have taught us anything, it’s that the two are intrinsically linked, and one cannot exist without the other. In fact, Accenture found that organisations can increase year-on-year profitability by six times when focusing on not just CX, but on how experience ties back to every aspect of a company’s operations.

With many organisations adopting remote workforces since the pandemic, coupled with challenges brought about by ‘The Great Resignation’, a focus on employee experience has never been more important – and so businesses need to have a strategic focus on EX moving forwards through workforce engagement tools, including providing greater flexibility on how employees want to work, encouraging collaboration through availability of digital platforms, and employing modern technologies such as AI to elevate work beyond the mundane, to become more strategic.

By focusing on the engagement and satisfaction of their own employees, businesses will find this becomes a leading indicator for differentiated customer satisfaction by default.

2. The contact centre will be realised as the source of customer truth

During the uncertain times of the past few years, customers have turned to the contact centre for help, guidance, and reassurance. In 2022, we’ll see this continue as it becomes the centre for all inbound customer interactions, thus playing a critical role in both operations and marketing, as well as revenue generation and customer service. With this, the power of the contact centre will be realised as it becomes the source of all customer feedback and insights.

While we still often see the contact centre operate in silo within businesses, this is set to change in 2022 and beyond, as shown by how businesses are increasingly seeing CX as a main driver of customer trust and loyalty. So much so that it has become a board-level priority for more than half (58%) of companies. As a result, we will also likely see this shift reflected in roles, as the head of CX continues to grow in value and importance within a business.

By encouraging cross-functional collaboration and breaking down silos, businesses will quickly realise the value of the contact centre as the source of truth, and its overall impact to the bottom line.

3. Australians will continue to demand seamless, digital, and frequent experiences

Our recent research uncovered that nearly half (48%) of Australians interact with customer service teams at least once a month, and a third (29%) at least once a week – with some people even calling just to hear a human voice (10%). With Australians topping the charts for the highest customer expectations in APAC, we’re unlikely to see this decrease in the coming months and year.

With this, the high benchmark of premium CX is expected across all channels to the point of being channel agnostic. While voice remains  the most frequently used channel in 2021, the number of consumers interacting with customer service through messaging, mobile apps, chatbots, social media and video calling has more than doubled between 2017 and 2021, and is predicted to continue to rise.

By investing in a unified contact centre platform, businesses can meet customers in the channel of their choice, through a channel agnostic approach – offering a consistent experience throughout the customer journey.

4. Empathy will need to be placed at the centre of customer experience

During COVID, Australians ranked an empathetic experience as being of the highest importance (58%) when interacting with an organisation, even over a speedy resolution. When businesses create engagements based on empathy, customers feel remembered, heard, and understood. This in turn leads to better connections, customer loyalty, and ultimately hits the bottom line. However, to get there it’s important to strike the balance between the right combination of technologies, and human touch, to deliver customer empathy at scale.

Genesys’ vision is  ‘Experience-as-a-Service’ – the practice of an organisation putting empathy at the centre of each customer’s experience. Enabled by cloud, AI, data, and engagement channels, it has become possible for organisations today to deliver a higher level of personalisation, while still being efficient in delivery.

By implementing the right technology to enable a personalised, contextually relevant experience to each customer, companies will be able to better orchestrate customer journeys to lead a culture shift towards empathy.

5. Customers will be more focused on the business of ethics and sustainably

Empathy doesn’t start and end with CX, it is something that a business needs to embody from the inside-out. Our research found that nearly half (46%) of consumers aged 18-34 said they prefer to buy from companies that are aligned with their social, ethical and environmental values — even if that means paying more for goods or services. Data protection, animal welfare, health and wellness, human rights, and environmental protection ranked as the top five consumer values, respectively.

Today, we are seeing more customers voting with their wallet when it comes to switching to brands that they believe to have an honest, authentic, and empathetic approach to business. It’s these brands that will come out on top.

By shifting mindsets from viewing CX as a siloed function, to viewing the bigger picture of the overall reputation and image of a business, leaders will gain the perspective they need to make changes for the better.

While the future of CX for an organisation will depend on things like the industry, digital maturity, and competitive landscape, it’s clear that the days of disjointed and siloed customer and employee experiences are over. By aligning the CX strategy towards a unified channel agnostic experience, prioritising the employee on the same level as the customer, and harnessing cloud-based technologies, organisations will find themselves winning over competitors in 2022.

Mark Buckley is vice president for Australia and New Zealand of Genesys.