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10 customer experience trends to watch out for in 2021

The pandemic will affect the customer experience in 2021 and 2022 even more than in 2020. We highlight 10 customer experience trends to keep an eye on in the coming period.

By Renée Müller

10.4 min read

28 June 2021

Customer experience trends

The pandemic is going to affect the customer experience in 2021 and 2022 even more than in 2020, predict experts from Forrester. Especially when it comes to trust, security and engagement, big things are going to happen. We are relying more and more on digital tools and that means that the customer experience is also undergoing a real change. We highlight 10 customer experience trends to keep an eye on in the coming period.

Forrester research shows that 14% of companies improved the customer experience in 2020, but this was mainly due to tracking and fixing problems in back-end systems and processes. In 2021, things are already different, as the number of companies that significantly improved their customer experience doubled to 27%. How did this happen? By identifying and improving core CX competencies. This trend continues and experts expect 25% of brands to make significant progress in their customer experience by 2021.

These are the customer experience trends for 2021

For years customer experience has gone beyond customer service and in the customer experience trends for 2021 we see this more and more. It’s the job of customer experience managers to get the whole company moving and not let customer experience be just the job of a single department anymore.

1. Implementing habit loops

People are creatures of habit: we tend to live in the same pattern and our habits have a huge impact on how we interact with each other and how we interact with businesses. Experts therefore expect that so-called habit loops, which keep customers engaged in a digital environment, will become a major priority. Major platforms have been using them successfully for years.

A habit loop is a neurological loop responsible for a habit (gosh) and contains three components: signal, routine and reward.

Smartphones and social media are excellent examples of habit loop formation. The ping of a new notification is the signal, the routine involves pulling out a phone to check the notification, and the reward is seeing a new message from a friend or a new comment on social media.

Customer experience trends: Usual Loop

The beauty of a habit is that you don’t need to invest huge marketing budgets to get people to do something, because a user sees it as an indispensable part of their way of life. Start by finding a ‘hook’ for your product. That hook triggers an action that rewards and encourages investment. Focus on how your brand or product can remove negative emotions and deliver positive results for your customers. For example, many SaaS brands highlight their features by showing the benefits their products can bring.

You can also create a loop of habit by framing your product as you see fit. Spotlight some customers who use your product and the benefits they’ve experienced by using case studies, for example. When you use habits in the right way, you can get your prospects or customers hooked on your brand and make them constantly look for more information or rewards.

2. Customers want to know how you do things

The customer experience includes not only what the customer receives, but also how they receive it. Customers pay more attention to how a brand does what it says it will do and identify with brands that open the curtain and show how things are done. Remember, people don’t do business with companies, they do business with people. They want to see the character of your company and that’s where video comes in very handy. More and more companies are literally putting a face to customer service and having customers walk through the door. Or they let customer service agents take over their social media for a day.

Another way is to show more about the people involved in your process and invite your audience to contact them. Add an author profile to your blog posts and make sure your blogs come from across the company, because knowledge is everywhere. Show how products are built, services are handled and the team behind the brand can make your brand loved by your customers.

3. Omnichannel customer service as the most important customer experience trend

Brands want to increase their visibility on digital channels and social media platforms, so omnichannel marketing is becoming increasingly important. In the digital customer experience, omnichannel customer service has become indispensable and if you are not yet present on different channels, you will really lose customers in 2021. Omnichannel communication is therefore one of the most important customer experience trends.

Customer success is fundamentally about building a lasting relationship with your customer, you want them to achieve the desired results when they use your service or product. In 2020, unprecedented numbers of organisations have been forced to work remotely and that comes with a host of customer experience challenges. The task now is for distributed departments, teams and functions to communicate and collaborate effectively to share data on how your customers are using their services.

While the customer experience from your side as a brand may be more distributed, this does not mean that customers will lower their expectations. As customers spend more time online, they expect more from companies and are expected to have a consistent voice across all platforms. This becomes an expectation for customers rather than a ‘nice to have’. Whether you interact with customers via Twitter, email, phone or they browse your website, you need to provide a consistent experience.

Creating an omnichannel customer experience starts with the tools you have available. Make sure you have a system to organise your customer information in one central place and where you can also communicate with your customers across all platforms. Because if you constantly have to switch between Facebook, Twitter, email and WhatsApp, your customer experience will suffer rather than benefit.

4. You need to distinguish yourself better

Standing out is becoming increasingly difficult and if you want to stand out from the CX perspective, you’ll quickly become a company where customers have higher expectations than your competitors. And that’s a good thing, because it makes you a lot more attractive to work with.

Standing out in an ocean of content and the number of competitors in your industry is going to be a crucial customer experience trend, as brands look for ways to differentiate themselves. According to Gartner, 81% of brands expect to compete on the basis of customer experience starting this year.

Differentiating your brand starts with positioning. From a marketing perspective, this starts by contrasting your brand with the way things have always been done and establishing yourself as a new way of doing things. You can also redefine your values and what you stand for. For example, Ben & Jerry continually hooks up with news about social inequality in the US.

5. Chatbots are going to help customer service

Artificial intelligence continues to find its way into business. Many companies already use bots to automate sales and marketing tasks, and the digital customer experience is increasingly influenced by chatbots. Response and resolution time is king, and AI chatbots are enabling businesses to quickly scale their service to up to 70% of their most frequently asked questions. If you are a company that chooses to implement AI into your customer experience, it will truly be a game changer.

But: do it right or don’t do it. A poorly designed chatbot does more harm than good and actually causes irritation. See a chatbot as a way to give your customer a quick solution to simple problems, by connecting it to your knowledge base or FAQ section on your website. Your chatbot refers your customer to a frequently asked question in your knowledge base and your customer service agent can deal with more complex issues. And when the customer service or sales rep contacts you, the user is already prepared with some background information. And that works both ways: your chatbot can also obtain information so that the customer service agent is immediately up to speed.

6. More and more self-service

Customers are becoming more resourceful and they want brands to respect this in their service. They are proactive and more willing to take care of things themselves. No one has patience and the more your customer can do for themselves, the better it is for their state of mind. Many of the problems customers face are easy to solve; they just don’t know where to look.

Invest in creating a knowledge base or FAQ section that provides answers and explanations to the most common problems your customers face. Oh: and add a search function! Are you in e-commerce? Make repeating orders a breeze and just include a return label with all your orders. Saves the customer having to print again.

7. Digital closes the gap with the real world

COVID-19 has caused many companies to move to the digital world and the digital transformation has accelerated, which we certainly see in the customer experience trends. In the initial phase, conferences and events were still cancelled, but soon they became virtual events. Meetings took place in Teams, just like teambuilding and interviews.

In 2021, digital will continue to be a force, bridging the gap between the way things were done before the pandemic and during, even as many countries worldwide slowly move towards the ‘new normal’. Because there really is a new normal. Remember what worked during the pandemic and use it to bridge the gap between the real world and digital.

Instead of hosting multiple events in person, add some virtual events and webinars to your calendar and find ways to reach a new audience that cannot physically attend. The world has suddenly become a lot bigger.

customer experience trends

8. Brands are getting closer to hyper-personalization

Personalization is not a trend anymore, it’s something customers expect. You as a company have to find a way to meet that expectation. Personalization is going to be a defining factor for your market success in the coming years, but it’s something that many companies still feel they are lagging behind. In retail, a customer is 80% more likely to make a purchase if the customer experience is personalized.

Personalizing the experience for your customers starts with the data you have available about them. Create detailed customer personas and use these personas to guide the content you share with each customer. Also, use marketing automation tools that allow you to send trigger emails and other notifications when customers perform certain actions.

9. Companies are using predictive analytics

Companies have access to much more customer data than ever before. This is because customers will give anything as long as there is something in return. If you want to get ahead as a company and improve the customer experience, you’ll need to invest more in predictive analytics.

D2C eCommerce companies in particular can benefit from using analytics to predict inventory and stock levels based on what users are currently viewing and continuing to purchase. But other industries are reaping the benefits as well. Start by educating your team on predictive analytics and how it can be used to acquire customers and personalize experiences. There are several tools available from companies like IBM and SAP that can help you with your predictive analytics strategy.

10. Even more focus on privacy in customer experience trends

Customers are willing to share their data with companies, but they do so in the belief that brands will protect their data and only use it for the right purposes, such as to provide them with more relevant content.

In 2021, there will be more focus on privacy and what brands do with data. Laws and regulations such as the AVG and GDPR will determine how companies handle customer data in the future. Stay up to date with the changing laws and regulations around data privacy and protection, and make sure your business is following the required guidelines. Nothing is worse for your brand than ignoring privacy and as we wrote in the introduction, trust is more important than ever.

Customer experience trends for 2021: summary

The most important thing from the customer experience trends is that customers expect a personalized experience and increasingly get one. Experts expect a quarter of the companies in 2021 to take the customer experience to the next level and that’s where you can win – or lose! – from your competitors. For customer experience and customer service managers it is therefore important to look beyond their own department and to work closely with sales and marketing departments. After all, they know your customer best.

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