CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE TRENDS FOR 2021

As companies emerge from COVID-19, customer experience trends for 2021 (and likely beyond) are shifting to reflect the “new normal.” From internal communication to customer engagement and employee experience, it’s more important than ever for companies to be intentional in order to inspire loyalty and growth. 

What is the future of customer experience?

It doesn’t take a crystal ball to see that remote and hybrid work will impact the future of customer experience. 2021 has seen many companies change their expectations of employees. In the initial months of the pandemic, companies sent their employees home out of necessity. Many discovered that a work-from-home model was productive. Employees liked it for the flexibility. Employers saw a tantalizing opportunity to save money on costly overhead. 

As we’ve emerged from the requirement to be home, focus has turned to the future. According to Gartner, a whopping 80% of company leaders will allow remote work after the pandemic. The shift to remote and hybrid work obviously affects employee experience. In many, significant ways, this post-pandemic approach to work creates a direct impact for customer engagement trends.

Historically, employees have learned how to engage with customers via informal interaction at the office. In many cases, formal training for customer engagement is sparse—if it exists at all. Managers and co-workers answer questions on the fly. Over time, simply being at the office means employees absorb the company’s unique culture for managing customer expectations, dealing with problems, and learning the customer experience best practices as they exist for the company. 

When employees are remote, there’s less opportunity for leaders to share off the cuff how they want customer engagement to flow. It means companies have to be more intentional about sharing their preferred approaches for customer experience. While this may be more challenging at first, implementing it can provide many benefits to brands.

How can customer service be improved

Customer service can be improved by giving employees a path to consistency. That means companies need to define, articulate, formalize and share processes with their teams. At Alignmint, we help companies architect these processes via “Playbooks” that guide employees to success.

With Playbooks, expectations are clearly laid out so employees know how they’re expected to engage during key beats throughout the customer’s lifecycle, from kickoff to renewal and everything in between. 

Having Playbooks drives a path to success for employees and a consistent experience for customers. Those two factors, in combination, lead to improved customer AND employee retention. 

When it comes to B2B customer experience, trends are even more pronounced. 

Historically, customer interactions have been fairly transactional, especially in SaaS companies. Customer Success departments stick to the fundamentals of customer kickoff and onboarding. Then many CS teams effectively drop into the background until there’s a problem that needs to be fixed.

This transactional approach leaves a lot of upside on the table. It’s time for companies to adopt more proactive, relationship-driven approaches to customer success. Part of being relationship-driven means redefining “customer experience” from being a department to being a company-wide approach to engagement. This is one of the most important B2B customer experience trends of 2021.

When Playbooks are knit into the fabric of B2B companies, they reinforce customer-centricity. Companies see consistent upsells, better product adoption, and alignment across all levels of a company. 

Why is alignment important for customer experience? 

Alignment is important for customer experience because customers interact with multiple departments within a company, from sales and marketing to customer success and product. Until all of these departments (and company leadership) are aligned in their approach to the customer, their experience will be disjointed. 

A company-wide, aligned approach to customer experience is one of the key indicators of customer retention. And retention is one of the key drivers of long-term, highly profitable customers. Ultimately best practice companies grow with a customer-centric approach to CX that includes planning, goal setting, and metrics that track accountability.

What’s next for customer experience? 

Having Playbooks will become increasingly important as companies consider what’s next for customer experience. As we’ve said, employee experience and customer experience are highly intertwined. So as more and more companies bring on new employees into remote and hybrid environments post-pandemic, it will be increasingly important to arm them with opportunities to succeed in their roles.

According to SHRM, 52% of employees plan to find a new job in 2021—so it’s probable you’ll need to do some hiring this year. Every company needs a plan to make sure new employees know how to engage with customers in alignment with your expectations. Anything less is unfair to both your customers and your employees. 

Looking at 2021 and beyond, companies will grow and thrive by giving employees in remote environments a path to success with Playbooks that guide an aligned customer experience across all levels of the company. 

Alignmint Growth Strategies: Partners in customer experience 

Alignmint Growth Strategies helps customers architect consistent, proactive customer experiences that take their company to the next level. Our proven MINT Method walks companies through the whole process, from strategy to actionable Playbooks. With Playbooks, team members understand how their role impacts the customer’s experience, and the steps they need to deliver CX successfully. 
If you’re ready to see what Alignmint can do for your company, reach out to us today.

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