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Words matter! We use words to understand and ultimately control our world. Many companies are looking to the expertise of strategists and forecasters to help them navigate the post-COVID waters ahead. These experts use two words that figure prominently in their vocabulary and thinking: “evolution” and “trend.”

These are strange times. As an optimist looking for a glimmer of hope, I compulsively read about what will happen when this crisis is all over.

Many economists predict a sharp upturn in business activity, the upturn being steep as the downturn was. On the far end of the scale, a few predict a global depression that will make the Great Depression seem puny.

A common theme that I hear is that “things will never be the same again.”

The act of exchanging goods or services for something of value (AKA a sale) is as old as time itself. And yet, who could argue that the art of the sale is changing at a dizzying rate? Organisations are transforming the way they sell to try and keep pace with the demands of their clients, who likewise are changing the way they buy. But as the old saying goes: the more things change, the more they stay the same.

A well-established, prestigious sports club nestled somewhere in the idyllic countryside seems like a foolproof business model. That is, until its leadership team noticed a steady decline in membership numbers and lower levels of overall engagement from its resident members. It could be safely assumed that they had rested on their laurels for some time, and its CEO, desperate to reverse the downturn, decided that the solution was to become more ‘customer-driven.’

Market researchers report that response rates are down dramatically. They attribute this to increased survey fatigue, evidenced by more and more surveys not being completed or even started. Far too many surveys are at once competing for our attention and stockpiling in our inboxes. But there is another, less frequently acknowledged reason for plunging response rates.

Customer Experience (CX) Management is on the rise – and there’s no sign of it stopping. According to Gartner, 81% of marketing leaders responsible for customer experience (CX) believe their companies mostly or completely compete on the basis of CX. Yet only 22% say their CX efforts have exceeded customer expectations.

Competition is a brutal fact of life in the world of business. It is a dog eat dog world, a zero-sum game in which there are both winners and losers. To make your life more complicated, you confront not just the competition, but rather multiple competitors, each with its own strengths and weaknesses. So, how can you consistently win the game?

Chances are you have run across an expectations-based survey in the not too distant past. Though not as ubiquitous as NPS (Net Promoter Score) surveys, Expectations Surveys turn up in a variety of guises – “customer feedback surveys” – especially in service industries such as hospitality and healthcare: product reviews, appraisals of various sorts and employee performance reviews.

The rise in ‘customer power’ over the last few years cannot have escaped many people’s attention. This exalted status for customers is no accident.  Rather, it comes from a hard-headed financial view: namely, when all is said and done, the customer pays the bills.

There is no denying that the Customer Experience is today’s hot topic in business. In the so-called Age of the Consumer, investment by brands wanting to deliver excellent experiences is on the rise but may be misguided by trends that shout the loudest.