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Accelerate the Shift

Where Does Customer Experience Go From Here?

An examination of CX for today, tomorrow, and into the future.

Customer experience and employee experience go hand in hand, especially in an increasingly competitive marketplace. Companies that don’t provide great customer journeys will lose business, and brands that fail to engage employees in meaningful ways will similarly struggle to strike a chord with consumers.
Against the backdrop of that delicate customer-employee balance, several trends are likely to dominate the landscape going forward. Demand for fast, safe, digital interactions has skyrocketed. And, employees want a flexible work environment that’s inclusive, diverse and allows them to shift seamlessly from in-office to remote work when necessary.
With all these changes, what will customer and employee experience look like in the future? Here a look at what’s on the horizon:
The digital customer takes the lead
There’s no question that people are more digital than they were prior to the pandemic. Many people previously averse to digital channels have changed their tune and consider digital to be the first—or only—preferred point of contact with brands. Convenience, real-time tracking, and the from-anywhere nature of digital interactions are too much to give up once consumers experience them. Digital experiences now exist in places that were rarely considered in the past—such as banking, restaurants, grocery shopping, and the doctor’s office.
Those who are newly embracing digital experiences, in particular, can be extremely valuable to brands. Consumers who used digital channels for the first time during the pandemic will continue to do so and drive a 40 percent increase in the volume of digital interactions, Forrester predicts.
But it’s important to know that not every digital customer is the same, especially for those new to digital service channels. Brand leaders must therefore keep an eye on customer success metrics and seek out opportunities to improve the experience, such as with soft skills training or new learning curricula.
Customer trust is paramount
Now more than ever, customers need to feel safe in order to do business with a brand. Customer perception and trust are critical. This is true both virtually with customer data and physically with mask, cleaning and other pandemic safety protocols. An impressive 95 percent of consumers want companies to implement physical protection and distancing measures to help keep them healthy, according to Prosper Insights & Analytics.
Brands should be upfront and transparent about customer safety protocols, how they use data, and quickly acknowledge and correct any mistakes should something go wrong.
Trust and safety are not static for customers. Their comfort levels and tolerance could shift, depending on various factors. Therefore, it’s important for businesses to monitor real-time customer sentiment and other sources of customer insight to ensure they are delivering the right experience when it matters most to their customers.
Remote work brings opportunities to better serve customers
The intersection of remote work and digital innovation is poised to transform customer relationships. As more business is conducted from home, the status quo is getting upended with text-messaging, 24/7 support access, video conferencing, cloud-based technology, and other tools to enable an immediate, digital-first experience.
Companies should view this shift as an opportunity to reimagine customer support with new digital self-service tools, processes, and solutions to increase resolution rates, reduce customer effort, and increase brand loyalty.
Making interactions easier for customers not only offers a better experience; it’s better for bottom lines. Ninety percent of customers with a high-effort service interaction become more disloyal to a brand, compared with 9 percent who have a low-effort experience, according to The Effortless Experience by Matthew Dixon.
Enterprises embrace automation with a human touch
COVID-19 pushed legacy systems and procedures well past peak capacity. It also exposed costly inefficiencies and a reliance on manual processing. As digital demands increase, companies are accelerating the move to add more automation and AI into CX processes and related workflows. For example, automating simple tasks in the contact center reduces costs while increasing speed and compliance.
Ramping up automation will pay dividends well into the future. By 2024, organizations will lower operational costs by 30 percent by combining hyper-automation technologies with redesigned operational processes, according to Gartner.
When mulling automation options, brands should identify simple versus complex tasks. Which high-volume tasks can be resolved quickly via automation and which ones would a skilled human associate add value to with the support of a virtual assistant in the background?
Cybersecurity becomes a top priority
A shift to remote work and increased digital services has placed a spotlight on cybersecurity. A rise in cloud adoption requires greater infrastructure security and employee-driven data leaks, whether intentional or not, are a growing concern.
In many cases, cybersecurity and IT professionals are under pressure to achieve more with tighter budgets. More than 70 percent of CISOs and security buyers plan to ask for significant budget increases in 2021 after seeing budgets shrink in 2020, according to McKinsey.
The ability of IT teams to quickly shift priorities as companies’ needs change will be critical as businesses adapt to a new reality.
Keep in mind: the cheapest cybersecurity option is not always the best option. Every organization should define its own needs and risk tolerance before deciding what level of support is necessary and keep in mind that those needs could rapidly accelerate.
Workplace flexibility is redefined
As more employees demand workplace flexibility, strategies for driving productivity and engagement must also change. Leading companies will differentiate themselves by equipping employees with the right tools, training, and resources to succeed whether they’re working from home, in a corporate office, or in a hybrid arrangement.
Acknowledging these changing workforce trends, and devising processes around them, will be necessary for many companies. The work-from-home phenomenon will not necessarily end when the pandemic does. Nearly three times as many workers will work from home on a permanent basis than before the pandemic, according to Willis Towers Watson.
Successful brands will use workplace flexibility as a recruiting tool. Collaborate with teams across the organization such as HR, legal, and IT for ideas on how to attract new talent with innovative employee experiences.
Diversity and inclusivity become essential
From startups to Fortune 500 corporations, employers are waking up to the fact that diversity and workplace inclusivity are more than hot topics—they’re essential to building a thriving business.
Employees from different demographic groups, cultures, sexual orientations, and other background origins are a key driver of innovation and marketplace understanding. And when employees feel valued, that drives increased positive performance results, retention, and engagement. 
Diversity isn’t just the right thing to do; it also has clear business benefits. Companies with more diverse leadership teams have 19 percent higher revenues due to innovation, compared with less diverse ones, according to Boston Consulting Group.
For any efforts in this arena to work, diversity and inclusivity need to be more than merely buzzwords. Company leaders need to take a hard look at their brand’s culture, which may lead to some uncomfortable but important conversations. 
Looking ahead through 2021, there’s no denying the pandemic has drastically changed the corporate landscape, both from a consumer perspective and the employee point of view. With all these changes, successful brands will be those that can attract and retain high-quality customers and workers but giving both groups want they want and need in a way that makes sense for the company over the long term.