4 Trends Changing Customer And Employee Experiences: Part 1

4 Trends Changing Customer And Employee Experiences: Part 1
4 Trends Changing Customer And Employee Experiences: Part 1

In the past few years, businesses have had to pivot more times than we can count – especially when it comes to the experiences they provide customers, employees and the greater market. We have all had to adapt our strategies in real time to meet the needs of the moment, and it’s safe to say it’s been challenging.


But as we move forward, experience-focused businesses are faced with a new challenge: there is no “back to normal.” The circumstances of the past few years have forever changed us as individuals – and our expectations as consumers.


To be successful in 2022, businesses need to break from the status quo and make the choice to innovate by listening to their customers, non-buyers, employees and other experience stakeholders to determine their strategy going forward.


That’s where the 2022 Experience Trends Report comes in. 

In this two-part article we will explore four trends from our Trends Reports, which include data collected from both consumers and employees of brands within North America across 11 different industries. *   

We collected data surrounding three core topics:

  1. The future stakeholder journey. Customer and employee expectations for 2022. What are the new drivers of loyalty, retention and acquisition?
  2. The new world of experience. Understanding how brands across industries need to adapt the digital and in-store experience.
  3. The emerging internal and external personas. What will emerging customers and employees look like? How can brands meet their needs?

Past, future and emerging experience stakeholders

Before we dive into the trends, we want to give a quick summary of what we know about each generation and how they behave as both customers and employees (Figure 1). We noticed that these generational attributes came into play across each trend.

1. Experience standards are changing … again.

A word about COVID 

Everyone is tired of talking about the novel Coronavirus. But if we didn’t mention it, we’d be remiss, especially since mask mandates and other safety measures are still common. And we wanted to know how experienced stakeholders feel about the possible loosening of these protocols.

We found that one in two consumers and employees were comfortable with the possible reduction of COVID restrictions and precautions in the coming year.

And when we dove deeper, it became clear that both consumers and employees were excited at the prospect of COVID becoming less of a factor in their experiences, especially compared to a year ago.

Figure 3 shows the differences in the comments from the beginning of 2021 versus the end of the year.

The future of customer and employee journeys 

When it comes to experiences, you can no longer examine your industry standards in a silo because trends will defy industry lines. Your customers and employees will be comparing the experience you provide to the ones they receive in other industries.

We asked, “What experiences are you looking forward to in the following industries?” Figures 4 and 5 provide details on the responses.

How you can adapt and succeed

Now that you understand the changes that are coming to your experiences, we have a few actions you can take to adapt and succeed next year:

  • Adapt quickly and early. It seems like “agility” has been the MVP in the past few years. With ever-changing restrictions and safety measures, you’ve had to keep your finger on the pulse to meet customer and employee needs. But don’t stop now! With journeys evolving at a fast pace, you need to avoid a “set it and forget it” mentality. Make sure you are continuously coming back to your customer and employee feedback so you can keep up with their expectations.
  • Plan for future stakeholder journeys. As you keep your ear to the ground with incoming feedback, also ask your team, “What are we doing now to prepare for the next generation of consumers and employees?” From our research, emerging experience stakeholders from Gen Z have vastly different preferences than earlier generations.
  • Above all, be human. If we’ve learned anything in the past few years, it’s that your customers and employees need you to truly care about their experiences, and even more so, the role your brand plays in their lives. Customer response to options like “buy online and pickup in store” are great examples of this; brands understood that safety was the number one priority for customers and provided safe ways to engage. This kind of understanding is essential for moving forward.

2: Surveys alone will not be enough for ongoing experience improvement.

Consumer and employee feedback preferences are changing

Surveys and experience programs have been practically synonymous since the beginning. And it is great practice to go to your experience stakeholders and ask them about their interactions with your brand. But are surveys the best practice for 2022 and beyond?

The short answer is no, surveys alone will not be enough for ongoing experiences. However, surveys are far from “dead.” Businesses simply need to evolve their approach to meet the needs of tomorrow.

To understand the role of surveys and other listening methods in 2022, we asked how stakeholders would like to provide feedback in the next year. Here are their responses:

We added additional insights by comparing to similar research we conducted three years ago. The items highlighted in Figure 6 are the listening methods that have seen significant growth of interest in the last few years.

Additionally, we zoomed in on emerging consumers and employees – Gen Z – to see how they feel about surveys. We found that:

  • In the U.S.:
    • Only 19% of emerging customers (Gen Z) are likely to complete a traditional survey.
    • Only 22% of emerging employees (Gen Z) are likely to complete a traditional survey.
  • In Canada:
    • Only 28% of emerging customers (Gen Z) are likely to complete a traditional survey.
    • Only 41% of emerging employees (Gen Z) are likely to complete a traditional survey.

From these findings, it’s clear that experience stakeholders are less likely to fill out a survey, and that trend will only continue as Gen Z becomes more active in society. To listen where their customers and employees are, brands should focus on micro surveys, social media, review sites and live chat in order to gain the intelligence they will need to compete in the future.

The impact of social media influencers

With so many consumers at home in 2020 and 2021, many brands turned to social media influencers to get the word out about new products and services. And according to our research, this isn’t likely to change. In 2022, social media influencers will continue to, well, influence customer purchasing decisions.

We asked consumers about whether they used an influencer code to make a purchase in 2021, and if they are likely to use influencer discount codes in the upcoming year.

We also looked at the data from a generational perspective:

  • One of three emerging Gen Z customers had used a social influencer code in 2021.
  • One of three emerging Gen Z customers were planning to use a code in 2022.
  • One of five Millennials were also planning to use a social influencer code in 2022.

From these responses, it’s clear that influencer marketing is an effective tactic for brands, especially those whose audience is made up of Millennials or Gen Zers.

How you can adapt and succeed

This action step will be a little different than the ones we’ve laid out so far. This trend is all about transforming the way you listen to move beyond surveys, so we want to give you a solid outline for where, how and what you should be listening to in 2022.

The role of the survey will be different in the future, and that’s a good thing! In the future of feedback, surveys will be one of the tools in the toolbox for businesses looking to understand experience stakeholders – but brands should not be survey obsessed. Instead, they will need to look first to their strategy and inferred and indirect data before they consider creating another survey.

Our experts advise a process of elimination that helps you understand which listening tools to use and when. Table 1 shares steps you can take to effectively listen to consumers and employees in 2022 (and beyond).

The Question
The Method
The Reasoning
What are you trying to achieve?
Strategic insights to design with the end in mind.
If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll never get there. Specify the problem you’re trying to solve or what you’re trying to improve. Are you striving to increase market share? Retain existing customers? Knowing the answers and setting goals will help you listen in the places that count most.
What does your current data say?
Inferred/internal data: e-mails, slack, intranet, operations, etc.
Look at the data you already have. Sometimes, you might already have the answers! If you are looking to increase retention, inferred/internal data could identify that 30% of your churn is driven by a lack of personalized experiences. That gives you an area in which to act, all without sending a single survey.
What does the external data say?
Indirect data: Glassdoor, social media, credit card, IP targeting, etc.
Leveraging indirect data allows you to gain additional insights not only from existing customers and employees, but also non-buyers and non-employees. For instance, competitor data from Glassdoor can help identify why other job postings are attracting more candidates – information you can leverage to improve your own postings.
What are the gaps?
Direct surveys.
So, you’ve examined all existing and available data. Still have questions? Now it’s time for a survey or micro survey. With so much data in the world today, the risk is not a shortage of data. The risk is having so much data that you can’t find the signal through the noise. Going through this process avoids unnecessary noise, making your path to action clear.

Watch for Part 2 where we will cover trends three and four.