Customer Experience Trends To Watch In 2021

One in three consumers will walk away from a brand they love after just one bad experience, and Covid has only upped the ante. Here's how to improve those CX numbers.

It goes without saying that 2020 shifted the way that many organizations look at their operations. In a digital world, interactions between brands and consumers happen at any time, across multiple channels and devices, and routinely change channel mid-interaction. From retail to banking to customer service, the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns accelerated the shift to digital and permanently changed the way organizations deal with consumers.

This, in turn, has increased the number of potential customer experience friction points and the likelihood that consumers have a bad experience while online. As digital literacy and expectations rise among consumers, this will cause serious issues for organizations. According to PWC, one in three consumers will walk away from a brand they love after just one bad experience. There isn’t an organization in existence that can afford to disregard this statistic.

To ensure that consumers don’t walk away (and tell the world that they are doing so), CEOs need to focus on ways to improve customer experience (CX) as the economy continues to open back up and offices start to reopen. While some of these trends may not be new, they can’t be ignored by CEOs and need to be looked at in a new, brighter light as stimulus checks and decreasing unemployment bring more money back into the economy.

Artificial Intelligence

AI is the trend that everyone in every industry is talking about but few understand practically. AI is not an all-knowing technology to be inserted into machines and robots to replace human workers. AI is a critical capability that empowers human workers and minimizes the time spent performing mundane, repetitive tasks so that they can perform more business-essential tasks. Given the increased stress and disruption that the pandemic has caused, AI is finally being adopted and employed in the way our technological limits allow.

When it comes to CX, incorporating AI to either understand context and trigger certain workflows or events throughout the customer journey or ensure that a relevant insight is provided to an employee at the right time can make the difference between creating the best possible experience or a nightmare for customers. Scenarios range from a customer service ticket triggering a real-time data pull to best inform an agent on the phone with a client to a webchat question automatically retrieving a link or document to answer a frequently asked question, freeing up an employee to handle a more complex issue.

Omnichannel Communications

Given that many consumers are interacting with organizations across numerous channels and mediums, an omnichannel approach to customer communications is essential in today’s digital economy. By omnichannel, I mean that you need to communicate with your customers where they want to be communicated with, in the moment – whether that be voice, SMS, webchat, or email – to ensure there is as little friction as possible. This is true whether you are reaching out to them or responding to their inbound inquiries. And while most organizations know that an omnichannel approach would greatly benefit their business, integration challenges and misguided financial considerations have prevented widespread adoption of omnichannel strategies. By not adopting an omnichannel approach, organizations risk painful missteps during even routine customer journeys, causing friction and possible abandonment by customers when pertinent information and context isn’t carried over from one channel to another. Think about how irritated you’ve gotten when you have to repeat your personal information when getting transferred from agent to agent when you call a company requesting assistance.

Unified, Unsiloed Data Channels

 Data is king. However, with the sheer number of customer engagement channels available to organizations today, and each generating interaction history and metadata, much of that data isn’t readily available and therefore cannot be utilized to enhance CX to the fullest extent possible. Customer data that isn’t actionable is as useful as having no data at all.

Creating a unified data platform and removing the silos around data channels can ensure that all relevant data is available to generate meaningful insights that ensure smooth, informed customer journeys. The more channels and databases that employees have to access to manually pull customer data, the higher the chances are that something gets missed or misinterpreted. One way to fix this is to combine your channels through a unified CRM, analyzing the data, and empowering employees with insights.

Focus on Agent/Employee Experience

Customer experience isn’t the only experience that executives need to be mindful of in 2021. In fact, improving the experience of your employees, whether they are customer service agents, salespeople or any other employee that has direct or indirect communication with customers, will in turn greatly improve your customers’ experience. We speak to many companies that erroneously prioritize CX and disregard entirely the employee experience. Happy and invested employees are more likely to represent your organization in a positive manner as they feel ownership of how the organization is perceived and care what customers think about the organization. Unhappy employees that don’t feel invested in the larger organization tend not to care how customers feel about your brand.

Last year was a tough one for organizations and their customers; 2021 can be the year that you change your CX and customer journey for the better in an increasingly digital world. While CX may not have been as big of a concern for executives in the past, it is no longer an issue they can afford to ignore. Consumers have more options than ever before and with increased competition, they are more likely to explore those options if your CX isn’t right.