The 6 Top Trends of Customer Experience in 2021

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The digital transformation of companies accelerated significantly in 2020. In particular, they had to quickly adopt remote work and further increase their use of digital channels. 

A McKinsey study shows this situation could have saved five years on the adoption of digital tools. In this context, what will be the impact of these changes in 2021? What trends should you adopt now to prepare for the future?

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1. Fully digital journeys replace physical interactions

The retail sector has been making the transition to digital experiences for several years. In 2020, the lockdown accelerated this transformation. Globally, 49% of consumers shop online more now than they did pre-COVID-19, meaning that retailers must offer alternatives to the in-store experience.

Practices such as click & collect, already adopted by the major retail players, are spreading to all businesses. Shop trips are also more prepared and focus on the customer experience, often through the advisor-salesperson. 

49% of consumers shop online more now than they did pre-COVID-19 Click To Tweet

In this context, digital plays a pivotal role to complete the support of salespeople in stores. Digital interactions should therefore increase by 40% in 2021, according to Forrester. To prepare for this, companies should adopt the channels their customers appreciate and the tools to manage them effectively.

2. Flexibility is no longer an option

Contact centre flexibility is an essential aspect of a successful customer experience. At the start of 2020, companies had to quickly deploy remote work in an agile manner to ensure business continuity. This transition was more or less straightforward, depending on the degree of digital maturity of the company.

Indeed, companies relying mainly on the cloud were able to ensure this transition quickly. At the same time, those with on-site solutions encountered serious obstacles, in particular due to the need for physical hardware.

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In 2021, the flexibility to remain available to customers and meet their expectations becomes essential and will make it possible to stand out. This is why companies should adopt flexible strategies allowing them to adapt quickly to changes. This means using open technologies to gain agility and integrate the innovations of tomorrow. 

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3. Asynchronous communications continue to grow

Growth of asynchronous interactions for customer service continued this year. On Facebook Messenger and Instagram, daily conversations between customers and businesses increased by 40%. With 2 billion users on WhatsApp and 1.2 billion on Messenger, consumer habits have therefore encouraged this growth in messaging applications in customer relations.

GAFAs continue to support this transition to asynchronous, dramatically improving the messaging experience. Google for example, launched Business Messages, allowing customers to send a message to a company instead of calling it, directly from the search results.

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The health crisis, causing peaks in demand in many industries such as tourism and services (telecoms, insurance, banks), has also encouraged the growth of asynchronous communication. This situation further highlighted the advantages of this mode of exchange: customers can more easily contact companies, and the latter can manage their activity with more flexibility than by telephone. To meet the expectations of instantaneity, fast asynchronous communication is gradually replacing synchronous channels such as live-chat. In 2021, equipping yourself with the right tools to manage these requests and respond within the right timeframe will therefore be essential.

4. The customer experience by phone is improving

Digital channels are adapted to many situations and appreciated by a growing number of customers. However, the telephone remains a heavily used and essential channel. Although it could have been the source of frustrations, mainly because of the waiting time, the phone sees its processes improved thanks to digital.

Call deflection makes it possible to redirect calls to digital channels when this is relevant for the customer and the company. It can be offered before the call, during the queue or during the call. Thus, it allows the customer to communicate by telephone when necessary and to be able to use digital when it is more suitable. This change of channel can, for example, be offered to complete a payment or obtain basic information (order tracking, price information, etc.) more quickly via digital channels, without waiting time. 

Automation and digital make it possible to reduce call volumes and provide much faster answers. Agents are less constrained by resolution time goals and can provide better service. In 2021, the call deflection approach will be more widely adopted to support the transition of telephone interactions to digital.

5. Companies find the right balance between human and automation

Artificial Intelligence is a fundamental trend that has been evolving for several years. We are now at an advanced stage, with uses that are becoming more relevant and no longer degrading the customer experience.

On the one hand, companies have gradually identified the most suitable cases for chatbots. They have established more collaboration between chatbots and agents, helping the latter to free up time to focus on requests with higher added value. 

80% of people who interacted with a chatbot had an excellent experience. Click To Tweet

On the other hand, customers have become more and more used to this technology and see it less negatively than before. According to an Uberall study, 80% of people who interacted with a chatbot had an excellent experience. The main benefit they see is being able to get responses around the clock. In 2021, companies will therefore continue to rely on the complementarity between agents and chatbots to streamline the customer experience. 

6. The integration of customer service and unified communications tools improves CX

The daily life of a customer relationship agent can be strewn with obstacles that reduce their efficiency and impact the customer experience. Employees can waste up to an hour a day switching between tools, and 77% of them have to keep customers waiting to get the answers they need internally.

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While one generally focuses on customer satisfaction, employee satisfaction also has a significant impact on customer service. By equipping them with the right tools, agents can communicate seamlessly with their team through different modes (team messaging, video, and phone) to get the information they need and resolve customer requests more quickly and efficiently. 

The growth of remote working makes all the more important the adoption of unified communications tools. This axis should therefore be a priority for companies wishing to continue improving their customer relations in 2021.

More than ever, digital will occupy a central place in customer experience in 2021. Thanks to the progress of automation to help agents and the generalisation of new modes of exchange, companies will be able to put people back at the heart of the customer experience, to maintain a strong link with consumers.

This article was originally published in Customer Experience Magazine.

Expert advice on how to meet customer expectations, manage remote employees and set agents up for success.

Originally published Dec 14, 2020, updated Jul 22, 2021


    Julien Rio (CCXP) has more than 10 years’ international experience in Marketing and Customer Care positions across multiple industries including toys, medical, hospitality, F&B, logistics, electronics, etc. As Senior Director of Marketing at RingCentral France, Julien strives for improving customer care worldwide and closing the gap between what companies have to offer and what customers expect. Author and blogger, Julien regularly writes about customer experience and marketing topics.

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