Three 2021 Customer Experience Trends You Need to Know

Looking back on last year, there’s one word that personifies the customer experience industry’s response to 2020’s unprecedented events: adaptation. Very few periods in history have tested and challenged our industry to level up, listen harder, and adapt our efforts to meet customer and employee feedback. With the new year already here, we’ve assembled a list of the three top customer experience (CX) program trends you can look forward to in 2021:

CX Trend #1: The Value of Continuous Listening 

We saw it throughout the year—when circumstances shift, our programs need to adapt as well. New channels, ways of purchasing, servicing, and working emerged overnight as people were suddenly required to stay home, go contactless, and take extra steps to ensure personal safety in a matter of days, or in some cases, overnight.

Ideally, new products, services, and ways of working are tested prior to going live, but this wasn’t always possible in 2020. Therefore, a test and learn mentality proved to be a valuable business asset. Many brands had to and learned to take a “launch first, listen second” approach using an adaptive, always-on listening solution to understand how customers and employees were responding to new initiatives, and then take action to adapt and improve those initiatives. To evolve at speed, brands will need to consider continuing or adopting this approach as external factors such as the Coronavirus require them to change and evolve quickly for success.

Further Reading: How You Listen Matters: Modernizing Your Methods & Approach to Customer Feedback

CX Trend #2: Focusing on the (New) Moments that Matter

Respecting our customer’s effort and time continues to be paramount, especially when considering the  busy lives and conflicting priorities customers must balance. Factor in any extra anxiety around COVID-19 and our appreciation for people’s time and energy must be even greater. 

Heading into 2021, it is more important than ever to design and structure a CX program around the key moments that matter to your customers. With all of the changes in 2020, those key moments may have altered slightly or changed all together, especially with the new purchasing and servicing paths that have emerged and new channels that have appeared. Customer journey mapping will help you with this in two ways: 

  1. To identify and prioritise the high-impact and high-emotion moments for your most valued customers
  2. To help employees recognise, react to, and own those moments that matter. From there, you can make meaningful and impactful adjustments to the business. 

Customer journey mapping will more than ever help brands ensure they are respecting their customer’s effort and time by focusing on and enhancing the moments that really matter to them.

Further Reading: Five Steps for Uncovering the Real Customer Journey 

CX Trend #3: Understanding and Communicating the ROI Impact of CX

Many CX programs start out with the belief that “CX is the right thing to do” and are able to gain sponsorship from a senior executive within the organisation based on that logic. However, 2020 brought about greater scrutiny on resources and budgets. So, as we go into 2021, it will be more important than ever for CX teams to understand and prove the return on investment of CX programs. 

Understanding how your CX program supports key financial and business outcomes for your organisation is paramount. To connect the dots, combine your CX and business/financial data, analyze the relationships between the two, working collaboratively with your finance team. Ensure the links are understood across the organization so it is obvious to internal stakeholders that your CX program is contributing to the overall success of the business. Many CX programs initially have the goal ‘to improve the customer experience,’ but undertaking the necessary analysis to prove the financial benefits will ensure ongoing investment for your program and CX initiatives.

Further watching: How to Demonstrate the Value of Experience Improvement to C-Suite and Beyond

Wrapping Up

It goes without saying that 2020 has been a year like no other. As we head into 2021 with new resilience, at InMoment we are looking forward to the upcoming industry trends that will come along with it. Adaptation is what defined 2020, but more importantly, it will be what takes us forward.

‌Here’s to a healthy and happy 2021 for you and yours.

If you’re interested in learning more, here are some of our top content pieces of the year for you to read.

Download here:

How COVID-19 Changed Customer Experience Forever

Many of us may try to forget 2020 altogether, but the changes that COVID-19 brought to the world won’t disappear anytime soon. Customer experience (CX) practitioners the world over are reckoning with this challenge as they make sense of a new experience landscape. In order to fully understand the path forward, however, it’s important to take a look at what exactly happened in 2020 and how COVID changed customer experiences forever.

The Early Trends

As I discussed in my recent article on this subject, I saw a number of trends in the CX world really take off at the beginning of the pandemic. Some of these trends were already on the rise before the Coronavirus arrived, but this crisis has expedited their trajectory. This is most true of contactless payments. Digitisation had already made these the norm for many businesses and industries, but as I’m sure you can imagine, customers on high alert for virus-contaminated surfaces have propelled it to new heights.

Relatedly, many major brands introduced initiatives that further reduce physical contact between customers and frontline employees. These initiatives were already linked to increased digitisation in many respects, but social distancing and other health guidelines have really thrust them into focus. As a result, this trend of brands keeping customers and employees separate wherever possible has been humming along these last 9-10 months—and isn’t ending anytime soon.

The Homebody Economy

Quarantine and social distancing have changed customer life in ways beyond shopping. Though it probably comes as no surprise, the amount of people who commute via train here in the United Kingdom has dwindled to a tiny fraction of pre-2020 numbers. A COVID-19 vaccine is gradually being made available in this country, yes, but commuter trends aren’t likely to return to any sort of “normal” in the near future.

Closer to home, we’re seeing what I call “the homebody economy” maintain its grip on quarantined customers all over the globe. It used to be that work, personal activities, and other endeavors were clearly distinct from one another, but as the months at home have dragged on, all of these pursuits have mixed together. Additionally, we’ve seen the development of a “time soup” made of shifting shopping habits—customers are now much more likely to make purchases during the week than risk crowds on the weekend.

The Next Step

All of these strengthening and emerging trends—from increasing contactless payments to the homebody economy—have already had a profound effect on the customer experience paradigm. They present new, unanticipated challenges for CX teams and practitioners, especially as demand for some products and services across industries has fallen due to economic hardship.

The question, then, is how exactly can brands respond to these challenges, especially since they’re not going away anytime soon?

Click here to learn more about my take on this subject, the obstacles brands face in the age of COVID, and how they might find success for themselves and their customers as we transition to 2021.

What Holiday Shoppers Expect In Store & Online

Do you know what holiday shoppers need from you this season? What about what matters most to them in store? Or what is most important to them when it comes to their experience on your website?

If you’re unsure, don’t simply guess what your customers are looking for. Instead, check out this infographic we created based on a study we did that surveyed 5,000 North American customers about their expectations for the holiday shopping season!

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