This year's Frost and Sullivan event in Huntington Beach was outstanding on a variety of levels. Fantastic speakers, great programming, and multiple opportunities to dance to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.”

If I had to summarize my feelings from this show (and Customer Experience work in general) into one word, it would be transition.

The entire Customer Experience (CX) and Contact Center function seems poised for yet another massive evolution. There was a nervous tension pervading the attendees. It almost felt as if everyone was holding their breath for a storm on the horizon.

The reality is that none of us really know what CX work is going to look like around the corner. Between significant shifts in the scope of the role, the tremendous impact of Artificial Intelligence (AI), and voice of customer best practices being nearly unrecognizable, the CX world can be a scary place.

The good news is that it’s still the right place. Organizations that stay the course and succeed inside of the CX arena are seeing tremendous gains. The work is harder than ever, but it’s never been so important.

Let's explore some of the essential themes that were top of mind for the professionals who gathered together this year.

Tool Sets Are Broken

When Frost asked me to present a general session on the topic of “selecting the right toolset,” I was concerned about how I was going to make it interesting. Boy, was I ignorant! I knew that the general contact center space had a problem, but I was clueless as to how bad our toolset addiction has become until I jumped into the research.

Consider that the average enterprise organization has 464 custom applications. 464!! That’s more than the total number of touchdown passes by Aaron Rogers! It gets really scary when you consider that IT security is involved in protecting fewer than half of these applications. It’s gotten completely out of control, and our employees and our customers are paying the price. I was privileged to get early access to some compelling data from 8x8 on this very topic.

Let that middle stat sink in for a second. Can you even imagine the financial impact of this much wasted time? And that’s not even the worst of it. In the G2 “State of Software” report, over 50% of employees indicate being unhappy at work because of the software they are using. Bottom line: this issue is making people’s lives miserable and pushing great talent out of the contact center. To quote Justin Robbins:

“It’s no surprise that we are living in an era with more channels, more technologies, and more data than ever before. What is shocking, however, is our propensity to use multiple disparate systems that limit our insight into customer behaviors, and complicate our ability to access necessary information.”

This topic hit home with the audience, who willingly shared stories about how tools are hindering instead of helping. I highly recommend a movement in favor of simplification and knowledge management. When data can flow freely across the organization, it makes everything better. I believe we will see the role of Customer Support shift more and more towards that of a knowledge curator.

The New Face of “Voice of Customer”

People are still really struggling in the area of Voice of Customer (VoC). We are challenged with the need to collect all the various types of customer feedback data--structured, unstructured, and automated--and to tell a meaningful story with it. Traditional surveys still play a role, but their usefulness is diminishing. We now have the capability to measure customer sentiment using text analytics, speech analytics, video capture, and more.

Will our reliance on Net Promoter Score (NPS) diminish alongside traditional surveys? I believe the answer to that question is yes, but there are far smarter people than me having that debate as we speak.

Either way, there seems to be a race to find a better CX metric. One that depicts the customer journey as holistically as possible, and gives us the ability to tie Customer Experience work back to business results. There are a whole variety of exciting contenders, but until enough organizations endorse a standard measurement, it will be nearly impossible to benchmark ourselves with anything outside of NPS. At least for me, the “new metric of CX” could not come fast enough!

The Expanding Scope of Customer Experience Roles

We've only just seen the beginning of the rise of the "Chief Experience Officer" movement. It’s fantastic that organizations are recognizing the undeniable connection between CX and Employee Experience (EX). I fear that CX leaders already had enough on their plate as it was! When you add in things like User Experience (UX) and Digital Experience (DX) and even more X’s of various types, is there any hope of managing such a broad scope?

This trend makes it even more critical to form a robust cross-functional change coalition. A CX team can't create all the experiences themselves. It’s our job to bring together the various strategic functions and infuse CX directly into their work. We help to harmonize strategy and deliver customer feedback data, but department leaders own the design of exceptional experiences for themselves!

To conclude, 2019 has been one heck of a year. The dramatic transformation of contact center / CX work is not going to slow down any time soon. We will just have to approach 2020 with the same attitude as a good customer journey map. There is no finish line, and it’s all about creating the best experiences we can along the way!