2021 predictions: Are you ready to ride the omni-customer wave?

John Ing 20th January 2021

No CX professional will forget 2020 any time soon.

Surging voice call volumes during the Covid-19 pandemic saw severely understaffed customer experience teams struggling to cope as creaking contact centre technologies meant they were unable to work from home. But, arising from these challenges, there were at least some positive outcomes.

This pressure on voice channels prompted customers to try out and adopt other channels more quickly than expected. And it worked, with web chat and video now the stars of the show.

As we head into 2021, 9/10 customers say they want an omni-channel experience. The challenge for businesses is to ensure their technology and teams are fit for purpose.

Here are my predictions for the year ahead.

Omni-customers become omni-present

The omni-customer will be everywhere, hopping between available channels dependent on need, from phone and email to web chat and social media – and increasing video usage for troubleshooting and help with installation.

Businesses will move away from a siloed multi-channel model and integrate their channels so customers can enjoy a consistent, friction-free experience across them all, without having to start over every time. To reach this nirvana, businesses will have to start planning how to become truly channel agnostic, offering a gold-standard service to increasingly digital-savvy consumers.

Fed-up customers switch allegiances

Customers will lose patience with organisations that continue to blame the pandemic for long call waits and generally substandard customer care. Some will be so fed up that they will vote with their fingertips and switch allegiance to competitors who used 2020 to migrate to a more resilient, digital-first model.

In a double whammy, these omni-channel pioneers have raised the customer experience bar so high that consumers’ expectations are rising too. This will lead to a widening chasm between the businesses with slick customer engagement models and those still stuck in the siloed slow lane.

Customer service gets personal and predictive

We will see more organisations rely on data and analytics powered by AI and ML to better serve the omni-customer. By analysing customers’ digital trails, businesses can understand the context and intent of every interaction and apply these insights to provide a personalised customer journey that anticipates the consumer’s needs.

A biometrics boom

Biometric authentication powered by AI is already transforming many aspects of our lives, from touch ID to access buildings and facial recognition for phones and banking. This year we will see a sharp rise in the use of biometrics for omni-channel experiences, making it quicker and easier for customers to identify and verify themselves and remove the need to remember a long list of different pins, passwords, hints and prompts for different channels.

Voice biometrics are already demonstrating their ability to improve CX and will become an especially powerful tool. Some forward-thinking firms are currently using age detection voice biometrics to route older people to priority customer service queues with shorter wait times and security protocols designed to prevent fraudsters from hacking their accounts.

A new ‘CEO’ in town

With customer experience now a boardroom priority we will see the emergence of a new type of C level executive join the board – the Customer Experience Officer. This individual will have responsibility for the overall customer experience and the strategy to support every customer journey and will be accountable for external as well as internal customers.

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In summary, we will see more businesses adopting an omni-channel approach to customer engagement and embracing AI and ML in 2021. With this approach they will easily outclass their multi-channel competitors in the eyes of consumers – and ultimately drive up their NPS.

More about the author:

John Ing is a thought leader and technology disruptor with over 35 years’ experience in the IT Industry. This includes more than 25 years in Contact Centres having delivered some of the first ACDs and IVRs into Financial Services. More recently, John has led the delivery of the first Amazon Connect deployments into a UK Bank and is now supporting other organisations transform their customer experiences.

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