COVID-19 has deeply impacted how we think about customer experience. There have been significant changes in customer behavior and customer journey. Consumers are becoming more cautious and digital. 

A report by PwC suggests that in the US, 59% will not prefer a brand after several bad experiences and 17% after just one bad experience.

Therefore, customer experience has become key to success for any business as we approach 2021. 

As per a survey by Gartner, over 80% of companies expect customer experience to be their primary differentiator now and into the future.

To stay competitive and retain customers, companies must adopt a more customer-centric model. 

Let’s understand a few solid ways to re-shape your customer experience in 2021. 

Establish, Fund and Scale the CX Function

Investment in customer experience is critical for businesses of all kinds. Organizations that tie investments to the organization’s goals and returns tend to create better outcomes for the organization, customers, and stakeholders.

According to Gartner’s most recent forecast, 74% of customer experience leaders say that they expect budgets to grow.

As per a survey by Gainsight, companies with below USD 250mn in ARR on average, spend 8-10% on customer experience, while companies above that USD 250mn threshold spend an average of 3-5%, relative to ARR.

Three reasons for a business to invest in customer experience are:

  • To improve cross-selling and up-selling
  • To improve customer retention
  • To improve customer satisfaction

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Collect and Analyze Data for Customer Insights

Customer insights collected across multiple touchpoints give a complete 360 customers view and create richer customer experiences. 

It helps organizations to effectively deliver unique, personalized, real-time, and channel-agnostic customer experiences. It helps them optimize the customer journey with data-driven decisions.

Here are a few methods to collect data for customer insights:

  • Online Surveys: It helps understand the perspectives of your customers and think like them. According to a recent survey by Gartner, around 80% of growth organizations use customer surveys to collect customer experience data, compared with just 58% of the non-growth organization. Here are some amazing survey examples to replicate.
  • Social Media: It has become a reliable source of data. A report by WeAreSocial shows that there are 3.80 billion social media users. You can use polls and social media groups to know what your audience thinks about your product and services. 
  • Market Research: It helps you get actionable insights about customers, competitors, and the target market. As per a report by the Journal of Advertising Foundation, 80% of customer issues are addressed by conducting a market research project.

Using these methods, you can gain insight into the current state of customers service expectations:

  • What customers expect from any service interaction
  • Cost vs. return of exceeding customer expectations
  • Benefits of exceeding customer expectations
  • Customer expectations by channel
  • Shifts in customer service channel use
  • How customers’ expectations are set by both internal and external factors
  • The influence of customer experience trends with competitor companies

Increase Omnichannel Customer Engagement

Organizations interact with their customers across multiple channels, including website, live chat, or social media. 

An omnichannel top customer experience consists of individual customer touchpoints across various channels that seamlessly connect. It allows customers to pick up where they left off on one channel and continue the experience on another.

A 2020 report by PwC says that the number of companies investing in the omnichannel experience has jumped from 20% to more than 80%.

Adding to this, a recent report by Adobe found that companies with the strongest omnichannel customer engagement strategies enjoy a 10% YOY growth, a 10% increase in average order value, and a 25% increase in close rates.

Let’s understand a few ways to improve the omnichannel customer experience. 

  • CRM system: Customer data management system enables organizations to collect, manage, and analyze customer data. Using a CRM system helps you organize your customer information in one central place and allows you to act on it.
  • Headless CMS platform: It is a content management system that allows organizations to offer omnichannel experiences from a centralized content repository. Integrate your CRM into your headless CMS to view and manage your content and your customers from one central location.
  • DMP: Data management Platform collects, organizes, and activates first, second, and third-party audience data from any source, including online, offline, or mobile. It makes the omnichannel vision possible by allowing brands to deliver the right content to the right consumer at the right time within their journey.
  • DXP: Digital Experience Platform is an emerging integrated software for engaging a broad array of audiences across various digital touchpoints. It accelerates the omnichannel experience by identifying customer needs with its data profiling and prediction ability. 

Enable CX with Technology

In 2020, interactions have been shifted to digital formats out of necessity. However, the need for easy access to products, services, and information through online channels will persist in 2021 and beyond.  

A report by Wunderman Thompson Commerce says that 40% of consumers are more comfortable with digital technology than before lockdown. 

Gartner report says that on average, 68% of customer experience projects will make use of information technology in 2021 as compared to 58% in 2019.

The top emerging technologies that will have the biggest impact on your customer experience projects are:

  • Artificial Intelligence: AI for gathering and analyzing social, historical, and behavioral data enables organizations to gain an accurate understanding of their customers. 
  • Virtual Customer Assistants and Chatbots: VCA allows users to interact with spoken languages such as Alexa and Google. It helps relieve pressure on support staff by enabling interactive in-app support for users. Chatbots allow humans to interact with technology using input methods such as voice, text, gesture, and touch. A great example of such a tool is the Zendesk Help Desk software that handles customer queries and offers multi-channel support.
  • Real-Time Event-Driven Application Architecture: Organizations adding event-driven architecture to their systems improves the scalability and responsiveness of applications. It helps capture real-world business events, such as when a customer places an order.
  • Internet of Things: It is a framework of interrelated devices that has the ability to transfer data over a network. It influences the decision-making process and helps make potential adjustments to customer engagement. Thus, it ensures the device can help you deliver a good customer experience.

Measure CX and Prove ROI

For any brand delivering a great customer experience is important. However, only 49% of US consumers say brands provide a good customer experience today.

Organizations that excel in customer experience grow revenues above their market.

As per Temkin Group, organizations that earn USD 1bn annually can expect to earn an additional USD 700mn within 3 years of investing in customer experience.

However, the challenge is to quantify customer experience and its impact on ROI.

Therefore, customer experience analytics combat this challenge by associating your CX activities with your financial metrics to interpret ROI.

There are customer success metrics used in businesses to gauge customer experience program success. Here are a few most popular metrics:

  • Customer Satisfaction Survey (CSAT): It measures customer satisfaction with a purchase, transaction, or experience based on a feedback survey. It provides you insights into how customers feel about your brand and what aspects have the maximum impact on them. It helps you align your priorities for your revenue goals.
  • Net Promoter Score (NPS): It measures customer loyalty and advocacy. It helps you understand how likely a customer is to recommend your brand and identify promoters, passives, and detractors. Thus, you can determine the estimated ROI for moving passives to promoters.
  • Quality of Customer Interaction (QCI): It measures customer interaction satisfaction. It helps you to find what matters most to each customer. It provides insights into sources of delight and despair of customers, allowing you to take necessary actions to optimize them. 
  • Voice of Customer (VoC): It measures customer expectations, needs, experiences, and overall feedback about your products and services. These feedbacks are generally in the form of email, SMS text, web forms, outbound call surveys, ratings and reviews, social media feedback, and call center log analysis. 
  • Voice of Analytics (VoA): It determines the customer experience from digital analytics. Thus, it helps in observing how customers interact with your business systems and operations. 
  • Customer Effort Score (CES): It measures the effort a customer has to exert to get an issue resolved, a request fulfilled, a product purchased and returned, or a question answered. It is determined by sending customers an automated post-interaction survey asking them to rate a specific statement on a defined scale.
  • Customer Churn Rate: It indicates your overall business health by calculating the number of customers who have stopped doing business with you or unsubscribed from your services. It helps you know the number of customers returning more products, creating more tickets, and dissuading others from doing business with you. Thus, evaluate these costs to determine how it impacts your growth.

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Final Thoughts

Successful organizations are moving aggressively to digitize their business processes and invest in their customer experiences. These successful organizations focus on where their customers are moving, what they want, and how they want it. 

Organizations use customer data to create new experiences built on flexible and modern platforms. They communicate with customers in their own digital spaces, through social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. In addition, they test new ideas through rapid iteration to make alterations and optimize customer experiences. 

There are many ways businesses can continue to offer meaningful customer experiences in 2021 and beyond. However, ensure you know your customers’ communication preferences to personalize the conversations and outreach you conduct. 

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