2021 Customer Experience Trends and Tactics


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As we begin Q4 of an eventful 2020, it’s time to look out for the 2021 customer experience trends and tactics for creating exceptional experiences in increasingly complex environments. We rounded up Eight 2021 Customer Experience Trends and Tactics to be aware of as we get ready to close out 2020.

From contactless service and telehealth, to US Government buy-in, to new demands for customer experience strategy, 2021 promises opportunities and a new set of challenges.

1. Customer Experience is more important than ever to consumers

Post-COVID, 59% of consumers care MORE about customer experience when they decide what company to support or buy from. 38% care the same as they did pre-COVID (which was a lot).

In other words, customer experience will dictate purchasing in 2021. In 2021, if your business does not care about customer experience, you are not in tune with your customers. And you will lose them when you need them most. 

 2. Customer Experience is Still a Mystery

We are approaching 2021 customer experience with the same mandate we had previously. We need to educate the business world about what Customer Experience really means. Further, we must demonstrate how transformative customer experience is to every industry.

Even as 2021 looms, too many people say “Customer Experience” when they actually mean “Customer Service.” And too many executives perceive Customer Experience as something they can train their employees to do without seeing the bigger picture and building the requisite customer-centric culture, processes and technology.

In 2020 The Petrova Experience conducted a leadership survey across industries. 53% of respondents did not have a Customer Experience Leader in their organization. Only 23% had a customer experience leader that reported directly under the CEO. Keep in mind, the ONLY way to ensure enterprise-level changes to customer-centricity is to have CX leaders report directly to the CEO.

Additionally, we found only 16% of respondents described their customer experience teams as having dedicated budgets. These data points reveal we have a long way to go before we see effective customer experience programs with real impact on the 2021 customer experience.

Unfortunately, there are not many resources for businesses to get up-to-speed on customer experience strategy and best practices. Historically, Rutgers University ran a customer experience program for working professionals. However, due to coronavirus, it has been suspended indefinitely. The need for education and “translation” about what customer experience means in terms of org design, budgets and strategy is still imperative in the field.

Customer experience education is essential to keep up with 2021 customer experience trends. We know customers will be watching us closely, waiting for us to do the right things. And we need to know how to do those right things.

3. A Customer Experience Strategy will Define Your Success in 2021

This is what 2021 looks like without customer experience strategy…

You are in event planner or trade show organizer. You risk pushing your visitors away with the now outmoded 2019 experience of paper badges and long check-in lines.

Now, say you are a retailer (luxury or not). In 2021, without a real investment in digital technology, you still have a fragmented omnichannel shopping experience.

Or, maybe you are an airport. Your passengers are more lost than ever. They are confused about their travel experience as they pass through your facilities. There is too much fragmentation.

Let’s get to the root of this, not only from the perspective of 2021 customer experience trends. In 2019, 78% of customers preferred to use different channels depending on their context. Responding to this preference seamlessly and consistently is no easy task for any brand. So, how do you deliver what customers need and want in 2021?

To start, organizations must have a context in which to build seamless journeys. Customer experience strategy provides that necessary context. In fact, customer experience strategy is the first step to business survival in 2021, especially for large organizations and iconic brands.

4. Even the US Government is Jumping on the 2021 Customer Experience Trends Train

Customer experience must be part of your business strategy. That is non-negotiable. Even the US Government is working on elevating citizens’ experiences. As far back as 2018, an article explains the difference between Customer Service and Customer Experience on a Federal Government website.

Take USCIS (US Citizenship and Immigration Services) for example. USCIS Officers are already trained on hospitality. They ask callers if they have solved all their problems. And they offer callback so callers do not have to wait on the line. By the way, not many private organizations offer this feature!

This is happening today. Not in 2021. Furthering its customer experience commitment, the US Federal Government launched a Customer Experience mandate for 25 of their public-facing agencies to improve the US Public experience.

In other words, in 2021 you risk hearing “My experience with the IRS is better than my experience with you.”

5. Contactless and Self-Service are Here to Stay

Just 3 years ago when we were designing the facial recognition boarding experience for JetBlue, contactless experience was considered innovative in the US. We were “pushing the envelope” and going above and beyond. Even the self-service airport lobbies were edgy and sexy.

Today, the DMV offers self-service temperature checks and the restaurant industry suddenly found out there are QR codes to get menus on diners’ phones!

This summer, Oracle and Skift published a comprehensive study about consumer travel expectations post-Covid. They found that 35% of consumers will be more comfortable staying at a hotel if the facility offers contactless payment. This feature ranked ABOVE temperature taking, smartphone keys, and self-service check-in via kiosk. That means when we design future contactless experiences, they REALLY need to be contactless.

The consumer is not stupid. He/she knows when you are “almost there” even though you say you are fully contactless. The self-service card payment that asks me to sign on the display with my finger at the end of the process is NOT a contactless solution.

Brands need to do the hard work and build ALL integrations necessary to design “real” contactless payment experiences. 73% of hotel executives agree that self-service will be increasingly important for guest experience. The question for 2021 customer experience is whether they will invest in it. Especially for the new properties that will open.

6. Telehealth is Here to Stay

We all read the statistics of the accelerated digital health growth this year. The important question is what will happen in 2021?

Although the numbers from this year are not realistic, telehealth will take roughly 25% of healthcare by 2025. This is enough growth of an industry that costs America 18% of the GDP to pay attention to.

According to doctor.com 60% of patients want to make an appointment digitally and quality customer service is the number one factor that drives patient loyalty. With higher adoption comes the work necessary to create seamless patient experience. And the need to design a functioning outcome-based model.

Similar to retail, healthcare must invest in the design and implementation of patient experience that allows a journey to start in the digital channel and transition seamlessly to the physical. In 2021 there will be more investments in patient experience applying human-centered design both for the patient and the physician experience.

7. Websites are Enjoying a Renaissance

The website is back. Really, this is not surprising. What is interesting, though, is how slowly brands respond to consumer behaviors. Even as we approach 2021, there are websites that have not been updated. They lack useful customer-centered messaging about the post-Covid experience consumers can expect in their preferred brands’ physical spaces. But customers need that information in order to continue to trust their beloved brands.

Yesterday, my mother flew on United across Europe. When she asked me if there would be food on board, I could not give her an answer. It is fair to say all industries have some work to do in this department. The aviation industry is not the only one missing the mark here.

Healthcare providers, retailers, and grocery stores all have work to do. In 2021, your web experience will be a driver of customer loyalty. So, give that part of their journey the love (money) and attention (time) it deserves.

8. 2021 Customer Experience is about Relationships over Transactions

The 2021 customer pays attention to you as a brand. They look to see how empathetic you really are. Today, luxury hotel and spa guests are asking employees how they have been treated by their employer.

You are being evaluated on the human scale more than ever before. As a result, your value proposition is evaluated on HOW you do your business.

This is why an investment in corporate culture makes sense in 2021. If you don’t have a corporate culture, make one. If you have a corporate culture that no one is practicing, revisit it. Determine if failure to practice culture is because it is no longer relevant. Or if it is because you have not made the necessary investment to operationalize your belief system in the field.

According to Salesforce research 71% of customers believe businesses that have shown more care and empathy this year have gained more loyalty during the time period. So, there is money to be made in having a heart. It just may take you longer to cash out. But it is certainly worth it. For you. And for your customers.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Liliana Petrova
Liliana Petrova CCXP pioneered a new customer-centric culture that energized more than 15,000 JetBlue employees. Future Travel Experience & Popular Science awarded her for her JFK Lobby redesign & facial recognition program. Committed to creating seamless experiences for customers and greater value for brands, she founded The Petrova Experience, an international customer experience consulting firm that helps brands improve CX. To elevate the industry, she launched a membership program to help CX professionals grow their careers. Ms Petrova lives in Brooklyn with her husband and daughter.


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