Every year I write my customer service and customer experience (CX) predictions in my Forbes.com column.
This year, I thought I would share a brief version of them with our Shepard Letter subscribers. So, here are my Top 10 Predictions for 2021:
- Customers continue to get smarter. This has led to my list of predictions for several years. Our customers keep getting smarter about customer service and experience. They tolerate fewer customer service failures and demand better because they know it’s possible.
- Customers are becoming impatient. They want what they want NOW. Consider the result of the more than 1,000 consumers we surveyed for our 2020 Achieving Customer Amazement Survey. We found a whopping 96.2% of them are willing to leave because of bad customer service. That number will stay high and is more important than ever as we continue to navigate and come out of the pandemic.
- The word for 2021 will be empathy. While people have embraced self-service solutions and digital selling experiences, COVID-19 saw customers who normally would be happy with the digital experience reaching out to companies just to talk to someone who cares. More than ever, empathy is at the root of a successful human-to-human interaction.
- Convenience is no longer optional. This was a differentiation that helped distance companies from their competition. Now, it’s expected. For example, before the pandemic, delivery was a nice option that some businesses offered. Now it’s an expectation that businesses have scrambled to incorporate into their day-to-day experience.
- Companies find more ways to automate and digitize the experience. If you want to see a prediction reveal itself in real-time, just look at what happened in the first few months of the pandemic. Companies were forced to adopt technologies that they would have used eventually, but not for three to five more years. COVID-19 pushed us into the future.
- The virtual and remote workforce has become business as usual. Many companies that would have never thought it possible now embrace the remote workforce to the point of saying, “We’re shutting down our offices.” Not every company will go 100% remote, but the option is there if they want to go to that level.
- Personalization at a digital level is getting more personal. As sophisticated CRMs (Customer Relationship Management systems) and AI integrate, the data that is generated will help companies create a more personalized experience. Customers enjoy feeling connected—when companies know who they are—even if it’s at a digital level. And AI will fuel this trend.
- Chatbots will do more than just communicate with customers. Most companies use chatbots as a way to manage customer support. Chatbots will continue to do that, and get better at it, but they will also help decide what happens next. The initial interaction is the starting point for automating processes or escalating the issue to a human.
- Companies will over-automate and over-digitize. This is as much a warning as it is a prediction. Overdoing any of the technologies puts a company at risk of becoming a commodity with little or no differentiation from its competitors. There is a gap that is getting wider for some companies. That gap is the ever-increasing, dangerous distance between the customer’s automated experience and the customer’s human-to-human experience.
- Problems can be predicted. Companies will increase their ability to fix a problem before customers ever know they have one. Different sensors, alerts and alarms will trigger companies to proactively manage a customer’s experience like never before.
There are plenty of other predictions that will be made by many other experts. All of these can be used to start conversations around what’s next, what must change, and more. As you make decisions based on these and other predictions, always look to the future and anticipate the impact on your customers and employees.