4 Customer Experience Trends to Watch in 2021
With challenge comes change
The year 2020 has been an unprecedented one in many ways. The Covid-19 pandemic disrupted nearly every aspect of our lives, as well as the way businesses operate and use technology. Digital transformation had already been picking up pace across industries, but the pandemic put it into hyperdrive, and we have witnessed the rapid emergence of new service delivery options, business processes and procedures, and digital tools that are permanently changing how we interact with organizations.
What’s clear is that customer experience is increasingly important. More specifically, a new type of customer experience has emerged — one that merges a brand’s reputation with its online customer interaction. Businesses are grappling with how to evolve while adjusting to dramatic changes in their supply chains, CDC restrictions and other Covid-19 related challenges. As businesses adjust to the new normal, their reputations will hinge on assessing and optimizing customer experiences amid continued disruption and economic volatility.
1. Digital storefronts are here to stay, and the lines between brick-and-mortar and ecommerce will continue to blur.
Thanks to this rapid digital transformation, contactless service offerings and at-home consumption are now the primary ways in which consumers interact with brands:
- In healthcare, the market for digital transformation is estimated to reach $210 billion by 2025. A key driver is the adoption of telemedicine, which was already on the rise prior to the Covid-19 outbreak and could now reach $185.6 billion by 2026.
- In education, mandates to online learning programs across the nation put school districts and universities on the spot. By August 2020, nearly 93% of households with school-age children reported some form of distance learning.
- In retail, curbside pickup and contactless delivery have almost become the norm. According to Retail Dive, 59% of consumers are more likely to use curbside pickup once the pandemic subsides. And more than half (51%) of Americans use tap-to-go credit cards and mobile wallets such as Apple Pay, according to Mastercard Contactless Consumer Polling.
- In the financial services industry, mobile banking is replacing ATMs and in-person visits completely. Digital banking stats predict that the total number of online and mobile banking users will exceed 3.6 billion by 2024.
- In auto, dealers are now touting their “omnichannel” tech strategy to provide consumers a seamless buying experience whether they shop online, in-store or both. Nissan, for example, just launched a new online shopping platform called [email protected] that lets prospective buyers schedule a test drive, sign the paperwork and arrange delivery of their new vehicle from their computer or mobile device.
The pandemic continues to rage, but even after the masks come off and the world transitions into the next normal, contactless service offerings are here to stay. This means the lines between physical locations and their online presence will continue to blur.
It’s clear the customer journey will no longer be one-directional, but will flow back and forth from online to offline to online — and this must happen seamlessly. Businesses across nearly every industry will need to perfect the omnichannel experience to remain competitive. And with contactless services offerings and physical experiences blending, consumers will expect that data from one interaction will naturally flow into the next, regardless of where the interaction takes place.
GMB listings are the single most important factor driving an enterprise’s visibility online.
In nearly every industry, a combination of online/offline experiences will be more common, and it’s up to businesses to ensure consistency and quality across these experiences. Google My Business (GMB) Listings will be an essential tool for attracting and converting business, as well as helping consumers navigate their experience in this blended scenario.
In 2021 and beyond, organizations will continue to digitally transform to accommodate these new modes of operation, reduce overhead and operate more efficiently, which will help to offset financial setbacks resulting from the Covid-19 crisis.
The Technology Explosion Will Lead to Consolidation
Digital transformation has resulted in a technology explosion. In their scramble to maintain business continuity when the pandemic began, many businesses quickly deployed point solutions to address immediate needs, without thinking about how those solutions would interact together or provide long-term value and ROI.
Now that the functionality is in place, organizations will be looking to consolidate solutions or replace them with integrated platforms, in order to lower costs and risk, streamline administration and simplify management. Additionally, having a single source of data for understanding interactions across the customer journey will be critical for providing seamless, consistent and high-quality omnichannel experiences, from a customer’s initial online search throughout the entire customer lifecycle.
2. Say goodbye to data analytics — it’s time to take action.
Data alone cannot benefit a business — but actionable insights derived from it are essential to surviving and thriving.
This is particularly true in the Covid-19 era, in which keeping a business open and operational depends on optimizing everything from product development to operations to marketing strategies.
And with online and contactless service offerings blending with in-person options, actionable insights about the customer experience are of paramount importance. In retail, for example, barcode menus are replacing printed menus, but are they easy to access and read on customers’ smartphones?
A 4-star rating is a data point, but without actionable insights from the unstructured text in the written review, the restaurant owner may never know that one diner in the reviewer’s party was unable to load the menu.
Similarly, curbside pickup in retail is gaining traction, but data showing how many packages were picked up won’t provide insight into whether the staff who brought them out to customers’ cars were polite and helpful. It also won’t provide any insight about the online ordering process, if the customer had trouble parking at the curbside pickup location, or if there were problems at other critical touchpoints along the customer journey.
Customer feedback from reviews, surveys and social media can be combined with operational data as well as data from CRM and call center tools, to provide a 360-degree view into how your organization should evolve and improve its services to better meet the needs and expectations of customers.
In 2021 and beyond, businesses that generate and act on insights from omnichannel data will be best-prepared to compete and survive in an increasingly competitive and volatile environment.
3. Despite privacy concerns, tech companies will continue to leverage voice technologies for personalization.
For the past few years, we’ve seen Amazon and Google flood the market with voice-based products such as Amazon’s Echo personal assistants and Google’s Nest smart thermostats, which, unbenounced to many, contain a microphone and speaker. Amazon and Google already rely on those devices to listen in on us — both companies faced scrutiny for listening to random snippets of dialogue.
Despite the bad publicity, Amazon and Google will likely continue to leverage these consumer products to gather data — but they’ll need to obtain consent. Voice-activated devices provide a treasure trove of data that enables them not only to improve products and understand consumer behavior, but also deliver value. For example, Amazon’s Halo fitness tracker uses our voices to help us keep fit – and to collect data about us. The key is for Big Tech to offer customers something in return for allowing products to listen to them – whether a more efficient thermostat or a healthier body.
4. AI will enhance conversations between brands and customers.
Conversational AI is gaining traction as businesses increasingly employ chatbots, virtual assistants or messaging apps to engage in meaningful ways — and in real time — with customers. Using AI-driven engagement tools offers companies enormous potential to strengthen relationships and accelerate growth, particularly during these uncertain times.
For example, AI-driven conversational surveys create a personalized yet intimate experience with customers that does not overstep boundaries, and also helps collect more CX data. Conducted over SMS messaging, they leverage AI to drive the interaction based on the customer’s responses and generate the most useful feedback. This feedback can be analyzed together with data from other channels to provide rich, actionable insights. Conversational surveys can be held immediately after an interaction or at any time, and the customer has full control over the interaction.
Future-Proof Your Organization with a Solid RXM Strategy
RXM ensures the positive and consistent expression of strong brands, by combining the CX optimization with continuous Online Reputation Management (ORM). The combination enables brands to build lasting customer relationships and attract and convert new customers.
But RXM is a complex, multi-faceted endeavor that requires ongoing attention and oversight. Reputation.com pioneered the ORM category and now extends our leadership position to include our award-winning RXM platform, a SaaS-based solution that manages tens of millions of reviews and interactions across hundreds of thousands of customer touchpoints. Patented algorithms behind our Reputation Score X are based on more than a decade of deep machine learning and data science expertise, providing businesses with a reliable index of brand performance that they can use to make targeted improvements.
Your RXM Toolkit
Here are some essential resources for learning about RXM:
- RXM Guide: What Is Reputation Experience Management?
- Know Exactly How to Improve Your Brand Reputation with Reputation Score X
- [Webinar] RXM in Action: Manage the Customer Journey at Scale with Social Suite
- [Infographic] 6 Local Search Strategies to Use Right now
- [Report] Google My Business Views and Clicks: A Rebound during COVID-19
- [Guide] Online Reviews and Ratings 101: A 5-Step Guide to Improving Your Online Reputation
For more information, visit www.reputation.com.