In the world of customer experience (CX), 2021 was a whirlwind of change. Retailers continued to adapt to the unexpected effects of the pandemic, which were further exacerbated by global supply chain issues. Businesses focused on improving their online operations to keep up with rising e-commerce demand. Fundamental changes in consumer attitudes and behaviors created major shifts in preferred communications channels. As a result of this tremendous change, CX teams felt intense pressure to up their game.
As more brands leaned into customer service to meet growing demands from consumers, stellar CX became a matter of survival. As we look to the year ahead, what can we expect from the past year to stick around, and what is predicted to change? We talked to some of the hottest brands and most seasoned CX leaders and here are the five biggest trends to watch for in 2022 and beyond.
Trend 1: Big change demands big innovation.
The rapid shifts over the last two years have undoubtedly caused businesses to grapple with challenging circumstances. But instead of brands throwing up their proverbial hands in defeat, thus providing a negative customer experience, they are ushering in a new era of innovation in CX. By embracing AI-driven technology, omnichannel strategies and other digital-first solutions, today’s brands have been able to give their customers what they want and anticipate what they may want moving forward.
Trend 2: Digitization of the world as we know it.
A McKinsey survey found that companies have accelerated the digitization of their customer interactions by three to four years, and this digital-first trend shows no signs of slowing down. As brands continue to improve and elevate the online shopping experience, they must also be prepared for the metaverse on the horizon. Widely touted as the next big thing since the Internet, the metaverse allows users to interact within their own 3-D digital universe, allowing brands to create the authentic and personalized relationships modern consumers crave.
To leverage the rise of the metaverse, brands need to understand exactly what their customers are seeking while realizing that consumer behaviors will continue to change. For example, our research shows that younger generations prefer digital-first methods of communication such as text and live chat over phone, and that they have a much larger appetite for self-service and chatbots than older generations. To meet these needs, brands must ensure they are preparing for new channels and preferences while monitoring consumers’ ever-shifting attitudes.
Trend 3: Efficiency, efficiency, efficiency.
The current labor shortage is real, with rising numbers of workers willing to walk away from their jobs or to switch employment.As businesses struggle to cope with fewer workers and global supply chain disruptions, many are cutting back on the quality of their products and services to stay profitable. NPR has dubbed this new type of inflation “skimpflation”, a flawed approach to maximizing profitability that will ultimately harm brand reputation and drive customers away. This will make it even more challenging for businesses across a wide range of industries to regain momentum.
This is where innovation is needed. Brands must use technology and creative approaches to improve efficiency without negatively impacting the customer experience. But with 85% of US consumers expecting contacting customer service to be faster, and 67% saying they have stopped doing business with a company due to slow customer service, inefficiencies can have serious consequences.
The good news is that the customer service organizations that lean into technology can add speed and efficiency to their work. For example, technology tools and AI can replace menial, repetitive, and time consuming tasks with intelligent automations that can detect intent, collect relevant information, automate agent interactions, and route conversations based on customer data or request type. Intelligent chatbots are now able to deliver contextual and personalized information that feels human, and can seamlessly hand off to agents when necessary. With the right technology, brands can focus on building relationships with customers, fixing complex issues in a timely manner, and optimizing the overall shopping experience.
Trend 4: Context is key.
Consumers want to be understood and treated as individuals. But without the right context, brand efforts to personalize their customer relationships may be seen as inauthentic. Today’s brands must continue to invest time and effort in understanding each customer’s unique preferences, behaviors and needs. At the moment, customer service is perhaps too focused on “listening” and forgets to “hear” what customers are asking for. Technology that provides a single view of the customer can help brands truly understand what customers want and build relationships around those needs.
Trend 5: Beyond CX.
Customer service is at the center of every business. Although support teams are commonly thought of as “customer experience” teams, the truth is that CX is a team sport — the responsibility of creating an exceptional customer experience bleeds throughout the entire organization. Yes, CX teams are often dealing with problems that occured due to other departments well before customers make initial contact, but it’s up to the whole organization to work together to resolve customer issues as quickly and efficiently as possible.
In today’s digital-first environment, customer service teams need the right technology and tools to have a data-driven and in-depth understanding of customers’ likes and dislikes. Then, they can organize, analyze and share this information with other departments across the organization to ensure the whole business is considering the voice of the customer. With the right data structures in place, customer service teams can provide insights that help businesses better understand things like product development gaps and opportunities, customer journey hiccups, and product issues like poor packaging. By making CX a team sport, brands can better ensure a seamless customer experience.
There’s no doubt that 2022 will bring a whole new set of challenges for CX. But by keeping the customer voice front and center, and staying open to new strategies and approaches, brands of all sizes can continue to fuel business growth while meeting, and hopefully exceeding, the individual needs of their customers.