Into the unknown - what to expect from CX in 2021

17th Dec 2020

2020 has been a rollercoaster of a year, and few have emerged unscathed from the pandemic. While the past 12 months have presented numerous challenges for organisations - particularly those in the retail and hospitality sectors - many have successfully evolved to meet market demand in response to changing circumstances. Organisations have made changes to operations including offering curbside pick-up, moving contact centre operations to home-working models, offering take-out service, etc. - all in a bid to adapt to the ‘new normal’. 

The year has also presented organisations with an opportunity to see their customer base in a new light. Traditional mechanisms for ensuring customer loyalty went out of the window in 2020, as customers shifted allegiances based on the breadth of service, goods and flexibility offered. 

As we reflect on the learnings of our shared trauma, there is a growing realisation and acceptance that, in many ways, we’re not going back to before. And so, in this moment of looking ahead to 2021, what better opportunity to take stock and re-evaluate existing operations. Here are my top five predictions for what to expect in the year ahead:

Let the dust settle, but don’t rest on your laurels
In 2020, retailers experienced 10 years’ worth of eCommerce adoption in as many months. 2021 will see these solutions bedding in. Organisations will look to customer feedback to refine and enhance these offerings, to meet their customers’ needs both now and in the future. If 2020 has taught us anything, however, it is that things can change in an instant. So, prepare for the unexpected, and make sure your systems are up to scratch. Agility and foresight will always help if the unthinkable happens (again), and so we foresee brands transitioning away from post-interaction feedback like email and paper surveys, and instead augmenting such traditional customer listening methodologies with real-time experience signals - indirect, observed, device-based, etc. - enabling live-time action to meet customer needs in-the-moment.

The customer is king
2021 will see a real focus on the customer - with all services and activities refocused to retain, rebuild and attract new customer relationships after the pandemic. The events of 2020 forced customers to change their shopping habits, and where new channels haven’t met expectations, customers have voted with their feet (or fingers) and taken their business elsewhere. There is an opportunity for retailers to land-grab if they can meet the demands of this newly empowered consumer - both online and on-premise - and to build a new age of loyal customers. 

Omnichannel is a must
Omnichannel design will no longer be a nice-to-have, and organisations will continue building on omnichannel advancements in the year ahead. Real-time chatbots and messaging were companies’ most adopted resources to open or expand channels of dialogue during the pandemic, and we expect this trend will continue. Video feedback is another valuable resource - while historically expensive and difficult to scale, the technology has now come of age, and all of a sudden video is the one thing keeping entire economies afloat in this age of home-working. Video is where your customers are today, and so 2021 will see companies embrace Deep Learning-enabled technologies to understand sentiment for the customer experiences that they deliver over this channel. 

QR codes will make a comeback
Frictionless, smooth and contactless customer journeys will also be a priority in 2021. QR codes will see a resurgence, following their success in 2020 for contact tracing. These old friends will increasingly be used to capture customer sentiment in the moment - in stores, branches and other physical locations like hotel properties - enabling organisations to remediate more immediately, and to adapt services and solutions to better meet customer needs.

Empathy will go a long way
The global pandemic has caused both customers and employees not only to become more empathetic themselves, but also to seek empathy in the experiences they choose. According to Salesforce research, while 68% of respondents expect brands to demonstrate this trait, only 37% of respondents feel that brands actually deliver it. Driving an emotional connection between brands and customers, as well as between brands and their employees, will serve companies well in the long-run. This should be a core focus in the year ahead. Contact centres and agent performance will take centre stage, as the voices behind the phone lines are the brand’s ambassadors and the vital link to empathetic customer engagement. 

As we step into the unknown of 2021, one thing that will remain constant is the need to continually serve customers and ensure that their journey with your brand is memorable for the right reasons. After the struggles of 2020, we are all deserving of some reward. It will be the brands that invest the effort to provide a constant and future-proofed level of support to their customer base that will reap the benefits of that reward. 

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