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Digital Engagement Blog

Digital Customer Experience: Lessons from Forrester CXSF 2016

What's most important for digital engagement?  Way more than one thing. Don't you wish Curly had it right?  You know, the cowboy from City Slickers who said the secret of life is just one thing.  All you have to do is figure out what that one thing is for you, right? 

If Curly were around to help us figure out the secret of digital engagement, it wouldn't be pretty.  He'd have to take off his dusty old cowboy boots to count all the secrets that are important to digital customer experience.   

Today we have more channels, more technologies, more silos of data, and more distractions competing for the digital consumer's ever-decreasing span of attention.  How do you come up with a digital engagement strategy in a world swirling with chatbots, intelligent assistance, and new messaging channels?  

In search of answers, the explorer in me set off on a fascinating journey. 
Let's Explore digital customer experience

Forrester CXSF 2016 Conference

My exploration recently led me to attend the Forrester CXSF conference.  I came with these questions in mind:

  • Has CX grown bigger than any single brand?
  • Who really controls the user experience?
  • What must you do differently to win?
  • What are the key elements of digital CX design?
Here is what I learned from the event.

CX Ecosystems

One of the keynote presentations titled “Future of Experiences: From Silos to Ecosystems” by Julie Ask, VP and Principal Analyst for Forrester, addressed the new strategy for digital CX. Customer Experience is quickly progressing from siloed experiences to mobile platform experiences, virtual assistant experiences and, eventually, blended ecosystem experiences.

This evolution of the digital CX game requires CX professionals and CX tools to adapt. Control of the customer experience has shifted away from singular brands to ecosystems. According to Forrester, customers choose the ecosystem partners; ecosystem partners control the user experience and new competitors set service level expectations.

It was suggested by multiple speakers that an ecosystem is required to create a great CX and you won’t control the user experience- your ecosystem partners will.

Who really controls the user experience and service level expectations?  New competitors; start-ups that make it really easy to get something done.

How Do You Win The Digital CX Game?

According to Forrester, to compete in this new environment, it is important for CX leaders, innovators and practitioners to understand customers’ ecosystems and build “experience components.”

Businesses’ strategies to harvest, share and monetize data must be refined. It is also critical to do two things:

  • "Prepare for dynamic, ad-hoc partnerships, and
  • Standardize everywhere to contain the exploding matrix of technology.”

The winners of the digital CX game will be those businesses who can expedite solutions via enabling tools and partnerships across a broad ecosystem with varying partners.

What must you do differently to win? Manage a broad ecosystem of experience components.

Channel, Context, Construction

To build successful solutions in the digital CX space you’ll need to focus on channels, context and construction.

  • The channel is the vehicle to deliver the experience to the customer.   Examples of channels include your website, social messaging sites like Facebook Messenger or WeChat, or solutions like  My:Time, our intelligent messaging product.
  • Context is the sum of what we know about the person, her intent, her environment and her history.
  • Construction is how the experience is built involving various tools and technologies.

What are the key elements of digital CX design? Channels, Context and Construction

channel context construction via @Forrester


Speaking of technology, much of the buzz recently is about chatbots and virtual assistants. It’s important for CX managers to know how best to employ these emerging technologies.

Chat bots have three primary parts:

  • client interface,
  • natural language processing, and
  • data access and logic.

Currently, chat bots are largely focused on very narrow applications.  They are most often found within existing messaging applications such as Facebook Messenger, WeChat or Twitter so enterprises can meet their customers where their customers "hang out".  

For now, analysts warn companies that it’s too early to abandon mobile apps.  Today, creating a chatbot with functionality similar to a great mobile app is a very expensive and complex proposition.

Instead, consider following a more modest path.  Start with a simple chatbot that provides basic content delivery on social channels.  You can provide a lot of value without having to create a complex chatbot based on artificial intelligence.  Over time, increase its "conversational" capabilities and expand the kinds of transactions it can provide.  This road will require conversation design to be successful in the same way mobile apps need visual user interface design.  Take your time and learn as you go along.  The chatbot market is still evolving, and so are user expectations. 

Recommended Focus

Going forward, companies' digital CX strategies would benefit by:

  • Enabling ingress points from multiple digital channels so it's easy for customers to engage
  • Aggregating data from digital channels to improve context through a more complete view of customer interactions
  • Building configurable self-service starting with basic conversational dialog on an existing channel
  • Adding contextual awareness to existing personalization and experience adaptation projects.
These steps are a straightforward way to get in the game and build up insights.  According to Forrester, enterprises will advance toward these digital CX goals over the next five years.

Top Take-Away

It's easy to get overwhelmed by all the new technologies that are beginning to change digital engagement.  In my role on the Innovations team at Contact Solutions, I continually evaluate emerging technologies to assess their impact on customer engagement and to better understand how they may be applied.  

My top take-away from this conference is that we are reaching an inflection point for customer experience.  New channels and technologies have the potential to be very disruptive, but that also creates significant opportunities for all of us.  

Chatbots, messaging, and engagement ecosystems are going to change how engagement is done. The good news is Forrester believes (and we do to) that this digital disruption will last for several years.  We don't have to figure it out all at once.  The important thing is to start taking incremental steps that help you learn how these new techologies will help you engage customers better- and engage them differently.  

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Topics: Customer Engagement Digital Context User Experience