Future Enterprise

Budgeting & Spending Considerations for CX and Voice of the Customer

While CX programs remain a high priority for organizations, there is much to think about to ensure costs and expectations are managed to be successful.
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2023 is nearing an end and organizations must work to map out budgets and spending plans for 2024 and beyond. As a CX practitioner, are you considering all key aspects of these programs and planning for them?

This has been a year of exceptional turbulence due to expectations for a recession, military actions in Europe and now the Middle East, and inflation remaining high. IDC found that 67% of respondents in October 2023 think there will be a recession in the coming year, and 37% of global respondents said their biggest concern was “inflation driving up vendor pricing beyond budget expectations”.

Yet, organizations remain committed to their CX programs.  IDC found that Customer Experience (CX) initiatives and projects are a priority being “most immune to budget reduction regardless of the economic environment” and “continued investment is a must in the next 12 months”. CX comes in second only behind Security, Risk & Compliance initiatives.

While it is interesting to see these projects remain high on the priority list, it is clear that a thorough review and refresh on what is needed for successful programs be undertaken as we roll into next year. 

“Voice of the Customer (VoC) and CX practitioners are clearly focused on metrics and outcomes of their programs.  They are being challenged by management to show Return on Investment for their programs as quickly as possible or risk a pull back in investments.”

Key areas for consideration in these programs are:

  • Maturity of program – VoC programs often start with structured surveys to solicit for customer feedback and then grow to include unstructured data and even inferred data. (see “Voice of the Customer” Programs: Where Are They Today? More Importantly, Where Are They Going?”) Depending on what stage of this maturity spectrum a program is on will dictate the investment in software and services to support it.  Rather than move from one type of customer feedback data to another, programs often are cumulative in the data they gather.
  • Staffing and Skillset – VoC programs are required to have skillsets to not only listen and gather customer feedback, but to analyze it, and integrate solutions to act on it through sales, marketing, support and customer success. They also need program managers, data scientists, IT support (including app and web development) and sponsorship in each functional department tied into the program. Practitioners should consider if they are prepared to provide these skillsets internally or find an appropriate partner that can offer these services.  In addition, this partnership can change over time as an organization decides to move to either outsource more of this work, or take it on internally.
  • Make sure to engage your customers – Customers today expect their brands to not only listen to them where they want to be (social media, product review sites, communities), but show them they are listening and engage them.  A recent WSJ article discussed how TikTok can be used to suggest ideas for new products or services, and if a brand is not quick to see the suggestion and follow up, a competitor could swoop in with a new product and quickly take share from the brand. Investments in CX and VoC programs should not only consider resources to engage the customers, but product development budgets should consider unexpected ideas that need to be addressed quickly.  Customers today are demanding great customer engagements and moving on to new brands if they feel they are not getting them. 
  • GenAI – The buzz around this new technology is getting significant attention in the CX space.  The opportunities to improve customer interactions via natural language interfaces and internal improvements such as feedback summarizations and insights has the potential for process and experience improvements. This can lead to potential hyper-personalization experiences where products can know their customers individually and dynamically update digital products and services to meet their real-time needs.  Being so new, the GenAI offerings on the market are still working out pricing options.  CX practitioners should consider budget items for GenAI as they move forward to ensure they can consider some form of implementation of them in 2024 and beyond.
  • Enterprise-wide programs – Customers today expect brands to understand and coordinate the different functional teams involved in customer engagements.  Marketing campaigns, sales efforts, and digital commerce and support all have to know what the other is doing to ensure customers do not receive disconnected emails, phone calls, etc. They also want to know that the calls or emails they do receive have taken account for their history (why receive an email to buy more of a new product if the customer has indicated they are not happy with the old one?)
  • Metrics and outcomes – Any program, CX or other, should have key metrics and outcome expectations followed to ensure they are having a positive effect on the organization.  Net Promoter Score (NPS – relational and transactional), Customer Satisfaction (CSAT), Overall Customer Satisfaction (OSAT), and Customer Effort Score (CES) are just a few of the most common metrics.  IDC is predicting that “By 2027, one-fourth of global brands will abandon CSAT as a measure of customer experience and adopt a Customer Effort Score correlated to outcomes as a key indicator of journey satisfaction and success” Reducing churn, improving annual recurring revenue, and improving customer lifetime value are business outcomes frequently used.  Tying metrics to investments in CX and VoC programs is key to ensuring they are performing for the organization.

While the list could go on, these are just a few of key areas to consider for updating your CX and VoC programs for next year.  The key action items to consider are to know where your customers want to be heard.  Be there, listen, and let them know you are listening.

Lou Reinemann is a Research Director for Voice of the Customer and Customer Success, part of IDC's Customer Experience Research team. Mr. Reinemann's focus area includes strategies and technologies that improve awareness and understanding of customer's actions, expectations and sentiment for new products and within a customer journey.