I’m sure none of us feel confident in making annual predictions after the curveballs that we saw last year. But, we’re halfway through 2021 and it only feels right to do a check-in on where we stand with the evolution of contact centers and changes to customer experience.
Forbes published 11 CX related Predictions for 2021 late last year. I’m going to spend some time reflecting on a few of these predictions and the effect, if they prove to be true, that they will have on customers long term.
“Customer Service will get Increasingly Conversational”
We saw a fast reaction from brands in 2020 as they realized that they urgently needed to digitize their customer touchpoints. While digital transformation has been a hot topic for what feels like a decade, in the last 18 months it felt like a sink or swim scenario. The effect of unpredictable volumes and changes to customer preferences forced brands to react with quickly deployed text channels to support increasing their self-service options.
Where did that leave us? In the immediate, it created some supportive options for customers in need. Rather than waiting in long queues for a live agent, in select scenarios, customers could start their transactions through self-service. However, the actual ‘conversational’ nature of these new touchpoints is up for debate. Most were deployed in the spirit of speed without a focus on the conversational capabilities. There’s no denying that customers actually want these digital channels available to them, but they also want these new channels to be engaging. Chat, SMS, email, and other text gained usage, but to be truly satisfying for customers they must go beyond a simple answer bot.
My revised prediction:
Customers want results, but basic deployments that lack personalization and power won’t do this justice. Customer experience will get more conversational and the trend of fast-to-market answer bots will be one of the past.
“The role of the Contact Center has changed”
This prediction couldn’t be more true and it’s here to stay! Contact centers have long been the front-door to customers, but it was a thankless job where their true value wasn’t recognized across the board. As we saw customers lean on agents to get them through various situations in 2020, the role of a contact center shifted from being the last resort in problem solving to a key focus point for customer care.
This shift will likely be here to stay as we are seeing brands refocus their contact centers to be a strategic hub for the customer journey. The contact centers of the past are long gone and the days of having rows and rows of live agents answering the same mundane, transactional questions from customers are behind us. Conversational AI has, and will increasingly, take over the areas that are ripe for automation.
My revised prediction:
The rise of text channels will change the way contact centers work as they must transform to meet the omnichannel experience that customers expect. Think: digitally enabled live agents and voice agents working in harmony with Conversational AI solutions. This could be the new nirvana for CX.
“Empathy will emerge as a top customer experience metric”
The golden rule, treat others how you want to be treated, has never rang more true. Empathy is a new buzzword in the CX arena, and rightfully so. Brands need to get strategic about how empathy and contact centers mesh together, since historically it hasn’t been the case.
Starting off interactions with ‘How many I help you’ rather than the legacy ‘Press 1 for billing’ type experience is the beginning of the journey, but it isn’t enough. Companies need to take empathy a step further by being deliberate in creating a CX journey that is customer-centric. Empathy isn’t just being kind, it’s also being respectful of a customer’s time, allowing them to speak in their own words, and not forcing customers to conform to technology.
My revised prediction:
Empathy is king. The new expectation is that brands will be empathetic in their way their self-service channels are designed. The clunky, robotic, and unnatural interactions that happened in the past will become even more dissatisfying as customers have experienced the alternative.
2020 accelerated many of the trends that will take the customer experience to the next level. We’re excited to see the continued transformation in the spirit of improving the overall customer experience.
Check out Interactions own predictions for this year, here.