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  • NETMEDIA International

[Tribune] The 6 key trends in customer experience in 2021

Asynchronous exchanges, call deflection, chatbots growth... An update on technological evolutions in customer relationship management.

The digital transformation of companies has significantly gained momentum in 2020. The latter have had to swiftly adapt to teleworking and further increase their use of digital channels. A McKinsey study shows that this situation could have saved five years on the adoption of digital tools. In this context, what will be the impact of these changes in 2021? What attitudes are needed now to prepare for the future?

All-digital pathways replace physical interactions

The distribution sector has been in the process of moving towards richer digital experiences for several years now. This year, containment has speeded up this evolution. Retailers need to offer alternatives to the in-store experience, as 49% of customers say they are buying more online since the health crisis began.

Practices such as click and collect, already adopted by the major retail companies, are being extended to all stores. In-store trips are also better prepared and focus on the customer experience, often through the sales consultant. In this context, digital technology plays a key role in complementing in-store support for these salespeople. Digital interactions are expected to increase by 40% in 2021, according to Forrester. To prepare for this, companies must therefore adopt the channels that their customers appreciate and the tools to manage them effectively.

Flexibility is no longer an option

Contact center flexibility is a vital component of a successful customer experience. At the beginning of 2020, companies had to rapidly roll out teleworking in an agile way to ensure business continuity. This transition has been more or less seamless depending on the degree of digital maturity of the company. Indeed, companies relying mainly on the cloud were able to make this transition quickly, while those with on-premise solutions encountered significant obstacles, particularly due to the need for physical hardware.

In 2021, the flexibility to stay available to customers and meet their expectations becomes paramount and will enable them to differentiate themselves. This is why companies should adopt a flexible organization that allows them to adapt quickly to change. This notably means employing open technologies in order to be agile in response to constraints and integrate tomorrow's innovations.

Asynchronous communications continue to grow

The growth of asynchronous customer relationship interactions continued this year. On Facebook Messenger and Instagram, daily conversations between customers and businesses increased by 40%. In France, with 38 million users on Facebook and 31 million on WhatsApp, consumer habits have thus encouraged this growth of messaging applications in customer relations.

GAFA continues to support this transition to asynchronous messaging, strongly improving the messaging experience. Google, for example, has launched Business Messages, enabling a message to be sent to a company instead of calling the company directly from search results.

The health crisis, causing demand spikes in many industries such as tourism and services (telecoms, insurance, banks), has also fostered the growth of the asynchronous. This situation has further underlined the advantages of this mode of exchange: customers can easily reach companies and the latter can manage their business with more flexibility than by telephone. To meet the expectations of instantaneity, fast asynchronous is gradually replacing synchronous channels such as live-chat. In 2021, getting equipped with the right tools to manage these requests and respond within the right timeframe will therefore be critical.

The customer experience over the phone is getting better

Digital channels are tailored to many situations and are appreciated by a growing number of customers. However, telephone is still a widely used and essential channel. Although it may have been a source of frustration, primarily due to waiting time, telephone operations have been improved thanks to digital technology. Most importantly, call deflection allows calls to be redirected to digital channels when it is relevant to the customer and the business. It can be offered before the call, during the waiting time or during the call. It allows the customer to exchange over the phone when necessary and to use digital when it is more appropriate. This channel switching can for example be provided to complete a payment or obtain basic information (order tracking, pricing information...) faster via digital channels, without waiting time. Automation and digital technology can thus reduce call volumes and provide much faster responses. Agents are less constrained by resolution time targets and can provide better service. In 2021, the call deflection approach will be more widely adopted to support the transition of telephone communications to digital.

Companies find the right balance between people and automation

Artificial intelligence is a fundamental trend that has been evolving for several years. We are now at an evolved stage, with uses that are becoming more relevant and no longer impair the customer experience. On the one hand, companies have gradually identified the most suitable cases for chatbots. They have set up more collaborations between chatbots and agents, helping the latter to free up time to focus on higher value-added requests. On the other hand, customers have become increasingly accustomed to this technology and see it less negatively than before. According to a Uberall study, 80% of people who have interacted with a chatbot have had a good experience. The main advantage they see is that they can get answers 24 hours a day.

In 2021, companies will therefore continue to rely on the complementarity between agents and chatbots to enhance the customer experience.

Customer Relationship Management and Unified Communications tools improve the customer experience

The daily life of a customer relations agent can be strewn with obstacles reducing his efficiency and impacting the customer experience. Employees can lose up to an hour a day switching between tools and 77% of them have to keep customers waiting to get the answers they need internally. While the focus is usually on customer satisfaction, employee satisfaction also has a significant impact on customer service. By providing them with the right tools, agents can communicate seamlessly with their team via different modes (team messaging, video and phone) to get the information they need and resolve requests more quickly and efficiently. The growth of telecommuting makes the introduction of unified communication tools all the more important. This should therefore be a priority for companies wishing to continue to improve their customer relationships in 2021.

More than ever, digital will be at the heart of the customer experience in 2021. Thanks to advances in automation to help agents and the widespread use of new exchange modes, companies will be able to put human beings back at the heart of the customer experience, in order to sustain a strong bond with consumers.

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