The 6 Biggest Customer Experience Trends That Will Dominate in the Next Two Years

Little by little, the customer experience trends of 2000-2010 have flipped to give power back to customers. These customers are no longer only interested in low prices or upgraded products. They want to understand and be understood, with a specific desire to be supported by brands if they ever have a problem. Customer service has increasingly become a key factor in lead conversion and customer loyalty, and it will only continue on this path. Customers want to trust brands and know that they will be supported if they have an issue. So, what does this mean for customer service departments and contact centers? And how will these customer experience trends create challenges for contact centers in the next two years?

Emotion at the heart of winning customer loyalty

Ensuring maximal customer satisfaction begins with understanding how customers feel. Empathy plays a major role in establishing an emotional connection with customers. For example, if a customer calls an agent to explain a frustrating issue they are experiencing, the agent’s ability to show compassion for the customer is critical to solving the problem and calming the customer. Ultimately, this empathy leads to earning the customer’s trust and loyalty. A Dynata survey found that 70% of consumers say that they are highly likely to purchase exclusively from brands that understand them and their needs. Understanding each customer’s feelings, needs, and preferences allows an agent to address each customer in the right manner and on the right channel and to engage in a productive dialogue. When a customer realizes that a brand knows how, when, and even where to communicate with them, the natural choice is to stay loyal to this brand.

The increasing importance of customer service

Customer service has an increasingly important role in company organization. The Covid crisis made customer service a main priority for many businesses, due to the sharp increase in customer service demand. With customers unable to shop in-store during the various lockdowns and a need for businesses to offer their products and services without interruption, customer service became a critical factor in helping businesses survive the crisis—while keeping customers happy. Indeed, the Covid crisis made it clear that customer service will always remain the key to winning customer loyalty. According to Microsoft, 96% of customers say that customer service is important when considering their loyalty to a brand. Hubspot further reveals that 83% of companies that value customer happiness also experience growing revenue. Ultimately, customers choose the brands that value them most, and companies are aware of this—as PR Newswire points out, 81% of companies view customer experience as a competitive differentiator.

A growing number of communication channels

Today, customers have more choices than ever when it comes to communication channels. While the phone and email remain important channels for customer service, other channels such as social media, instant messaging, and SMS have grown in popularity and importance. However, this omnichannel growth is occurring across all channels—not just digital. For example, Cdiscount went back to providing mail customer service to give more channel choices to its customers. Rather than offering a few channels that only some customers want, companies must diversify in order to reach more customers on their channel of preference. However, companies must ensure that every channel is properly staffed. If there are not enough agents working on each channel, customers will quickly become frustrated. UC Today states that 90% of customers want an omnichannel experience with seamless service between communication channels.

Certain channels, such as instant messaging and social media, move at a faster pace and require prompt service. Take the example of WhatsApp. In one year, there was a 370% increase in use (Zendesk). Customer service agents on such channels must be ready to answer questions quickly. It is estimated that by 2025, 70% of customers will prefer interacting on social media channels. Companies must therefore be ready to meet their customers on these channels, but also know how to adapt language and conversational style to fit the communication channel.

Technology as a source of human support

Many new technologies are revolutionizing customer service. Artificial intelligence and virtual assistants, for example, support agents by handling simple customer requests and thus giving agents time to handle more complex tasks. At other times, they may manage the start of a customer exchange before an agent takes over. Automation therefore gives added value to agents who are able to offer richer customer experiences thanks to the support of technology.

Chatbots in particular are redefining the customer experience and helping agents offer better service. When chatbots handle simple requests without needing agent intervention, the customer is satisfied with the quick self-service response, while agents have the time to handle complex tasks and feel more confident in their work. Chatbots are indeed in high demand. A Verint study found that 48% of customers already feel comfortable with chatbot interactions, while 71% claim that they would be happy to use a chatbot if it meant having an improved customer experience. Instant messaging is also a growing customer expectation—71% of survey respondents stated that they expect brands to already offer support over messaging channels.

Artificial intelligence will continue to be a priority for companies, with Gartner predicting that by 2025, interactions with agents will decrease by 1% due to AI automation and that, by 2026, AI will fuel contact center solution replacement by 10%. Companies will continue to invest greatly in AI technologies with the goal of both improving contact center efficiency and delivering greater customer experiences. However, AI adoption is not necessarily easy to achieve. According to Gartner, some barriers to AI adoption, including the complexity of customization, will limit interaction offloading from agents to less than 10% of total interactions through 2025. Therefore, while AI technology is viewed by many companies as a must-have for customer experience, its implementation can be a challenge.

The well-being of agents

One major challenge that contact centers face is agent well-being. As the job can often be stressful, many contact centers face high turnover rates as agents become exhausted and lose motivation. Customer service centers have transformed tremendously with the advent of new technologies and new channels, giving agents more responsibility and greater value as brand ambassadors. For this reason, the agent’s role must be reconsidered and taken seriously, as their well-being is critical to their performance and the overall customer experience a brand offers. Giving agents the proper tools for their work pays off: According to a Harvard study, 72% of respondents stated that front line customer service teams felt their productivity increased when given technology with access to data that helped them analyze and make decisions. The same study found that 69% of these agents felt more engaged and satisfied when given the right technology to work with. However, choosing more comprehensive solutions does come with a cost: The CCaaS average monthly agent price will increase from $140 to $148 per user from 2021 to 2026 as companies acquire more advanced service offerings. (Gartner)

The adoption of the cloud

Cloud adoption is becoming increasingly important for reasons varying from flexibility to cost efficiency to reliability. According to Gartner, by 2024, cloud contact center agents will outnumber on-premise contact center agents. At Vocalcom, we are noticing the same trend; however, outsourcers with many agent positions (ranging from 50,000 to 100,000) tend to prefer on-premise solutions at this time.

Cloud adoption also varies heavily depending on geographic location. According to Gartner, remote working and maturing offers will accelerate CcaaS adoption in mature regions—a CAGR of 17.9% through 2026. In less mature regions, companies will renew 40% to 65% of contact centers with on-premise solutions through 2024 rather than migrating to the cloud. Gartner further states that emerging market regions will retain on-premise infrastructure many years longer than mature markets. Global cloud adoption is therefore always slower than what we expect. As Gartner states, by 2026, CCaaS licenses will represent 49% of the total installed, despite a 17.6% CAGR.

While some customer experience trends are shifting, others are only intensifying. What will remain constant in the next few years is the importance of listening closely to customer needs and wants and creating customer-centric experiences for long-term loyalty.

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