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CX predictions for 2021

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The overnight shift to digital-first in 2020 revealed many pain points across omnichannel sales and services. This disruption highlighted a pressing need for enterprises to invest in customer experience (CX) transformation.

In 2021, enterprises will build on the work of 2020 to rethink their audience strategies and messaging, invest heavily in customer marketing technology, and address challenges across customer identity management. In addition, brand image will become a differentiator – purpose-driven brands will secure customer affinity and loyalty.

Depending on the maturity of the enterprise, there are three categories of CX investment to expect in 2021:

  1. Stabilize – continue initial investments to stabilize customer relationships
  2. Advance – reinvigorate paused initiatives through the lens of COVID-19 priorities
  3. Evolve – turn the disruption into a catalyst for brand evolution

Stabilize

Many enterprises spent 2020 reacting to COVID-19 disruption and proceeding with caution. As they enter 2021, core initiatives will stabilize to deliver against new customer expectations.

In every industry, investing in consistent omnichannel delivery – with safety in mind – will be essential to creating excellent customer experiences. From eCommerce and curbside pickup to omnichannel returns, brands will continue to strive for a buy anywhere, buy any way model.

Enterprises will also expand self-service capabilities for customers and look to invest in future-proof digital solutions for both customers and employees – including remote workers. Traffic management strategies will help to ensure that the most complex customer problems reach customer service representatives at speed.

Brands that successfully stabilize will also adopt remote working models. Employee acquisition and retention may become dependent on this offering, making it even more important to educate employees on how to communicate virtually, leverage AI to streamline operations, and sustain motivation in a virtual world of work.

Advance

Enterprises that have already successfully stabilized will take transformation a step further and rethink their entire customer management ecosystem. They will advance customer data strategies to address challenges in identity resolution and customer data management. They will also evaluate their marketing technology ecosystem to deliver against increased digital demand.

In addition, investments in personalization and other advanced digital marketing capabilities must show clear ROI. Understanding how to measure CX strategy will remain a critical consideration for executives facing increased scrutiny in their spending decisions.

COVID-19 has also made safety measures a top buying consideration for customers, so enterprises will need to demonstrate that they are operating in responsible ways. Enterprise leaders understand that their ability to grow their business is dependent on how much they know about their customers, so they will also invest in ways to identify and respond to these changing customer expectations.

Evolve

The most mature enterprises – those that have stabilized and advanced in 2020 – will be best positioned for growth in 2021. They will use advanced analytics and predictive insights to get closer to customers and make informed decisions about CX strategy.

With this in mind, enterprises will need to find new ways to gather customer insight. Voice-of-the-customer (VOC) initiatives will become central insight factories that will inform strategic C-suite decisions. Once a passive monitoring tool, VOC will emerge as a powerful, versatile mechanism to connect directly with consumers in real time for more authentic visibility into whether enterprises are meeting customer expectations or missing them entirely.

When a customer shares positive ratings and reviews, enterprises will demonstrate gratitude in the form of loyalty rewards. When the feedback is negative, it will trigger service remediation and retention strategies. The aim is to ensure that every customer has a positive experience. Of course, things will go wrong from time to time, but the speed at which enterprises address these issues is key.

The enterprises that will thrive in 2021 will recognize when they need support to achieve their CX ambitions. Strategic partnerships with leading CX advisors and investment in new and emerging technologies will help enterprises accelerate their transformation. As a result, enterprises will reach broader customer bases, achieve a faster go-to-market, and build the resilience required to more effectively respond to future disruptions.

The author of this article is Stephanie Bannos, head of customer experience strategic solutions at Rightpoint, a Genpact company, and was first published on Rightpoint.com.

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