What Lies Ahead for 2021?

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This time last year as all of the prediction articles and blogs were being written, nobody could have anticipated or predicted what we have all lived through in 2020. Virtually every business and employee had to address unprecedented challenges in order to stay operational and ensure their employees were operating at maximum efficiency. 

For better or worse, 2020 is behind us and we have our sights set on 2021. With that in mind and knowing that our new normal is indeed different, I am taking a shot at laying out what I believe lies ahead in 2021 for the future of work, the call centre, and customer experience (CX) by giving one prediction for each. 

Remote work is here to stay

Perhaps the biggest adjustment that employers and employees alike had to make in 2020 was full-time remote working. In what seemed like an instant, offices were shuttered and employees were left to create workspaces in their homes.

While it is easy to believe that the pandemic created a whole new way to work, as I have noted in my previous blogs and this eBook, the pandemic only served to accelerate what was already a trend in the making.

In 2021, employees can expect that their work from home environment is more of the rule than the exception. What many employers have discovered is that remote work delivers an array of benefits including employees having improved work-life balance, lower overhead costs, and employee engagement.

If 2020 has left you wanting for the days of being in the office, I recommend you rethink that proposition as many will stay working from home, and being in the office will be only out of necessity. 

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Contact centres and social media

A number of years ago I was doing some buyer insight work for a client. As part of that process, we were interested in understanding the various channels buyers used to gather information regarding their purchases. During one interview with one of their customers, I asked if he used social media as a way to conduct research. In response, he grew quite animated as he explained how he “despised” social media. When I enquired as to why he felt this way he told me that he worked in a contact centre and social media was “the bane of [his] existence”. It turns out that social media as he described it was “just one more channel [he had] to monitor for customer complaints.”

While others who work in the contact centre may feel the same, the reality is that social media is a preferred channel for the majority of customers, and this is not a new phenomenon. A 2017 study by SmartInsights showed that 63% of customers expect brands to solve their problems over social media. It appears this means of communication is here to stay and its popularity will only continue to increase in 2021. 

If you have not already done so, training your agents on the use of social media to deliver support should be on your radar for 2021 as it is what your customers demand. 

Customer experience in overdrive 

Over the last number of years, brands have looked to customer experience as a means to differentiate and as an avenue for growth. In 2021, CX will be put into overdrive. A global study conducted by Accenture showed that 77% of executives plan to “fundamentally change how their companies interact with customers as a priority”.

This focus on CX will impact every employee in an organisation, especially those that are customer-facing. This includes sales, customer support, professional services and marketing. This means that acquiring new skills will be necessary, as in order for CX to work, employees need to understand their role in its delivery.

Additionally, employers will need to invest in enabling, equipping, and empowering employees to deliver the desired experience if they are going to receive the expected benefit to their businesses.

If we have learned anything from 2020, it’s that there are many things we cannot control. What we can control, however, is how we response to the unexpected. Those who do that best will have a successful 2021. 

What else do leaders need to deliver in preparing their businesses for the new world of work?

Originally published Dec 31, 2020


Carlos Hidalgo is a 25-year business veteran. Over the span of the last two plus decades, Hidalgo has held corporate roles, started his own entrepreneurial ventures and served in non-profits.

In addition to his various roles and business pursuits, Hidalgo is the author of two books Driving Demand, one of the Top 5 Marketing Books of all time according to Book Authority which was published in 2015 and The UnAmerican Dream which was published in 2019.

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