In the pandemic era and the subsequent lockdowns around the country, in-person customer experience seems like a far-fetched dream for most of us who have made our homes into our offices, our beds, or living rooms into our conference rooms, and vice versa.
While brands across the globe are building processes for the new normal, where the virtual world continues to gain popularity, even as the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic rages on, with a third wave expected to hit soon enough.
The last 18 months since the pandemic struck have taught a crucial lesson to every business and marketeer by disrupting set notions and practices. The key to a thriving business in questionable times like these is to understand the importance of customer experience and travel up the graph from a good to a great one, in order to sustain oneself. Simultaneously, it’s important to workaround forecasts in a volatile setting for every business type to ensure preparedness.
What began as a global healthcare crisis also led to a significant transition into a digital-friendly world. From work-from-home setups to e-commerce, getting food home delivered, and more, customers are more online than ever before, leading to a rise in digitally-savvy professionals driving and engaging in better CX.
If you are investing in CX, where do you begin?
According to research conducted by Gartner, companies that successfully implement customer experience projects begin by focusing on how they collect and analyze customer feedback.
Despite these turbulent times for people and businesses, customer expectations have seen an upward graph and so providing a top-notch customer experience is a challenge everyone is trying to meet in order to retain their loyal customer base.
PwC, through their future of CX report, surveyed 15,000 consumers and found that 1 in 3 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.
Whether you use surveys, web forms, or Net Promoter Score (NPS) programs, read through customer comments, suggestions, and opinions to see what they expect from you. Then, invest in those projects to meet their expectations.
Read on for trends we are seeing and expect to see in 2021:
CX Trend 1: Going digital for customer interaction in the pandemic era:
The shift to digital that has been aided manifold amid the pandemic, has seen consumer behavior move on for all services including e-commerce, finance, healthcare, wellness, and more. Forrester has predicted that 2021 will see digital customer service interactions increase by 40%.
According to Gartner, the new normal makes it mandatory for the service industry especially to transition to a “digital-first” strategy, thereby enabling improved customer interactions via proactive engagements on messaging platforms. By the year 2025, 80% of customer service organizations are expected to abandon native mobile apps in favor of messaging platforms for a more seamless customer experience.
Even at the workplace, a digital transition means conferences and seminars move to Zoom conferences (and other related apps) and webinars. The year 2020 also made way for a paradigm shift in the Ed-Tech space when educational models have moved online and full-time courses too are being held on the web.
All Images Courtesy: zendesk.co.uk/CX Trends report
CX Trend 2: The rise and stay of contactless service in the new normal:
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact both customers and organizations, it has instead generated a shift to a contactless approach as the best alternative of providing a service without person-to-person contact. According to a survey by IDC, over 36% of manufacturers said that their service or product installation will now have a contactless approach. The survey also predicts that by 2021, 65% of organizations will have shifted to a digital-first approach through automated operations and contactless experiences. However, it is also imperative that technicians, as well as customers, are safe amid this transition which might also see an increased implementation of the latest technologies and capabilities including artificial intelligence and augmented reality, and mixed reality for optimized service.
This prediction by IDC also aligns with Forrester’s 2021 prediction that says that consumers will continue to prefer digital interactions and customer service, to keep themselves safe.
CX Trend 3: Emotive technology and why there’s a noticeable rise:
The pandemic and the subsequent lockdown also led to an all-time high of reported mental health problems, which were largely said to have been triggered by social media. It is thus a need-based search for a solution to overcome issues such as these which also benefit consumers and businesses.
According to Harvard Business Review, “When companies connect with customers’ emotions, the payoff can be huge.” The ability to generate positive emotions in a customer and leaving a good lasting impression is called brand intimacy which helps brands drive conversions and customer loyalty.
In the present day, companies are dealing with a lot more data amassed from their customers which helps them figure out what their customers are feeling through the use of facial recognition, movement data, health data like heart rate and blood pressure, social media behavior, and more.
One of the ways that this immense power on a customer’s lifestyle choices can be used for a good cause like being able to tackle mental health struggles including anxiety and depression, emotional health crisis, and more.
Microsoft now plans to embed Teams with a series of “wellness” tools to address these crisis situations that will help monitor emotional health, mental health and provide necessary tips and tricks. Other apps including Wysa, Headspace, Calm and more help with a chat to help you feel at ease, extend therapist support when needed, and also provide guided meditation sessions to help keep your mind calm. High-stress levels and anxiety are also known to reduce immunity levels, which in turn might increase vulnerability to other health issues, and open up the unfortunate possibilities for other lifestyle disorders including hypertension and diabetes.
CX Trend 4: Empathy, a core element in CX:
Empathy has emerged as a core organizational capability in the year 2020 and so empathetic customer support is now imperative for customer service in 2021. According to Forrester, organizations must recognize the needs of their customers both physically and emotionally, to provide better empathetic customer support and experience. This metric has skyrocketed as consumers around the world have been adjusting to the pandemic, lockdown, and the new normal.
A recent report published by Gartner predicts that by 2025, customers will engage a freelance customer service expert to address 75% of their customer service needs. Steven Petruk, President, Global Outsourcing Division at CGS, shares, “Amid the challenges of the pandemic, customer care centers have all but done away with any metrics around call duration and are actively encouraging agents to spend more time on the phone with clients. While empathy has not been an operational performance metric in the past, it absolutely is the prime area of focus now and will continue to be. In an effort to measure empathy, many companies are adding empathy-specific questions to their post-call surveys.”
With an ever-changing business landscape, more so amid the second wave of the pandemic and a probable third wave expected soon, companies globally have an opportunity to re-strategize and plan their roadmap as a short-term goal depending on what might work best for them in the present situation, with the flexibility to rehash their MO every few months or annually.
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