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2020 CX Retrospective & Trends to Look for in 2021


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RingCentral Customer Experience experts take a look back at the disruptions over the past few months, how call centers have adapted to the changes, and what the future may hold.  

If you’re a business leader managing or supporting contact centers, then you know how important it is to create a great customer experience (CX) for your customers. Research shows us:

  • 82% of marketers believe their brands meet expectations for a good experience but only 10% of consumers strongly agree 
  • 33.33% customers will leave a brand they love after just one bad experience, while 92% would completely abandon a company after two or three negative interactions 
  • 88% of companies are prioritizing customer experience in their contact centers 

To figure out EXACTLY where the disconnect is (and how to fix it) we tapped a couple experts who are passionate about helping companies better serve their customers so you can use their observations and insights to take your customer experience to the next level.

So, if you’re wondering, “What’s new in customer experience?”,  read on to get a quick look at a few of the biggest trends in customer experience, according to the expert opinions shared in the 2020 Roundup and 2021 Trends webinar.

Let’s kick things off with customer experience insight #1…

COVID-19 pivot exposes battle of the “haves” and the “have-nots”

Recently, RingCentral’s Senior Product Marketing Manager, Briana Lassig, moderated a special year-end customer experience webinar, featuring fellow RingCentral CX experts Max Ball (Director PMM, Contact Center) and Joanna Palmer (CX Client Principal, Contact Center).

The participants set the tone of the session by acknowledging the unexpected disruptions of the past few months. 

Some of the interesting surprises to come out of 2020 — apart from Covid-19 were toilet paper shortages, people baking sourdough and banana bread, lots of at-home crafting. 

When the conversation shifted to changes our panelists expected to see in 2020 versus what actually developed over the past year that’s when things really started to get interesting. 

Joanna Palmer expected to see an increase in digital channels and a unification of digital channel with voice data during 2020. Meanwhile Max Ball said he thought we would see more automation.

When it came to the trends that we did see develop over the past year, Joanna mentioned how many businesses haven’t been able to achieve the customer engagement maturity in their support centres to the degree they’d like, due to having to focus on getting agents set up safely at home.

For example, 48% had plans to integrate their voice and digital channels, while COVID-19 has impacted those plans, and today only 28% have achieved omnichannel adoption.

Max made an interesting observation when he noted that recent events have created a Battle of the “Haves” and the “Have-Nots” when it comes to whether or not a business is already using cloud platforms.

Organizations using cloud platforms have the ability to increase automation within the contact center and reduce the amount of inbound calls.

Conversely, for those companies using voice only in the cloud or on-prem systems it’s like pushing a boulder up a hill. They’re already behind the curve due to dependence on the cloud and, as a result, they’re dealing with process and operational changes like web implementation, training agents, throttling traffic, and more.

What will the contact center of the future look like?

Our moderator, Briana Lassig asked our panelists what they thought the contact center would look like in 2021, 2025, and beyond.

Joanna believes it will be all about innovation making it a fun time to be in the customer experience space. Hyper-personalization is where we are today — knowing our customers and anticipating their needs — but, as we take a look at the art of the possible we’ll move towards reaching out to customers proactively before they have an issue and used IoT as an example.

Agents will evolve into knowledge and empathy workers and experts companies can hire from anywhere (while they have bots doing the easy stuff). 

Additionally, research shows that 40% of organizations who deemed work-from-home a success plan to reduce office space, saving thousands of dollars per agent.

Max predicts the contact center of the future will rely on escalation to video for more personalized interaction and better management of remote employees. 

He also expects to see more organizations embrace conversational AI and chatbots (It’s not just about reaching customers on channels they use, but also enabling them to use the technology that powers their favorite apps and communication tools.). 

Right now, that primarily means Chatbots but forward-thinking organizations are thinking about where else they can apply it to create automated workflows. One example shared was an anecdote about an insurance company article where the company scraped their social media for life event information to help them cross-sell,  upsell, and make “just-in-time” offers. 

The benefits of reframing the contact center as a customer experience center

One topic that surfaced again and again was reframing the contact center as a customer experience center.

Both of our experts shared numerous examples of why customer experience matters.

Joanna said, “It really is the strategy behind how to use all of these tools and keeping that customer experience front and center. It’s focus on the customer experience and then act as a conductor for all of the tools around it and how do they best serve the customer and not turn this into cost-cutting, cost-cutting, cost-cutting. What we’ve seen is that if you keep the customer and the experience front and center and focus on that you tend to drive better revenue and you’re going to be much more successful as a company than focused on cutting costs.” 

Nemertes Research data supports this with 67.6% of successful organizations reporting they view the contact center as a value center as opposed to a cost center.

Cloud contact centers aren’t sexy but they enable your business’s employees to better serve your customers

One of the ways customer experience drives digital transformation is triggering companies to move their call centers to the cloud.

Unfortunately, leaders distracted by the latest “flavor-of-the-month” continues to be one of the things that may keep organizations from improving their chances of success. 

According to Max Ball, “It’s not necessarily sexy and it’s not necessarily fun — it’d be more fun to by a gamification system or something like that — but…it’s the right platform, it’s the right foundation and base because we’ve got to be flexible in ways we’ve never had to be flexible before and if you don’t have the right platform, you’re never going to have that flexibility. 

It’s not just about being faster and cheaper. 

Joanna Palmer explained, “Cloud is not just the foundation but the enabler–the enabler to add on these components and modules that really enable you to move your contact center forward —  to move from that contact center to customer engagement center to customer experience center. It’s time to start migrating from that contact center where you’re focused on cutting costs, cutting average handle time, to a customer experience center where you’re focused on identifying areas of friction and ensuring that you’ve got the best employee experience as well.”

How you drive revenue and more satisfied customers (plus, the limits of automation)

Along with insights on how customer experience can be improved our panelists talked about how customer experience drives business growth. They also shared pitfalls to avoid.

Max said, “I really fear that bots are going to become the new IVR because I think there’s going to be a lot of financial pressure –and automated interactions are so much cheaper than the ones you do with people– and I think there’s going to be a huge temptation out there to try to automate everything…Automation is great for the things that should be automated. Then you need to hand over to a person.” 

We’ve proven we can do work-from-home at scale. Now that companies see they can be much more agile and plan to upgrade their technology to improve their CX.

How to deliver the CX they expect

2020 took us all by surprise. 

There were ups and downs — and complete bombshells– but at year-end, we can reflect on what we’ve experienced during the last 12 months and look ahead to the coming year. 

Customer experience will be the key to success for all businesses. 

We’ve shared a few of the latest CX trends to help you create a great experience for your customers. But, these were only a handful of the trends discussed during the event. To learn about the rest of the CX trends, click here to read what the experts are saying.

Originally published Dec 14, 2020, updated Dec 30, 2022

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