Customer experience (CX) is a determining factor in whether customers are loyal to a brand or not. Over 80% of companies who prioritize customer experience report an increase in revenue. So, how can businesses ensure their CX is up to scratch?
Brands must stay on top of CX trends.
2020 brought huge changes to the business world and impacted customer service and operations across the board. Next year will undoubtedly bring even more fascinating developments. Below are five emerging trends that we predict will shape CX in 2021.
Remember, you heard it here first.
1. Improved CX With AI
The words “artificial intelligence” (AI) conjure images of Arnold Schwarzenegger in his iconic Terminator role, or epic Hollywood showdowns between man and antagonistic machine. But don’t worry, 2021 isn’t going to feature any giant robots wielding machine guns. At least, we hope it won’t.
It’s no secret that AI is transforming the way businesses interact with their customers. Microsoft predicts that by 2025 as many as 95% of customer interactions will be through AI.
Sales and CX teams are using business VoiP services equipped with AI to quickly address customer queries and improve their communication. The transportation industry is waiting in anticipation as automated cars threaten disruption. In finance, financial services companies leverage AI to recommend personalized products and services to individuals. It’s moving fast, and businesses need to keep up with AI developments to stay on top of their game.
AI re-imagines customer experiences and end-to-end customer journeys. The result? Integrated and personalized customer experience.
With AI, brands can be available to their customers at every stage of their journeys, instantaneously. Leveraging AI can help businesses better understand customers and deliver better CX, resulting in higher conversions and decreased cart abandonment.
One of the biggest challenges facing customer service teams is handling an increase in customer support calls, emails, and social media inquiries. Customer service teams can employ AI to handle low-level support issues in real time, and gather initial information for live agents before intervention is needed. This results in lower wait times and fewer frustrated customers.
In a world where good customer experience can make or break a business, AI is a great tool to ensure customers feel their time is valued and stay loyal to a business. Here are some examples of how businesses use AI to streamline CX:
- Automated answering service for sorting and routing support
- Automating manual tasks like tagging
- Intelligently routing to the most appropriate agent
- Augmented messaging that allows chatbots and human agents to work in tandem. The bots handle simple queries, and the agents can take over when it gets too complicated.
Enhanced support through call monitoring and real time suggestions for representatives.
Two major trends in AI customer service software that will continue to grow in 2021 are chatbots and virtual assistants. Here’s a closer look at how both technologies can automate business functions and boost CX:
Businesses in various sectors have already employed chatbots to better deliver on customer needs and improve the speed at which business can help consumers.
The chatbot market size is projected to grow from $2.6 billion in 2019 to $9.4 billion by 2024. We’ll see businesses using chatbots to cut operational costs and streamline customer service processes. They can’t completely replace humans, but chatbots can:
- Provide instant answers to simple customer queries, 24/7
- Collect customer data and analyze it to gain insight into customer behavior
- Reduce pressure on customer service staff by automating low level support, allowing them to deal with more difficult inquiries
- Increase customer engagement and conversions
Virtual assistants allow users to interact with spoken language (Hey Alexa! Hey Google!) and help to relieve pressure on support staff by enabling interactive in-app support for users. AI virtual assistants are rising to new challenges and playing a vital role in automating customer service interactions.
In the next few years, virtual assistants are set to become more customizable, contextual, and conversational.
Contrary to popular belief, virtual assistants aren’t being used to replace humans completely (Blade Runner, anyone?), but to streamline CX while freeing up human agents for important tasks.
2. More Businesses Will Switch to an Omnichannel Approach
Customer experience is becoming complex, with 51% of businesses using at least eight channels for CX alone.
In 2020, many businesses closed up shop and transferred themselves completely online. Many are still adapting to new strategies of providing digital customer service, as well as enhancing their CX to cater to customer expectations in a virtual space.
As we approach 2021, brands need to focus on providing seamless, omnichannel CX to foster brand equity and drive sales.
Consumers demand consistent and highly personalized experiences as they interact with brands on various digital devices. For example, they might start interacting with a brand on Twitter and continue the conversation through e-mail. They’ll expect a seamless and integrated experience, no matter the platform.
A successful omnichannel CX seamlessly integrates online and offline communication channels to form a unified and unforgettable experience from the first to last point of contact.
If a customer base is interacting with a brand through phone, e-mail, live chat, social media, and SMS, as well as offline, a unified customer experience is a must.
In 2021 and beyond we’ll see more businesses further their digital transformation using instant communication to remove friction throughout the customer journey, and we’ll also see businesses tapping into customer data to personalize CX. As businesses plan their 2021 CX strategy, we’re likely to see big changes as brands acclimatize to an omnichannel customer service approach with increased virtual support.
3. Data, Data, and More Data
Businesses are becoming increasingly aware of the power of customer data in driving business outcomes and ROI. With customers expecting personalized, in-the-moment online experiences, the value of real-time data insights is paramount.
At present, predictive analytics helps retailers increase their margins by up to 60%. This number is set to grow as AI reaches greater capabilities.
Brands collect transactional, behavioral, and sensor data to form a customer ID that informs business goals as they move forward. This customer data is crucial to understanding what their CX does and does not get right.
Businesses are gaining deeper customer insights by collecting transactional customer data, analyzing customer behavior, segmenting personas, and more. Once all this data is collected and stored, predictive analytics can help businesses to understand how they’re succeeding or falling short of their objectives.
Businesses are using all this data about their customers to enhance the customer experience. How? By providing feedback in real-time, predicting customer needs, and identifying which customers they might lose. As a result, CX agents can satisfy their customers and prevent problems from arising.
We predict this trend will continue into 2021, as brands continue collecting meaningful data to build an omni-touch, real-time experience that allows customers to feel heard and understood.
4. Customer Service Goes Remote
With the recent advancements in technology, customer service and support have been able to optimize operations online. This has changed not only best practices and strategies, but also what customers expect from businesses.
This trend has a huge impact on businesses, employees, and, inadvertently, customers.
Remote working has plenty of benefits for all parties. Businesses can save significant costs on rent and technology, and hire from a more diverse talent pool. On the flip side, employees can work from anywhere (including their beds) and reduce commute time. No wonder most people who have tried remote work never want to go back!
Adapting to this shift can prove challenging. Remote working teams need to learn new methods of providing effective customer service from their homes or co-working spaces. It’s also essential that they find tactical ways to streamline project collaboration and to share information and customer data.
They’ll need to adapt to communicating in a virtual space, employ automated software to streamline operations, and find methods of staying motivated and on top of tasks.
As customer service goes remote, customer service teams will continue to face challenges when it comes to delivering an impeccable CX without setting foot in the office, but with the right technology, that allows for remote collaboration and oversight, it’s possible.
5. Personalization Will (Still) Be the Key to Success
In 2021, we can expect more from businesses to customize their CX and meet customer expectations.
Today’s consumers expect personalized experiences to be tailored to their needs. Businesses need to focus on providing customers with relevant and valuable information. Customers demand proactive, valuable, and relevant outreach from CX teams, without having to share their personal information.What’s more, over 60% of consumers expect that companies send personalized offers or discounts based on items they’ve purchased.
The customer needs to feel valued and listened to throughout their journey with a business.
Nowadays, customer service teams can communicate with customers in their own digital spaces, through social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Whatsapp, and Instagram. Companies will likely increase efforts to contact customers through online platforms to provide order updates, offer support, or send promotions.
There are many ways businesses can continue to offer meaningful CX in 2021 and beyond. Make sure you know your customers’ communication preferences, and personalize the conversations and outreach you conduct. Personalized emails generate six times higher transaction rates, so stop treating your customers like strangers!
There you have it, five customer experience trends to watch out for in 2021. These trends have been driven by rapid advancements in AI and data collection, the advantages of an omni-channel approach, and the global shift towards remote work. In the future, we’re likely to see continuous developments in these areas which will continue to develop and shape CX.
Don’t get too comfortable, though. We expect that by the end of 2021 these predictions will look completely different! Let’s see what the future of CX holds, shall we?
Guest blog post written by John Allen, Director, Global SEO at RingCentral, a global UCaaS, VoIP and customer engagement strategies provider. He has over 14 years of experience and an extensive background in building and optimizing digital marketing programs. He has written for websites such as Vault and RTInsights.