Customer experience is important — even for the US Federal Government. In fact, the US Federal Government launched a customer experience mandate for 25 of its public-facing agencies to improve the US public experience.

The past year impacted customer experience across the board, leaving us looking at a shifted landscape. All the pieces may be the same, but the game has changed.

From digital experiences to self-service, here are the top three trends most likely to impact CX in 2021.

Customer Experience Is Relational, Not Transactional

In a time of crisis, people remember those who take the time to care. Those who listen to their struggles and show understanding of their frustrations. The crises of 2020 made customers pay attention to brands and how empathetic they are. More than ever, you are being evaluated on how you do business, not just the product you sell or the results you deliver.

When you provide positive and authentic experiences, you have a higher chance of creating lifelong brand advocates. Especially when people are struggling, human interaction can make all the difference. Whether you’re sharing a one-on-one connection with a customer, truly listening to their concerns or you’re going above and beyond to solve a problem, authenticity goes a long way toward relationship-building.

Recent research from LoyaltyLion shows that 68% of consumers are motivated to be loyal if they know that a brand shares their values. Take 2021 as an opportunity to prove to your existing customer base that you align with and share their beliefs. This will help you form a strong community of customers with a sense of belonging. 

Related Article: OMB Pushes Government Agencies to Improve Customer Experience

Forget Digital Events – It’s All About Digital Experiences

This past year changed the way we look at events, with in-person events shifting quickly to digital. Even as we look forward to a post-COVID world, many of us are planning for hybrid events, mixing in-person and virtual. It’s clear that digital events are here to stay — great news for those of us looking to reach larger audiences on a smaller budget.

But, as anyone versed in digital transformation can tell you, a shift to digital requires a shift in strategy. You can’t just take the in-person experience and move it online. Beyond that, the shift to digital means that customers have a nearly endless choice of digital content to consume, from videos to webinars. When you’re competing against so much digital content, it can be hard to make yours stand out.

So how can you level up your digital events in 2021? Think beyond the digital event to the digital experience.

Learning Opportunities

  • Leverage interactive content. How many digital events have you been to that are just a salesperson reading over a slide deck — without even turning the webcam on? There are so many options to make your virtual events more engaging. From live polls and live Q&As to embedded video clips or gamification, interactive content helps keep virtual attendees engaged.
  • Keep branding consistent. A fully branded experience matters, because the engagement journey begins the moment a customer finds out about your event. Whether they’re seeing a promotion on one of your social channels, clicking through to a registration form on your website or in the event itself, you’ll want a consistent look, feel and message.
  • Get social. Think outside the PowerPoint and consider interactive, informal ways to engage your customers. Virtual happy hours, virtual games and virtual fireside chats are all great ways to keep customers engaged while providing a unique — and memorable — experience.

Related Article: Shifting to a Virtual Events Strategy

Contactless and Self-Service Are Here to Stay

The COVID-19 pandemic pushed digital transformation forward. Even the most traditional of industries pivoted to embrace remote work, video conferencing and collaboration tools. For customers who spent the majority of the year self-quarantining, contactless and self-service were the name of the game. 

According to Zendesk, 67% of customers prefer self-service over speaking to a company representative, and 91% would use an online knowledge base if it were available and tailored to their needs. For 2021, start thinking about how AI can help streamline customer support. In 2019, 25% of all customer interactions were automated through AI and machine learning — and Gartner predicts this number will grow to 40% by 2023.

Whether you’re using AI or a knowledge base, or whether customers stop by your office for help or use your website, in 2021, think about how you can improve your entire customer experience to be more transparent. From using a form on your website or app to eliminating shared pens and clipboards for in-person sign-in processes to deploying a sign-up form to control the number of people present in a physical space, there are many options to use technology in ways both small and large that will impact the customer experience.

Related Article: When Online and In-Person Meet: The Challenges of Takeout and Curbside Pick-Up

Get Up to Speed With Customer Experience

As we begin 2021, many of us say “customer experience” when we mean “customer service.” And those of us who work in customer experience know too well that executives view CX as something they can have a team work on, without focusing on building customer-centric processes, investing in customer-centric technology or building a customer-centric culture. So, for 2021, if you’re not already, get up to speed with customer experience. Your customers are watching — and they’re voting with their wallets.

Besides, if the US Federal Government can invest in improving the customer experience, what’s stopping you?

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