Top CX trends to expect in 2024: New research uncovers 4 important shifts that will define the consumer experience this year

by | Jan 4, 2024 | Public Relations

AI is making business leaders’ productivity dreams come true, but it’s also creating even loftier CX expectations—and brands need to stay aware of trending issues as they develop throughout this critical year of CX refinement. New research from experience management firm Qualtrics uncovers some key shifts on the horizon that are poised to widen the rift between those companies that deliver smooth experiences and those who continue to struggle.

Consumers in 2024 expect companies to deliver a consistently smooth experience whether they’re shopping on a website, calling customer support or using a chatbot, according to the firm’s new 2024 Consumer Experience Trends report. Importantly, as AI becomes a bigger part of daily life, consumers are putting a higher value on human connection and rewarding brands that deliver exceptional digital support with their dollars and lasting loyalty.

What’s driving consumer purchases in 2024:

Top CX trends to expect in 2024: New research uncovers 4 important shifts that will define the consumer experience this year

The firm’s global survey of over 28,000 consumers in 26 countries, seeking input about their expectations and what companies should do to win and keep their business, reveals that consumers are sharing less direct feedback and they are frustrated with the customer service they receive while shopping on websites and apps.

The report identified 4 key trends that will define the consumer experience in 2024:

  • Human connection is the foundation of a winning AI strategy
  • Great service beats low prices in the battle for customer loyalty
  • Digital support is the weakest link in your customer journey
  • Consumers don’t give feedback like they used to, so companies must listen in new ways

A winning AI strategy must address consumers’ fear of losing the human connection

Despite all of the hype around AI, consumers aren’t sure they’re ready for customer service delivered by AI directly; Less than half (48 percent) of consumers are comfortable getting help from a chatbot or using AI-powered self-service. Skeptical consumers worry about the loss of human connection, the potential for poor service and the possibility people could be replaced by AI in their jobs.

Customer experience professionals believe AI will give them a competitive advantage, as it can augment how they do their work. With the right data, AI has the potential to deliver service that closely resembles the human experience—it can understand human emotions, adapt to circumstances, act with empathy and create connections. And it can make the humans delivering service even better.

Consumers’ top 3 concerns about AI:

Top CX trends to expect in 2024: New research uncovers 4 important shifts that will define the consumer experience this year

The challenge for brands in 2024 will be identifying the tasks AI does and doesn’t do well, and aligning those capabilities with consumer preferences. About three-quarters (73 percent) of consumers are comfortable using a brand’s automated system for simple, transactional activities like checking an order status. However, they are averse to using it when the stakes are high—only 19 percent of consumers would prefer to engage with a chatbot or self-service channel for advice on a medical issue.

Organizations are understandably excited about the potential of AI, but as they incorporate it into their business, they must take customers’ concerns into account,” said Moira Dorsey, principal XM catalyst at Qualtrics XM Institute, in a news release. “Done well, AI-powered services will make human teams more effective and give customers a fast, effective way to get what they need through self-service and automated tasks.”

Customer service is even more important than low prices

Despite rising prices and the risk of inflation, price will not be the primary driver of consumer purchase decisions in 2024. Consumers say that organizations that provide excellent customer service are more likely to gain their repeat business, with customer service and support ranking above low prices when it comes to the top drivers influencing consumer purchase decisions. Only product quality ranked higher.

But lagging morale among frontline employees such as cashiers, restaurant servers, and bank tellers is a huge barrier to organizations delivering the level of experience that creates loyal customers. Other recent Qualtrics research shows frontline workers are less satisfied with their pay and development compared to non-frontline staff and they feel a lack of support to effectively do their job. These issues may get worse in 2024 as only 38 percent of CX professionals said, “training our customer service agents and frontline employees” would be a priority for the year ahead, according to that research.

“Great customer service starts with taking care of the humans engaging with customers on the frontline,” Dorsey said. “Customer service experiences are often where people have strong emotions, so they tend to influence future purchase decisions more than any other interaction.”

Digital support will create winners and losers

Great digital support can have an outsized impact on customer loyalty. Despite being equally satisfied making a purchase online or in person, consumers are 2.7 times more likely to return if they had great digital support, compared to 2.5 times after great customer support from a person. Consumers are six percentage points less likely to be satisfied by their digital customer support experience, compared to human support. 

The issue is especially pressing as brands are increasing their reliance on digital channels to drive their business. Another recent Qualtrics study found that 70 percent of companies say that digital channels contribute to at least 40 percent of their revenue, and 85 percent of respondents expect that number to grow in the coming months.

“Digital channels, such as websites and apps, are becoming increasingly critical in shaping the customer experience,” said Dorsey. “Brands that invest in improving the service and support they provide on their digital channels will pull ahead of the pack in customer retention and loyalty. “

Customers aren’t giving feedback like they used to—companies must listen in new ways

Only a third of consumers give direct feedback every time they have a bad experience with a company, but they are providing feedback in less direct ways, such as in call center conversations, online chat, product reviews and social media posts. 

Since 2021, the share of consumers providing feedback directly to the companies they buy from following a very bad experience has fallen by 7.2 percentage points, so organizations need to be smart about gathering feedback where customers are giving it and taking action to address it.

Top CX trends to expect in 2024: New research uncovers 4 important shifts that will define the consumer experience this year

Companies can build a richer understanding of what customers want and expect by tuning into both direct and indirect sources of feedback. The latter may even provide a more authentic view into the customer experience and can surface issues or insights that may not come up on a traditional survey.

According to Dorsey, “Companies need a diverse set of listening tools to understand customers’ perceptions and deliver experiences that drive business value. As brands incorporate more unstructured and unsolicited data to understand what customers are thinking from sources like social media, product reviews, chat logs and call transcripts, they should combine it with operational data, such as average spend and visit frequency, to gain insight into what consumers are doing to understand how to serve them better.”

Download the full report here.

Richard Carufel
Richard Carufel is editor of Bulldog Reporter and the Daily ’Dog, one of the web’s leading sources of PR and marketing communications news and opinions. He has been reporting on the PR and communications industry for over 17 years, and has interviewed hundreds of journalists and PR industry leaders. Reach him at richard.carufel@bulldogreporter.com; @BulldogReporter