‘Tis the season. While there’s much about 2020 that doesn’t look anything like a normal year, some things are rolling in right on schedule—and these include strategic planning and expert tech trend predictions for 2021. Gartner’s bets are always among the most hotly anticipated, and while this year’s release took on a new format—virtually, of course—their list of predictions contains a new concept that should make tech companies sit up and take notice: TX or total experience.

The tough competition in tech—both to attract top talent and win customers—have long made both the employee experience and customer experience major priorities within the sector. But the two concepts have also traditionally been treated as separate objectives. According to Gartner’s predictions, organizations that shift to a more holistic approach will outperform competitors on key metrics for years to come.

“The challenge is that in most organizations, those different disciplines are siloed. So what we’re saying is that if you can bring together customer experience, employee experience, multi experience, and user experience, the common notarial effect … as a combination of strategies is harder to replicate than in a single strategy,” said Brian Burke, vice president of research in a presentation at Gartner’s annual IT Symposium/Xpo on October 19th. “So you can bring those things together. That’s where you’ll gain the competitive advantage that will be realized through those experience metrics.”

Business is more remote, virtual, distributed

TX seeks to identify intersections of customer experience, employee experience, and user experience, helping organizations to deploy the most impactful solutions that will move the needle across the board. This is especially important heading into 2021 due to the changes and constraints inflicted on tech companies—and the enterprise world at large—over the last year by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Amid lockdowns and the need to work remotely, both internal and customer-facing operations have become more remote, virtual, and distributed than ever. But the shifts of 2020 only heighten trends that have been emerging within tech for some time: from giants like Amazon to established software and hardware companies to start-ups, distributed workforce models have been both a geographical necessity and a tactic for scaling while containing costs. And with many companies within the high-tech world announcing that remote work is here to stay, the pressures of seamlessly meeting customer and employee needs and expectations while overcoming distance challenges aren’t going anywhere.

Unlocking better experience

Creating a cohesive Total Experience is important because it reduces the drag, cost, and redundancy of serving both internal and external groups, unleashing improvements company-wide. But while unified strategies and workflows play into creating a Total Experience, the entire concept of TX hinges upon underlying technologies—with unified communications tech at the forefront.

For both employees and customers, the right communication tools have always been key to delivering optimal experiences. Internally, communications solutions help to connect workers in different geographical locations so that they can collaborate and share information. Even teams that have traditionally worked in the same physical office have been forced to go remote this year, making such tools a must for business continuity in 2020. As just one example, video conferencing became a lifeline this year, with workers reporting that they use video meetings 50% more than they did before the pandemic.

From the customer perspective, seamless multichannel communication has long been an important driver of satisfaction and loyalty. Customers want efficient, seamless interactions on the channel of their choice—and they’ll handsomely reward companies that deliver top-notch experiences (and punish the ones that don’t). According to data from PwC, speed, convenience, and helpful, friendly service matter most, and customers are willing to pay more—up to a 16% premium—to businesses that can deliver. Meanwhile, one in three customers will seek out the competition after just one bad experience.

Why Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) is key

Communications are the backbone of both employee and customer experience. But for organizations focused on Total Experience, only the right communication tools will cut it. That’s because standalone apps can increase fragmentation and erode efficiency—major barriers to TX.

The number of business apps in use is growing across companies of all sizes; nearly 10% of organizations use more than 200 different apps. Even if each individual solution provides critical functionalities, this app bloat comes with consequences: 69% of workers say they waste an hour each day just toggling between various tech solutions, and 56% say they find having to look for information within different apps to be disruptive to productivity. As far as TX is concerned, these numbers are disastrous.

Unified communications solutions deliver better experiences

But an all-in-one communications solution such as RingCentral delivers better employee and customer experiences, elevating TX. UCaaS allows employees to connect with ease via text, phone, or video—with each other and with customers. Meanwhile, a robust suite of integrations improves the sharing of information (screen pops triggered by incoming calls that display a customer’s full interaction history!) and streamlines workflows (set up and deploy communication services to a new employee automatically!).

To better meet the needs and expectations of both employees and customers, it makes sense to focus on improvements that serve both groups at once. But without putting communications solutions at the forefront, TX will remain out of reach for most organizations.