Well, that was a doozy of a year. Everything we planned was turned backwards, sideways and every which way by early March 2020 when COVID-19 came barreling down the pike and hit us smack in the face. But here we are again. . .at the end of a calendar year packing our days with strategic planning sessions to create a map for the future. As we do our best to prepare for a new year -- and although we now know our plans can be twisted and turned around in a moment's notice -- we think it's important to see what trends are predicted to be on the rise. So, without further ado, here are five trends predicted to impact the contact center and the customer experience (CX) space in 2021.
Trend #1: Digital customer service initiatives will continue to rise in importance.
Ian Jacobs, Principal Analyst at Forrester tells us that “digital customer service interactions will increase by 40%. The pandemic created a trend — an increased reliance on online shopping, digital financial services, and tele-health (virtual care) option — and that genie ain’t going back in the bottle.” This piece of data is from a summary of Forrester’s 2021 predictions for 2021 and it’s one we see as spot on. Digital support and virtualizing customer care have been a massive focus for all brands, as the ability to purchase products and services is no longer limited to in-person interactions. This is the main reason why contact centers need to have technology solutions in place that will enable them to support their customers via phone calls along with all the digital mediums from social media to email to text, video and more!
In addition to a continued focus on digital customer service, Forrester sees CX focusing more on empathy in the coming year. This makes a lot of sense as the need to connect with customers on an emotional level is a way for businesses to differentiate themselves from the competition. With the trauma, fear, and stress brought on by the pandemic, the need for empathetic customer support has only increased pandemic and we definitely believe this trend will continue.
Trend #2: Organizations will seek to leverage data culled from their contact center and customer interactions.
Customer Think guest author Tara Sporrer, Vice President of Marketing and Sales Operations at goMoxie, shared several predictions including the increased importance of analyzing data culled from the contact center. “Analyzing chat, email and other contact center data together can help you identify friction points in real-time.” This is another point that we stand firmly behind. In fact, one of the enhancements we’ve made to the Edify Huddle platform is the ability to access data that has been stuck in legacy systems, as we believe that the more intel a brand has about its customers, the better position it is in to succeed. Contact centers need a technology platform that is giving them real-time feedback in order to help agents perform at the best and create happy and loyal customers. This means everything to a business’ bottom line.
Trend #3: Proactive customer service will become even more prevalent.
Tara also predicts that brands will become more proactive in their communications with customers. You won’t hear us arguing against this, as we all know that having to hunt down information or reach out to a company for an update on a package are tasks none of us want to do anymore. Tara says, “Shifting your customer engagement strategy from a strictly passive approach to a proactive approach will increase your sales and decrease the number of customers who reach out.” This relates to the trend above, as the more data you have on hand and the more insights you are able to gather about your customers, the better and more on point your proactive strategy will be.
Kelly Blum, a blog contributor for Gartner, echoes the power of being proactive with this statement, “Customer service has always been highly reactive. In fact, most service organizations operate in a reactive manner, requiring customers to exert significant effort to navigate multiple service channels, often unsuccessfully. Unfortunately, this leads to low self-service containment and customer dissatisfaction.” And no contact center or brand wants this!
Trend #4: Virtual and physical customer interactions will continue to morph.
Forrester also predicts that certain industries will continue to take a hybrid approach to customer service in the coming year. “They’ll merge virtual and in-store roles, moving employees to meet changing demands. This approach will give brands a flexible and reliable way to navigate change. It will also accelerate the shift towards the total experience approach.”
As in-person customer service and virtual service morph and ebb and flow, every organization must work harder to ensure that all its messages and agents are on the same page as a disjointed experience will not translate into happy customers.
Trend #5: Contact centers will invest in technology that supports agents in new and innovative ways.
Without the right underlying platform, there’s no way that a contact center will be able to thrive in the digital, always-on, constantly changing world we find ourselves living in right now. First and foremost, contact centers need to be able to leverage the power of the cloud. There’s simply no more time to waste here. Earlier this year Information Age stated, “The cloud is a powerhouse built to run businesses effectively and efficiently” and “the cloud is becoming so ingrained in our society that even our washing machines are running on the cloud.” If your appliances are leveraging this always-on, always-available technology, shouldn’t all contact centers be doing this too?
Contact centers need tools that empower agents to adjust their scripts in real-time so that each customer conversation is as personalized as possible. They need the ability to give agents access to ALL the data that exists about a customer without logging into multiple applications. They need to have the right mix of chatbots and Interactive Virtual Assistants (IVAs) + human interaction to ensure that customers can enjoy self-service when they want it and also interact with a living, breathing agent when they need to. They need all this and more. And in 2021 we know contact centers will be stepping up their behind-the-scenes technology in order to deliver the CX that the modern-day, stressed out, time-maxed, demanding customers demand.
And that’s why we do what we do at Edify. We want to make it easier for agents to access the right information at the right time in order to ensure each and every customer interaction is a successful one. While we can’t say for certain what the future will bring, we believe these trends are real and will be ones we will keep discussing in 2021. Regardless of the obstacles yet to be faced, you can be certain that Edify will be working to innovate and improve the contact center and CX spaces all year long (and beyond).