2021 CX trends: The Tethr customer experience forecast

Matt Dixon, Ted McKenna

2020 was a rough year—and that’s putting it mildly. Not an individual, operation, or industry has gone unscathed during this time of accelerated innovation. Whether that looks like call center agents working from home, a company-wide struggle to migrate quickly to digital tools, or even canceled or reduced services as customers tighten their belts, your operation probably encountered struggles this year that seemed unimaginable in the January of 2020. 

As we take a look back at all the challenges of the past year, it’s impossible not to wonder what the future holds for us, especially here in the customer experience (CX) world. Between COVID-19, remote work, and all the changes that consumers have had to make this year, the CX landscape may well look very different in the months to come. Here on the cusp of the new year, our experts have been reflecting on what’s changed in CX 2020… and what 2021 may have in store for us. 

Today, we’ll discuss some of the 2021 CX trends we believe will come to shape the landscape of customer service interactions in the coming year.

#1. Self-Service Digital Channels

Customers are turning to digital self-service channels for answers more now than ever before, looking to solve their problems without ever talking to a human. This could take them to your website, your chatbot, your social media channels, or even to some unaffiliated YouTube channel that contains a DIY solution to the problem they’re experiencing. As a result, digital self-service channels are a cornerstone of 2021 CX trends and a must-have element of CX right now. This pattern is likely to only continue in 2021. 

“Companies who underinvested in digital channels [before 2020] are getting outed for it.”

– Matt Dixon, Ph.D. , Chief Product & Research Officer, Tethr

If your website’s self-service options aren’t up to the task, you run the risk of losing contact with those customers altogether. They may turn to unsanctioned channels for help—like that YouTuber—or to social media to complain about your brand. Thanks to 2020, investment in self-service digital channels will become an essential part of providing an effortless customer experience during 2021. 

#2. Growth of Agent Empowerment 

As automation takes over in self-serve channels, there will be an equal and opposite shift in the role of the humans still involved in the customer’s service experience. Instead of answering simple questions about billing, reps are now called on to act quickly and autonomously to solve complex problems without the support of a floor manager. (That’s the WFH life for you.) Anxious customers with these complex problems require a higher level of competent emotional intelligence (EQ) from service representatives. 

Can you trust your reps to resolve an unpaid bill issue kindly and effectively when the crying mother of three calls in for help? 

If not, it may be time to invest in your CX strategy in terms of human assets, not automated ones. Whether your team needs additional training or simply more empowerment, it’s worth the investment. We’re going to see a lot more autonomy and authority given to service reps to solve these types of problems solo in the coming year. 

#3. Investment in Unstructured Data

Our best customers think of the service call as the beginning of the conversation with their customer, not the end. Instead of trying to get the customer off the phone, they place their customer at the heart of their strategy and build outwards. By using enterprise listening tools like Tethr, these companies glean voice of the customer (VoC) insights that they can then use to improve their CX in meaningful ways.

Amidst all these compelling 2021 CX trends, we would argue that investment in your unstructured data is the most important CX upgrade you can make in 2021. By tapping into unstructured data like voice calls, chats, and other vast data silos you may have access to, you’ll be able to listen to your customers’ needs like never before. When you understand their pain points, you can address them in real, actionable ways, getting one step closer to a truly effortless experience. 

Investment in your unstructured data is the most important CX trend of 2021 and beyond.

The long and short of it is this: If you’re not tapped into your unstructured data, you’re missing out on the most efficient way to learn about your customers’ needs. 

While 2020 has left us all with a lot to think about, and changed a lot, there are a few silver linings on all those storm clouds. In a world often characterized by a push towards automation, bots, and other distancing experiences, we’re starting to see the return of a push towards EQ and human interaction—powered by effectual, actionable data. Now that’s a CX future we’d like to see. 

Want to get ahead of these 2021 CX trends? We can help. Tethr delivers actionable insights from your voice and chat channels that can propel you ahead of your competitors through the power of comprehensive VoC data. Request a demo today.

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