What Lies Ahead for Customer Experience in 2021?


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The digital transformation of businesses accelerated significantly in 2020. They had to quickly adapt to remote work and further develop their usage of digital channels.

A recent study by McKinsey illustrates that this circumstance could have saved five years on the adoption of digital tools. In this context, what will be the result of these developments in 2021? What trends should you ratify now to serve your company well in the future?

1. Full digital journeys replace physical interactions

The transition to digital experiences has been underway for several years in the retail sector. In today’s climate, retailers have to differentiate themselves by offering alternatives to the brick and mortar experience, a situation accelerated by events in 2020. This trend is further backed by 49 percent of customers who say they buy more online since the start of the health crisis.

Systems such as click & collect, previously utilized by the principal retail players, are expanding to all industries. Shop journeys are planned and concentrate on the customer experience, often through a team member.

Therefore, digital can support sales staff in physical stores. Playing a pivotal role in aiding sales staff in-store. Particularly since the rise of digital interactions is set to increase by 40 percent in 2021, according to Forrester.

To be ready for this increase, organizations must adopt the channels their customers use and love, and for their agents managing them, the tools to manage channels with ease and frictionless effort.

2. Flexibility is a fundamental

Contact center flexibility is a vital specification of a successful customer experience. At the beginning of 2020, businesses had to rapidly deploy solutions for working remotely to maintain a level of continuity.

This is a transition that was simple for enterprises with digital maturity, but more difficult for others who had not yet fully developed digital systems.

Companies relying mainly on the cloud were able to ensure this transition quickly. At the same time, those with on-site solutions encountered serious obstacles, in particular, due to the need for physical hardware.

In 2021, the versatility to remain ready to customers and satisfy their expectations becomes indispensable to standing out. Therefore, companies should embrace adaptable strategies empowering them to accommodate changes.

This means using extensive technologies to be flexible and blend the innovations of tomorrow with the company fundamentals.

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3. Asynchronous communications proceed to grow

There remains a continuous growth in the asynchronous interactions for customer service. Channels such as Facebook Messenger and Instagram have seen daily conversations increase by 40% amongst customers and businesses.

Also, with 2 billion users on WhatsApp and 1.2 billion on Messenger, the habits of consumers are changing and encourage the increased use of these messaging apps throughout the customer journey.

GAFAs proceed to support this shift to asynchronous, by improving the messaging activity. Google, for example, began the rollout of Business Messages, enabling users to message a business rather than making a phone call and instead encouraging direct messaging.

Due to circumstances in recent months on a global scale, the peak across each and every industry in demand for customer service teams has exploded. This too has led to a rise in the adoption of asynchronous messaging channels, as the mode of exchange in which the customers favor has shifted.

To meet the expectations of instantaneity, fast asynchronous communication is increasingly succeeding synchronous channels such as live-chat. In 2021, implementing the best tools to handle these demands and answer within the appropriate timeframe will be imperative.

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4. Customer experiences by phone is developing further

Digital channels are acclimated to many circumstances and enjoyed by a burgeoning number of customers. Nevertheless, the phone continues to be a profoundly used and necessary channel. It could have been the root of difficulties, essentially, because of queuing or wait times, but the phone sees its methods enhanced thanks to digital.

Automation and digital make it possible to reduce call volumes and provide much faster answers.

Call deflection makes it feasible to redirect calls to digital channels when this is suitable for the customer and the company. It can be proposed before the call, throughout the queue, or during the call. The customer can communicate by telephone when needed and be able to utilize digital when it is more fitting. This exchange of channel can be extended to perform a payment or collect basic information (order tracking, price, etc.) promptly via digital channels, without idling time.

Automation and digital make it possible to reduce call volumes and provide much faster answers. Agents are less constrained by resolution time goals and can provide better service. In 2021, the call deflection approach will be more widely adopted to support the transition of telephone interactions to digital.

5. The best balance between human and automation

Artificial Intelligence is a significant trend that has been unfolding for many years. We are presently at a high-level where use cases are becoming further relevant and no longer diminishing the customer experience.

Companies have increasingly identified the most fitting cases for chatbots. They have ascertained more enhanced collaboration among chatbots and agents, which can free up time to concentrate on demands with greater added value.

Customers have become more and more used to this technology and see it less negatively than before. According to an Uberall study, 80% of people who interacted with a chatbot had an excellent experience. The main benefit they see is being able to get responses around the clock. In 2021, companies will therefore continue to rely on the complementarity between agents and chatbots to simplify the customer experience.

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6. The integration of customer service and unified communications tools enhances CX

The everyday life of a customer service agent can be faced with barriers that diminish their effectiveness and affect the customer experience. Agents can lose up to an hour a day shifting between tools, and 77% of them have to keep customers waiting to get the responses they need internally.

Employee satisfaction also has a meaningful impact on customer service. By providing agents with the best tools, they can interact seamlessly with the team through different modes (team messaging, video, and phone) to receive the information they require and resolve customer requests quicker and more efficiently.

The increased use of remote working makes the adoption of unified communications tools even more likely and necessary. This axis should hence be a preference for businesses wishing to continue advancing their customer relations in 2021.

We know now that – more than ever – digital will remain a central point in the customer experience into 2021. Thanks to the growth of automation to support agents and the generalization of new forms of exchange, organizations will be capable of putting people back at the center of the customer experience, to sustain a powerful link with customers.

To learn more about messaging channels, customer experience strategy tips, and customer engagement platforms, follow me on Twitter and Linkedin.

Julien Rio, CCXP
Julien Rio, a Certified Customer Experience Professional (CCXP) and AVP of International Marketing at RingCentral, is a renowned figure in the CX world. Julien is the founder of CX Therapy, a vlog that delves into real-world customer experiences, and the author of “Customer Experience Unearthed.” Recognized for his contributions, including being named among France’s top marketing influencers, Julien’s passion for storytelling and customer engagement marks him as a respected leader in the field who influences and inspires with a commitment to advancing customer experience.


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