Consumer expectations in 2021 will leave little room for error when it comes to customer experience. Those who’ve invested in providing great customer service will thrive, and those who haven’t will need to act quickly in order to remain competitive.
For companies, across almost every industry and function, 2020 will forever be a defining year. Many businesses have had to adapt — and some have had to shift their models entirely. But every business has felt the effects of rapidly changing consumer expectations.
A recent survey shows that post-COVID-19, 59% of consumers will care even more about customer experience than they did in the “before times” when deciding which companies to support or buy from.
If you’re a business, this means there is very little room for mistakes heading into the New Year. Any friction in a customer’s journey can cause a loss in potential revenue, and a potential gain for your competitors.
Consistently meeting the demand for an above-average customer experience can be an arduous task, but with so much competition for online business, it’s one that companies simply won’t be able to ignore in 2021.
Luckily, technology is also adapting at rapid speeds to help deliver tools that can make CX a truly seamless experience for companies and consumers. Adapting means keeping up with these changes, and then quickly implementing them to stay ahead.
So, what do companies need to know, as we head into 2021, to win over customer hearts and minds (and in turn, sales)?
Let’s explore the top trends in customer service that are just over the horizon.
1. Greater focus on the importance of Agent Experience (AX)
Over the last decade, we’ve seen the importance of customer experience (CX) recognized and now, finally, fully embraced, but there’s one important piece of the puzzle missing – the agent experience (AX). Focusing on your CX without taking into consideration your AX puts you at a disadvantage. To be truly successful, companies need to see their agent experience as a valuable part of their overall CX strategy.
AX is defined as the holistic view of how empowered, efficient and effective a company’s customer service agents are. As is the case with almost any department in a company, prioritizing your team and staying in-touch with employee morale is the only true way to ensure positive reactions from your customers.
In short, it’s as simple as this: happy agents = happy customers.
So how do you facilitate great AX?
It starts with equipping your agents with whatever they need to provide a top-notch customer experience, including:
- Better tools and software
- Enhanced training
- More accessible customer data
- Specific and relevant feedback that’s based on context and specific conversations (instead of overgeneralizations or blanket policies)
- Clear process documentation and flexible guidelines that empower agents to prioritize customer outcomes over their own performance metrics
AX has proven to be a direct link to providing great customer service, so don’t be afraid to make investments that support your agents’ ability to be successful.
2. Omnichannel communication will be everything
If your company is not operating with a focus on omnichannel communication, now is the time to adapt.
A true omnichannel approach includes the ability to deliver a seamless and consistent experience across a variety of communication channels. All whilst factoring in the different devices, behaviors and preferences of the consumer.
Studies have shown that customers no longer just desire the ability to communicate with companies when and where it’s most convenient for them — they expect and demand it.
Unlike years prior, this new type of conversational commerce is much bigger than just offering live chat. That’s part of it, but consumers now want to be able to connect with your brand immediately on their preferred platform — whether it’s Facebook,, WhatsApp, email, etc. The right tools will allow you to deliver a unified customer experience and treat all channels as equal — prioritizing queries based on importance and need rather than on a channel-by-channel basis.
Ecommerce businesses need to have a customer-centric ethos
This omnichannel approach rings especially true for ecommerce businesses, where conversation is the new currency:
- 75% of global respondents say they would continue to buy from a brand they trust, even if another brand suddenly became hot and trendy
- In the same study, 76% of respondents said they would also advocate on that brand’s behalf, recommending the brand if someone asks
The trust and customer loyalty that is built through quality, consistent conversational customer service can be the key differentiator between two competitors. Nowadays, it’s quite easy to launch an ecommerce store. What’s difficult is launching a successful one, and part of that success will come from having a strong customer-centric ethos.
When you consider that 80% of consumers will switch to another company after just one poor customer experience, this opens the door for companies to not only compete on pricing or selection but also on experience. Businesses in 2021 can win over a large chunk of their competitor’s customer base — and it all starts with delivering a positive and personalized customer experience (more on that below!).
As always, customer reviews play a massive role in your success
CX is no longer a private interaction between customer and company. With the ever-growing consumer reliance on online reviews, every customer’s experience has the potential to be put on display for the world to see. Customers are taking their power back and voicing their complaints, and, if you do it right, singing your praises.
And this has a huge ripple effect on your bottom line:
- 92% of B2B buyers are more likely to purchase after reading a trusted review
- Customers are willing to spend 31% more on a business with excellent reviews
- 94% say an online review has convinced them to avoid a business
- Four out of five consumers have changed their minds about a recommended purchase after reading negative online reviews
And unfortunately, one positive interaction with a customer is sometimes not enough to ensure an overall pleasant experience, or even a good review.
Today’s companies also need to pay close attention to the Customer Service Paradox, and the Peak-End Rule.
Be sure to consider the customer’s experience from start to finish
The Customer Service Paradox (also referred to as the Service Recovery Paradox) is the phenomenon in which a customer thinks more highly of a company after the company has corrected a problem with their service, compared to how they would feel about the company if a non-faulty service had been provided.
The Peak-End Rule states that consumers make their evaluation of a company based on two parts of their experience — the peak and the end.
The peak refers to the moment when the consumer experiences the strongest emotion (positive or negative) whereas the end refers to how the experience concluded.
This is vital knowledge for companies as it stresses the importance of maintaining a positive customer experience throughout their journey. Not just when you first introduce your brand or when you’re asked to fix a customer service issue.
3. Customer service will play a bigger role in C-level strategy
As we move into the future, customer service will continue to become an increasingly important priority for the C-suite. Because of the influence CX has on growth strategy, it will mean a business’s CXO, CMO, and CCO will need to work even more collaboratively.
But CEOs will also need to pay closer attention to the importance of customer service. One recent study showed that 70% of consumers feel more connected to brands when the CEO takes a more active role on social media. This doesn’t mean that you need to set up your CEO with a TikTok account, but it does demonstrate that consumers look for a personal connection to the brands they support. Whether this comes from an empowered customer service agent or your CEO, the proof is in the pudding.
Brands need to be transparent and show their human side if they want to build customer loyalty.
4. Personalization will (unsurprisingly) take center stage
It’s no surprise that 2021 will bring more focus on hyper-personalization at scale in CX.
Data supports the fact that customers value a friendly, efficient and highly-personalized customer service experience. And as more software and tools begin to allow businesses of all kinds to achieve this type of personalization, consumers’ expectations will only continue to grow.
Follow these 4 steps to start personalizing at scale:
- Unify your data. Make sure customer data is easily accessible to your customer service agents.
- Segment and keep up with changes in your customer base. Based on your unified data, tailor information to each customer persona. Just remember that customers can change segments quickly, so ensure you have software that allows you to use your data in real-time.
- Increase the usability of your analytics. Analytics don’t mean anything if they don’t give your organization some sort of actionable advice. Analytics need to be instantly accessible, easily understood (by everyone) and produce insights that are relevant, actionable and demonstrate ROI.
- Use smart technologies to enhance growth. Smart technologies — advanced customer service software, for example — will ensure that you not only meet but anticipate, customer expectations at scale.
Don’t underestimate the power of these friendly, personalized interactions.
One surprising study showed that the majority of buying decisions are no longer based on things like price or convenience. Instead, 70% of buying experiences are based on how a customer feels they are being treated by a company. Considering companies have full control over this especially with today’s technology, this should be music to your ears!
5. Focus on tools and software to up your efficiency
What does efficient customer service look like in 2021? It’s having every customer service agent achieving maximum productivity with minimum wasted effort.
And how do you achieve this?
By providing the tools and software your agents need to have streamlined conversations with customers. Efficiency doesn’t just affect the customer experience, it affects your overall bottom line too. Inefficient customer service leads to higher levels of time-wasted and unhappy customers — both of which will harm profit and growth.
Unfortunately, no matter how amazing your customer service team is, if they don’t have the necessary tools to work efficiently, it will be incredibly difficult to achieve the type of customer experience you’re aspiring to.
This may take some digging into your CX:
- Where are your agents facing hurdles?
- What’s their biggest waste of time?
- What are their most repetitive tasks?
- Where are they hitting bottlenecks or missing out on vital info?
Survey your CX team, ask questions and gather feedback. Then, find a comprehensive software solution that can solve them. This may seem like a big investment in time, but it will end up paying off ten-fold.
Which brings us to our next point.
As companies continue to cut costs due to the impact of COVID-19, it will be more important than ever to see the positive ROI for every company investment made.
Weigh up the ROI of your CX
It’s obvious from the data shown above that a positive CX results in more positive reviews, more repeat customers and more sales. Simply put, the ROI of good CX is obvious.
But what about the ROI of investing in great CX software?
Imagine all the benefits of great CX operating at max efficiency. This is what a great customer service software solution can provide.
If you’re curious to know just how much a smart CX software can help you save, check out Dixa’s Efficiency Calculator. By answering just a few questions, Dixa can give you a personalized breakdown of how your customer service can be more efficient.
CX in 2021 will be your number one differentiating factor
There’s no doubt that 2021 is going to be a year of possibility, with customers reaching out on a variety of platforms and expecting a seamless, personalized and positive experience. And companies that can deliver on these expectations will thrive. Is your company ready?