Consumer expectations in 2021 will leave little room for error when it comes to customer experience. Those who’ve invested in providing great customer service will thrive, and those who haven’t will need to act quickly in order to remain competitive.
For companies, across almost every industry and function, 2020 will forever be a defining year. A recent survey shows that post-COVID-19, 59% of consumers will care even more about customer experience than they did in the “before times” when deciding which companies to support or buy from. If you’re a business, this means there is very little room for mistakes heading into the New Year. Any friction in a customer’s journey can cause a loss in potential revenue, and a potential gain for your competitors.
Luckily, technology is also adapting at rapid speeds to help deliver tools that can make CX a truly seamless experience for companies and consumers. Adapting means keeping up with these changes, and then quickly implementing them to stay ahead. So, what do companies need to know, as we head into 2021, to win over customer hearts and minds?
1. Spotlight on the importance of Agent Experience (AX)
Over the last decade, we’ve seen the importance of customer experience (CX) recognised and now, finally, fully embraced, but there’s one important piece of the puzzle missing – the agent experience (AX). Focusing on your CX without taking into consideration your AX puts you at a disadvantage. To be truly successful, companies need to see their agent experience as a valuable part of their overall CX strategy. AX is defined as the holistic view of how empowered, efficient and effective a company’s customer service agents are. As is the case with almost any department in a company, prioritising your team and staying in-touch with employee morale is the only true way to ensure positive reactions from your customers.
In short, it’s as simple as this: happy agents = happy customers.
2. 2021 will be all about omni channel communication
If your company is not operating with a focus on omnichannel communication, now is the time to adapt.
A true omnichannel approach includes the ability to deliver a seamless and consistent experience across a variety of communication channels. All whilst factoring in the different devices, behaviours and preferences of the consumer. Studies have shown that customers no longer just desire the ability to communicate with companies when and where it’s most convenient for them — they expect and demand it. Unlike years prior, this new type of conversational commerce is much bigger than just offering live chat. Consumers now want to be able to connect with your brand immediately on their preferred platform — whether it’s Facebook,, WhatsApp, email, etc. The right tools will allow you to deliver a unified customer experience and treat all channels as equal — prioritising queries based on importance and need rather than on a channel-by-channel basis.
This omnichannel approach rings especially true for ecommerce businesses, where conversation is the new currency. The trust and customer loyalty that is built through quality, consistent conversational customer service can be the key differentiator between two competitors, and part of that success will come from having a strong customer-centric ethos. When you consider that 80% of consumers will switch to another company after just one poor customer experience, this opens the door for companies to not only compete on pricing or selection but also on experience.
But, as always, customer reviews play a massive role in your success. CX is no longer a private interaction between customer and company. With the ever-growing consumer reliance on online reviews, every customer’s experience has the potential to be put on display for the world to see. Customers are taking their power back and voicing their complaints, and, if you do it right, singing your praises. And this has a huge ripple effect on your bottom line and unfortunately, one positive interaction with a customer is sometimes not enough to ensure an overall pleasant experience, or even a good review. Today’s companies also need to pay close attention to the Customer Service Paradox, and the Peak-End Rule. The Customer Service Paradox (also referred to as the Service Recovery Paradox) is the phenomenon in which a customer thinks more highly of a company after the company has corrected a problem with their service, compared to how they would feel about the company if a non-faulty service had been provided.
The Peak-End Rule states that consumers make their evaluation of a company based on two parts of their experience — the peak and the end.
The peak refers to the moment when the consumer experiences the strongest emotion (positive or negative) whereas the end refers to how the experience concluded.
This is vital knowledge for companies as it stresses the importance of maintaining a positive customer experience throughout their journey.
3. Customer service will play a bigger role in C-level strategy
As we move into the future, customer service will continue to become an increasingly important priority for the C-suite. Because of the influence CX has on growth strategy, it will mean a business’s CXO, CMO, and CCO will need to work even more collaboratively.
But CEOs will also need to pay closer attention to the importance of customer service. One recent study showed that 70% of consumers feel more connected to brands when the CEO takes a more active role on social media. This that consumers look for a personal connection to the brands they support, whether this comes from an empowered customer service agent or your CEO.
4. Personalisation at the core of all activity
It’s no surprise that 2021 will bring more focus on hyper-personalisation at scale in CX.
Data supports the fact that customers value a friendly, efficient and highly-personalised customer service experience. And as more software and tools begin to allow businesses of all kinds to achieve this type of personalisation, consumers’ expectations will only continue to grow.
One surprising study showed that the majority of buying decisions are no longer based on things like price or convenience. Instead, 70% of buying experiences are based on how a customer feels they are being treated by a company. Considering companies have full control over this especially with today’s technology, this should be music to your ears!
5. Software tools to help improve efficiency
What does efficient customer service look like in 2021? It’s having every customer service agent achieving maximum productivity with minimum wasted effort.
By providing the tools and software your agents need to have streamlined conversations with customers. Efficiency doesn’t just affect the customer experience, it affects your overall bottom line too. Inefficient customer service leads to higher levels of time-wasted and unhappy customers — both of which will harm profit and growth.
Unfortunately, no matter how amazing your customer service team is, if they don’t have the necessary tools to work efficiently, it will be incredibly difficult to achieve the type of customer experience you’re aspiring to.
This may take some digging into your CX:
- Where are your agents facing hurdles?
- What’s their biggest waste of time?
- What are their most repetitive tasks?
- Where are they hitting bottlenecks or missing out on vital info?
Survey your CX team, ask questions and gather feedback. Then, find a comprehensive software solution that can solve them. This may seem like a big investment in time, but it will end up paying off ten-fold.
There’s no doubt that 2021 is going to be a year of possibility, with customers reaching out on a variety of platforms and expecting a seamless, personalised and positive experience. And companies that can deliver on these expectations and trends will thrive. Is your company ready?
Credit: Mads Fosselius, CEO & Co-Founder, Dixa
Holly brings a wealth of experience in both print and digital publishing. As Modern Retail’s Content Editor, Holly is passionate about helping independent retailers to thrive in today’s ever-changing market.