2021 CX Trends Explored and Debated
The latest Sitel Group® EmpowerCX Spotlight Series Webinar explores the top-line trends that will drive the customer experience (CX) over the course of 2021. It examines the challenges and opportunities organizations face in aligning their services with changing post-pandemic customer expectations.
Are your customers now digital by default? Can automation and artificial intelligence (AI) transform your organization’s customer relationships? Is the office of the future a home workstation?
At the end of 2020, based on our customer data, understanding of customer experience management and our own research conducted over the course of the year, we put together a list of what we believe will define the CX trends for 2021. But, what are the implications of these trends, and how can organizations adopt these new approaches in the right way – so they continue meeting customer expectations?
To answer these questions, examine the context and to identify potential pitfalls to avoid, we enlisted two of Sitel Group’s experts James Bednar and Simon Hunt to debate the topics as part of a special EmpowerCX Spotlight Series Webinar.
One of the biggest changes in customer behavior over the course of 2020 was digital channel adoption.
Will the Bar for Digital CX Rise?
Though initially driven by the restrictions required to stem the spread of COVID-19, on the whole customers have enjoyed the experience and our own research shows that digital channels, in particular self-service, will continue growing in popularity, post-pandemic.
“It’s interesting. Acceleration of digital is by far the most talked about trend post-COVID,” begins James Bednar, VP, Solutions & Innovation, Americas. “Success stories have driven momentum. Agile brands were quick to react in unique and innovative ways and that has sparked a lot of interest within the industry.”
However, even with this added momentum, delivering a positive digital customer experience hasn’t become any easier over the past 12 months.
“The crisis gave us a clarity of purpose. It was clear what we needed to do and those brands that didn’t have digital capabilities wanted to stand things up quickly,” remarks Simon Hunt, VP, Products & Innovation, EMEA. “I’ve never found it easier to get the IT resources to do things.”
But in the rush to digital, there’s a danger that organizations could confuse digital technology with delivering a digital experience.
“The last year has been about survival,” warns Bednar. “But now organizations need to transform and that’s not an easy thing to do. For instance, the companies that succeeded were newer organizations that weren’t saddled with legacy systems.”
This is why the key to successfully embracing the trend is to not lose sight of the customer.
“Is digital driving the experiences we want? Is it sustainable? Is it what customers really want?” asks Hunt. “During the crisis, customers gave us the benefit of the doubt, but what do they really want now? It’s time to figure out how [self-service] manifests itself into an overall customer experience.”
Androids Will Dream of Better CX
AI and automation have also come to the fore over the last year. This is partly because of a perfect alignment of clarity of use case and the elimination of all remaining barriers to entry. It’s never been easier or more cost effective to access and apply these technologies. But, this can pose as many problems as potential opportunities.
“As much as I love the tech aspect there is still way too much hype,” says Bednar. “There are too many platforms, too many me-too solutions. Too much choice doesn’t make anyone’s life easier. Just trying to understand the market is difficult.”
For Hunt, the key is looking beyond the obvious applications such as chatbots. “Forget about the technology as it exists on its own,” he says. “It’s about integration. It’s about using AI in the background to help, to augment the capabilities of contact center agents.”
Omnichannnel Customer Experience
Likewise, on the topic of delivering omnichannel and personalized experiences, both Hunt and Bednar agree that organizations need to tread with caution. Customers now expect to be able to move from channel to channel on their journeys and expect their information to move with them. Yet there’s a limit to how much personalization can be delivered, especially in non-digital channels.
“We need to prioritize the use of data and information for guiding the customer experience so it isn’t generic,” explains Bednar. “It should be for creating a tailored customer journey. But it’s easier to deliver a rich experience in a non-voice channel.”
But the key is to personalize without being creepy. For instance, a recommendation based on past customer behavior is acceptable but organizations need to understand where their customers draw a line in the sand and don’t cross it. “I think the key is to focus on using data to reduce customer effort,” recommends Bednar.
Working from Home and Building Trust
For organizations around the world, 2020 will be remembered as the year they took part in the world’s largest ever home-working experiment. But is work at home the new normal? If so, what steps do companies now have to take to ensure data integrity and cyber security?
“This is a fun topic because we’re talking about the future of work,” says Bednar. “Every organization with contact centers has had to go through this incredibly difficult transition, but does it mean remote work is now the dominant model? It’s too early to tell.”
One thing that is clear though is that complying with privacy, security and data regulations, such as GDPR is much easier in a brick and mortar environment.
“Organizations need to harden their infrastructure,” warns Hunt. “Businesses that were using work from home to prop up Business Continuity Planning need to now take the next steps. The future isn’t defined. It’s still unknown, but organizations still need to view work at home as a component of the future of work.”
On the whole, employees have enjoyed the experience of virtual meetings and better work life balance. If anything, KPIs have improved over the course of 2020. But the most likely scenario will be some sort of hybrid model where there is a blend of on- and off-site agents.
“There are push and pull factors,” continues Hunt. “Maybe work at home will be decided by geography. For instance cities like New York and London are brands. They need people working there to maintain vibrancy.”
To delve deeper into the topics and get a greater understanding of both the challenges and the opportunities presented by these growing CX trends, watch the webinar.