As restrictions lift, some companies are transitioning back to their pre-pandemic ways of doing business. But consumers have grown accustomed to using many virtual and low- or no-touch options—such as curbside pickup, remote meetings, and increased digital payment methods—and want to continue using them in the future. According to Forrester1, one-half to two-thirds of consumers in the U.S. and Europe say that the pandemic has altered the way they shop for goods and services.
To navigate this transition to “the new normal,” brands must determine which “pandemic-era” services to keep, which to tweak, and which to do away with. Companies in 2022 must implement proactive initiatives to meet customers where they are—particularly through digital customer experiences like omnichannel messaging and other engagement touchpoints.
The customer experience in 2021 was a product of companies being reactive during a challenging time. But in 2022, the state of customer service will be a product of companies taking proactive measures to provide meaningful customer interactions.
What we learned about customer experience in 2021
Pandemic or not, RingCentral was—and continues to be—committed to excellent customer experience in 2021. To make the most of a difficult situation, we set up our agents to work remotely and coached them to provide support at or above the level of customer care we expect of them when working in a physical contact center. To keep up with the customer experience trends we tracked in 2021, we also had to take a look at our own data security standards and learn how to better meet our customers’ personalization expectations.
Managing remote agents is a whole new ballgame
When we think of customer experience 2021, we immediately think of managing a remote contact center.
We’ve discovered that a few of the most common remote contact center challenges are:
- Location and time zone differences among agents
- Technological setbacks with hardware or software
- A lack of cross-departmental resources and data silos—or sets of information that can only be accessed by specific groups within a company
Throughout 2021, contact center agents (and those in other remote positions) have shared their preference for work-from-anywhere (WFA) jobs. In fact, 53% of remote agents said they would work overtime—compared to the 28% of in-office employees who reported the same.
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As our AVP, CX Product Marketing, Gayathri Krishnamurthy, says, “happy agents = happy customers,” so it’s imperative that contact center leaders offer remote flexibility to meet agent expectations.
We’ve also learned that community-building is an important element of creating and coaching a team, especially if everyone is spread out over the globe. It’s important that agents feel like they’re a part of something, and that their teammates—and most importantly, their managers—have their backs. Build community within your organization by:
- Holding video meetings to keep agents connected and informed. These meetings allow agents to meet one another, put faces to names, and build relationships within the workplace.
- Building a strong company culture. According to this year’s Job Seeker Nation Report2, 86% of job seekers say that company culture is somewhat or very important. Figure out what’s important to current or future employees and create an environment in which they can thrive.
- Developing a thorough training program. Remote employees may never be able to physically work alongside a more experienced agent, so your training program needs to fill in the gaps with resources that are accessible to both remote and in-person agents. These resources should offer a high level of expertise and proficiency.
Remote agents need to be able to recognize mistakes and develop the confidence it takes to handle potentially complex customer issues. Help your agents by monitoring their customer engagement with tools like contact center software that provides agent analytics, collaboration tools to coach agents in real-time, and customer feedback.
Securing data is critical to customer satisfaction
When we refer to “virtual contact centers,” we mean completely cloud-based operations staffed by remote agents. And because these contact centers exist and function fully in the cloud, powerful data protection is a necessity—and crucial to customer satisfaction.
With agents entering personal customer information and customers submitting sensitive data through your virtual contact center software, there’s a lot of confidentiality to account for. You need to know that your customers’ information will stay secure.
According to IBM’s Cost of a Data Breach Report 20213, this year had the highest data theft cost in 17 years, at $4.24 million. The most common “attack” was compromised credentials—accounting for approximately 20% of breaches. However, organizations that are further along in their shift to cloud-based services were able to contain data breaches 77 days faster, on average, than those still in the early stages of their cloud transition.
Organizations that are further along in their shift to cloud-based services were able to contain data breaches 77 days faster, on average, than those still in the early stages of their cloud transition.
Don’t let the data thieves win. When you’re considering your virtual contact center software options, make sure to evaluate the security features and data-protection tools the provider has offered.
Contact center leaders also know that managing compliance is an important aspect of maintaining security. They evaluate the processes agents use to manage customers’ sensitive data, check call logs to ensure Do Not Call (DNC) list rules have been followed, and monitor overall engagement to protect the company from potential future fines or litigation.
If your organization’s security fails—because of your software or your agents—your customers will be the ones who suffer. Improve your customer satisfaction simply by improving your security.
Personalizing user experience is more important than ever
Ecommerce pioneers like Amazon have been increasing customers’ expectations for personalized experiences for years. In a pre-pandemic Epsilon and GBH Insights survey4 of 1,000 U.S. adults, 80% said they want personalization from retailers.
What does personalizing user experience mean?
When we refer to personalizing user experience—or personalizing CX—we mean using data to provide unique experiences for customers. Personalization could be anything from contacting customers on their engagement channels of choice to recommending specific products or services based on past purchases.
The pandemic has only magnified the importance of personalization. According to Redpoint Global’s 2021 Harris Poll5, 95% of marketers and 69% of consumers say that COVID-19 has increased the importance of brands understanding their customers’ specific wants and needs. Additionally, 65% of consumers agree that personalization is now an expectation, not just a desire.
In short, the majority of today’s customers want the companies they do business with to take the time to get to know them, their preferences, and understand them as unique shoppers. The 2021 Harris Poll showed that 39% of consumers claim they will go as far as ending their relationship with a brand that doesn’t offer personalized user experiences.
A few notable CX personalization stats6:
- 82% of consumers say they expect retail companies to cater to their tastes and expectations
- 70% of consumers say they will shop exclusively with brands that understand them on a personal level
- 49% of consumers say that personalized content and deals increase the probability that they’ll buy something
We now live in the era of instant gratification. Consumers expect solutions at their fingertips, and they require fast service that lives up to their expectations. To keep up with increasing customer satisfaction requirements, contact centers have to balance effective service with personalization.
There is no tool more important to delivering personalized CX than customer relationship management (CRM) software. An effective CRM will gather and record your customers’ data with every interaction, allowing agents to construct a comprehensive history. Agents can then use this knowledge to better understand their customers and personalize service for them.
Our 2022 CX predictions
Since we’re in the business of customer experience, we’ve used our insider knowledge to put together a list of 2022 customer experience predictions. Contrary to the customer experience 2021 trends we saw, our 2022 predictions are rooted in proactivity rather than reactivity.
Brands will rely on CX teams much more heavily next year—particularly in the areas of accessibility and privacy. There will be challenges to overcome, but with a solid customer service team in place, you can trust your agents to provide the type of support that encourages customer loyalty. Research from HubSpot7 shows that 93% of customers are likely to make multiple purchases from organizations that provide excellent service.
Retaining customers may become challenging due to product shortages
Data from Forrester8 shows that product availability is one of the most common reasons American shoppers buy from a retailer other than their first choice. And during the last year, companies have been dealing with supply chain shortages around the globe.9 In 2022, organizations will look to their customer support teams to help buyers handle feelings about upcoming and ongoing product shortages. Managing customer expectations will be crucial to CX.
We believe brands will lose 50% of their sales on back-ordered items unless they compensate with excellent CX. Forrester10 suggests that successful brands can “proactively manage churn and support customers” if they:
- Stabilize supply chains
- Suggest in-house alternatives
- Preemptively message customers about product shortages and anticipated availability
If a product shortage has impacted—or will impact—your business, your best option for managing customers’ emotions and expectations is by communicating as proactively, and honestly, as possible.
Increasing accessibility will be a top priority for most organizations
When we talk about accessibility, we’re referring to creating and distributing inclusive products and services that don’t limit users on the basis of any disability. Beyond being the right thing to do, committing to accessibility is an area of customer support that will become increasingly important—and increasingly funded—in the coming year.
Accessibility is a critical, yet widely overlooked, factor of customer satisfaction and retention.
If your support isn’t available to everyone—regardless of ability, age, or location—customers who feel left out will likely take their business elsewhere.
A few key accessibility questions to ask yourself with regard to your contact center’s services:
- Do we offer sufficient communication channels? For some consumers, verbal communication isn’t an option. For others, reading text isn’t an option. And for many, communication with a human isn’t ideal, so self-service channels work best for these customers. Offer omnichannel support to accommodate everyone.
- Do the self-service videos on our website include captions? What about alt text for images? Make sure your site is inclusive to those with hearing or vision impairments and compatible with assistive technology.
- Do any of the elements of our service platform rely solely on color? Trello came up with a simple, elegant solution for this accessibility issue: they added a feature11 that color-blind users can turn on that overlays patterns on their multicolored labels.
- Are my agents equipped with the appropriate language to respectfully discuss accessibility issues with customers? Resources12 are available if you don’t know where to begin.
From July 2020 to July 2021, job listings with the word “accessibility” in the title grew by 78%13. This rise is, at least in part, due to factors like increasing digital accessibility lawsuits14 and the continued rise of diversity and inclusion programs. So when you’re building your virtual contact center team, make sure you’re hiring the best people for the job. The option to work at a cloud-based company means that more people will feel comfortable applying to your positions—naturally creating a larger pool of talent.
You likely have a say in your contact center’s technology and hiring process. Stay current and make sure your software and available jobs are accessible to all.
Designing customer consent journeys will help improve overall CX
Contact centers need customer data to offer personalized experiences. But to get this data, brands often need consent from customers. Another barrier is privacy regulation. In 2022, many companies won’t rely on third-party data collection methods—like cookies—to fulfill customers’ needs because of these regulatory standards.
On top of regulations, companies are realizing consumers want more privacy. According to Forrester15, 37% of global decision-makers consider privacy a competitive differentiator. Their report also shows that at least one-quarter of consumers worldwide use online tools to prevent advertisers and other companies from tracking their internet activity. As customer experience, expert Shep Hyken16 says, “To some, it’s downright creepy that a quick look at a product on a website would start to follow the customer around on all of their social media channels.”
“To some, it’s downright creepy that a quick look at a product on a website would start to follow the customer around on all of their social media channels.”
To meet regulatory standards and consumer expectations, companies in the coming year will collect more customer data directly—with user permission—creating safer, more comfortable experiences and customer journeys.
One way to create these experiences, as suggested in Forbes17, is to ask willing customers pointed questions about data collection. These questions can include, but are not limited to:
- “What does personalization mean to you?”
- “What are your preferences around data and security?”
- “Are you happy for us to use your data to allow us to be more proactive?”
By asking specific questions, your agents can discover customers’ preferences about privacy, marketing, data protection, and more.
The Harris Poll18 found that 51% of consumers believe companies are failing to create the best CX they could because the data they have on consumers is inaccurate or outdated. It’s time that companies develop a deeper understanding of their customers by taking it upon themselves to collect better data.
A CX pivot from reactionary to revolutionary
Now is the time for transparency, increased accessibility, and customer consent. It’s the time for contact center leaders and agents to really listen to their customers and operate with a customer-centric mentality.
We were thrilled to bring on 378 new customers who went live with us this year. And if these predictions are correct, many more contact centers are going to need a powerful platform to provide excellent CX in 2022. Get started with us today.
Originally published Jan 11, 2022, updated Jan 16, 2024