Show of hands, who’s ready for a CX recharge? (Really, though. As this year comes to a close, who doesn’t need a recharge?) What will customer experience in 2021 look like? What are the priorities that make sense for your business?
There are more options than ever for companies that want to kick it up a notch in 2021. What could that look like?
Customer experience in 2021: What the experts have to say
I asked some of my trusted CX colleagues around the world, “What is the one tool, tip, or technology that customer experience leaders should take with them into 2021?”
Their answers give some great insights into what comes next.
Digital still reigns supreme when it comes to customer experience in 2021
“With the rise in digital usage due to the pandemic, customers have irrevocably changed their expectations of us, even while the customer experience we deliver is often still lagging. To adapt, private and public sector leaders should focus on the digital customer experience—from gathering insights from all customer touchpoints including social and search listening, to improving content discovery via SEO, to optimizing digital usability for all target ages and demographics. Great digital CX is no longer tomorrow’s innovation; it’s a current imperative.”
—Michele Bartram–Customer Experience Officer, U.S. Census Bureau
“Invest in streamlining to achieve fully digital processes. The pandemic has highlighted big gaps in processes everywhere, across all sectors. Shoring up customer service with extra call center staff isn’t the answer long-term. If customers have to call you, they’ve encountered a problem they can’t resolve themselves, which means your digital processes aren’t good enough. Digital will save you time and money and make customers happy.”
—Kathleen O’Brien—Global Industry Expert, Public Sector, Customer Experience, SAP
Move into continuous messaging
“In 2021, businesses will need to build a messaging presence on digital channels, allowing customers to interact on their terms, when they are available, without having to repeat themselves. Don’t confuse this with live chat. Messaging means having a real-time, persistent, asynchronous, sessionless exchange. Messaging must be enabled via SMS, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger or any other app, providing a modern, personalized, and convenient conversational experience.”
—Luís Melo, CCXP—Senior Manager, Solutions Architect EMEA, Zendesk
Dig into the data
“Focus on data to drive your business decisions. No matter where you are along your CX maturity path, or which industry/sector you are in, recruit a couple of smart data analytics folks to dig into your customer feedback and behavior data, develop, or improve your prediction models. Then, start sharing data-driven customer stories with leadership and all employees, so that better decisions can be made.”
—Michelle Batt, CCXP— Customer Experience Leader, Speaker & Workshop Facilitator, Lead with CX
Focus on employees is a must for customer experience in 2021
“Engaging employees should be a priority. 2020 has been an incredible challenge for employees who have dealt with new work environments, new assignments, new anxieties, and even unexpected searches for new work. Business leaders can make a big difference for their employees and their organization through new levels of attention, listening, authenticity, integrity, and care.”
—Patrick Gibbons, CCXP—Principal and SVP of Marketing, Walker Information
“2020 caused employee fatigue on a variety of fronts. Some employees are working while educating, entertaining and/or worrying about their kids catching COVID. Other employees are handling the pandemic alone or adjusting to moving in with family. In 2021, leaders should focus on enhancing the employee experience by identifying and streamlining cumbersome processes, empowering employees to identify and implement process improvements, and emphasize collaboration, as working virtually can hinder innovation.”
—Brian Whittaker—Director of Design and Development, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
“Think about change management and how work gets inside your organization. Build your customer understanding efforts to include a broad cross-functional team who can make the changes to improve the customer experience. For example, when designing a future state customer experience vision, involve the departments that will enable the future state – so they can own the initiatives.”
—Nicole Newton, CCXP—B2B Practice Leader, Heart of the Customer
Understand cybersecurity, or risk it all
“2020 changed the way we work and how we manage our customer, employee, citizen, student, and patient experiences. Many of us had to pivot to running businesses online, including expanding IT systems to accommodate staff working from home. New risks have opened up. Those risks include threats to customer trust, churn, and business reputation. It’s never been more important to expand your peripheral vision as a CX leader and understand cybersecurity.”
—Anita Siassios, CCXP—Founder and Managing Director, Managing CX
Leadership lessons: Identify true CX professionals
“For those organizations savvy enough to focus on customer experience as a key driver of their business success, it is critical to identify true CX professionals to lead these efforts. The CCXP (Certified Customer Experience Professional) designation is a key indicator of experience and competence in the field and can help identify those who will work as cross-functional catalysts to achieve goals. Organizations must also invest wisely in their technology and tools, but the top priority should be ensuring the right person is leading the charge and guiding these decisions.”
—Gabe Smith, CCXP—Content Leader, Customer Experience Professionals Association
Purpose, politics, and preference: Customers will expect businesses to align with their values
“This year we’ve experienced significant cultural, political, economic, and public health changes, and we’re already seeing the effects of those changes in nearly every element of society. In 2021, successful businesses and governments will be those that anticipate, study, understand, and respond to these changes.”
—Catherine Jeppsen, Ph.D., CCXP —Customer Experience Principal Consultant, Qualtrics
Just do it!
“I regularly see leaders struggle with ‘where to start’ in improving their digital or customer experience. The perfect plan is less important than the momentum of beginning the journey. Pick the tool or service that is most used/most broken/most expensive to support/most critical for your users – just start small, learn, and focus on impact.”
—Marcy Jacobs, Associate Partner, McKinsey and Company.
Cheers to the new year, friends
In the new year, the needs of customers will undoubtedly continue to evolve. Doing the same things as last year means businesses will fall behind. The new year is a great time to reflect, recharge, adjust, and make decisions about how you’re going to level-up your customer experience in 2021.