Customer Experience (CX) constitutes the combination of all feelings and perceptions of a customer towards a specific brand. These responses are a result of interactions of the customer with the business, all the way from pre-purchase to after-sales services.
CX can begin with an ad, a website, or a physical store. From the moment the customer becomes aware of a brand, everything that he gets exposed to, or interacts with, adds to the overall customer experience. This could mean the cleanliness or orderliness of a physical store, helpfulness of retail staff, the look and feel of packaging, durability of a product, or friendliness of call center agents.
In 2021, not all of these examples of customer touchpoints will have the same level of impact as they did before. Recent events in the world have revolutionized customer experience, and businesses are currently at a critical crossroads.
What the next CX revolution in 2021 will look like
The coronavirus crisis has changed the nature of business and everyday life as we know it. Many companies were forced to transform their core services and structures overnight. McKinsey reports that digital adoption in business leaped five years in advancement within the first eight weeks of the pandemic.
We’ve seen banks offer alternative payment methods and retail stores enhance their online shopping and delivery services. Consumers now expect daily transactions to be accessible from the comfort and safety of their homes. This is now the huge challenge that businesses worldwide face today--how to rebuild a satisfying CX in the digital space.
Although we’d seen digital transformation gain traction in the business world for the past two decades, many businesses were unprepared for immediate adoption, especially at the pace that was expected in the midst of an economic downturn. In a survey from Progress, 55 percent of respondents said that digital experience initiatives that had previously been delayed were accelerated because of COVID-19.
Research from SurveyMonkey also revealed that 89 percent of C-level respondents claimed that they are extremely invested in CX, while 87 percent of professionals say that their organization considers customer feedback of greater importance now than before the pandemic.
The CX revolution has begun. Why is it critical for companies to catch up? Why now?
Tony Rodoni, EVP for Customer Experience at Salesforce, tells SurveyMonkey in their recent report: “There's nothing more important than remaining highly relevant to your customers, and that’s what listening to your customers is all about. At the beginning of COVID, it was about being empathetic and understanding their situation. Then it was, how can we change our solutions to fit what's happening right now?”
Changing customer expectations
As the world we live in changes, so do customer expectations. Here are a few things that have changed in light of the current world crisis:
- Personalization - As digital environments replace a lot of what was previously done face-to-face, consumers desire equally effective and relevant interactions.
- Remote assistance - Customers expect stronger remote support. Discussing changes expected of service providers, Customerthink reports that 61 percent of consumers surveyed did not want technicians around their homes unless strictly necessary.
- Faster, smoother transactions - While companies are transforming their businesses digitally, consumers are learning new purchasing habits. With more online transactions and remote interactions, customers expect the convenience of technology to serve their needs.
The top CX tools in 2021
In order to provide the best CX for today’s consumers, companies need to learn to listen to their customers at every point in the customer journey, and understand their needs at a deeper, more insightful level.
How can companies understand their customers better? And how can they provide more relevant and effective solutions to their pressing needs?
Lots of companies claim to want to implement AI into their processes and decision- making. But apart from chatbots for automated interactions and smart content recommendations, how can AI improve the overall CX? When it comes to CX, one of the most powerful implementations of AI is the analysis of interactions between the company and its customers.
One example is the use of AI in contact center software. Players in this space include Talkdesk, NICE inContact, Genesys, and Observe.AI. These tools have progressed significantly in the area of understanding human interactions through natural language processing. AI can now empower companies with the ability to analyze huge amounts of customer interactions for the purposes of evaluating compliance, sentiment, tone, and customer satisfaction. CX issues can be addressed at a very targeted level using actionable insights from these platforms.
Omnichannel services allow companies to provide services to their customers from different platforms and touchpoints seamlessly. This efficient process is critical at a time when consumers need flexibility and multiple options for their transactions.
The most common implementation of omnichannel in retail is the use of apps to enhance the customer shopping experience in-store. These apps offer rewards, tips, store information, and personalized recommendations. Examples of these apps which can be integrated in the omnichannel are social media, email marketing, video clips, and online marketplaces, just to name a few.
But COVID-19 has severely affected in-store purchases, and the retail industry is now required to innovate. One such innovation is the use of AR (augmented reality) and VR (virtual reality) to expand omnichannel services. “Try before you buy” is becoming the banner cry of retail. This has been a strategy for many home furniture stores such as IKEA, which allow you to preview the furniture before making a purchase. Many other brands are recognizing the power of this solution. Kendra Scott stores, for example, allowed customers to virtually try on earrings through their website, as their jewelry stores were temporarily closed due to COVID-19 protocols.
IoT provides a level of convenience and engagement that allows customers to go about their daily lives with the help of technology. While not widely adopted at the product or service-level just yet, there is a huge opportunity for innovation in this space.
Creating always-connected products allows companies to enhance their services. Some examples for products such as printers, cars, or appliances, would be timely notifications for replenishments, early detection of maintenance needs, or easier access to remote assistance.
Post-COVID 19, IoT can potentially revolutionize in-store experiences through touchless purchases and transactions, as well as robot assistants, which we’ve already seen in some stores around the world.
It’s an exciting time for technology and business as companies are now forced to innovate and come up with more agile solutions for their customers. The huge leap into digitalization is only the beginning. The customer---and CX---have changed forever, and companies need to keep up.