Though the concept of customer experience is age-old, the research around it is fairly new. Every year new studies reveal insights into important trends that are influencing businesses across the world. You can dismiss these trends as ‘fun facts’, but the truth is that these trends can guide your customer experience teams and help improve customer experience. The two richest men on the planet, Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos have built their empires with customer-centric products and services and hold customer experience an integral part of product design.
What is Customer Experience?
Customer experience is the impression customers have of your brand through all interactions across the entire customer lifecycle. It is a holistic approach that goes beyond your customer experience or customer service teams and is the responsibility of everyone in your organization.
Today, customers have a plethora of options to choose from and great informative content to help guide their decisions. The entire buying journey, from research to purchase, can be carried out from a single device in their hands. That is why it is important to provide an exceptional customer experience. You want potential customers to engage with you, buy from you and become crusaders of your brand.
While it is difficult to measure customer experience with metrics, some stats and trends are observed globally.
Here is a consolidated list of statistics and trends that your customer experience team should be paying attention to in 2021.
Customer Experience Statistics 2021
#1 73% of all people state customer experience as an important factor in purchasing decisions.
#2 Only 49% of U.S. consumers say companies provide a good customer experience.
#3 65% find a positive experience with a brand to be more influential than great advertising.
#4 32% of all customers would stop doing business with a brand they loved after one bad experience.
#5 82% of the top-performing companies report paying close attention to the human experience around digital and tech.
#6 88% of customers expect companies to accelerate digital initiatives due to COVID-19.
#7 83% of customers expect to engage with someone immediately when contacting a company.
#8 90% of customers emphasize that the behaviour of a company during this crisis demonstrates its trustworthiness.
#9 99% believe companies need to improve their trustworthiness.
A PWC survey from 12 countries found that 73% of all people state customer experience as an important factor in purchasing decisions. Yet only 49% of U.S. consumers say companies provide a good customer experience.
65% find a positive experience with a brand to be more influential than great advertising.
59% will walk away after several bad experiences, 17% after just one bad experience. 32% of all customers would stop doing business with a brand they loved after one bad experience.
“Only 49% of U.S. consumers say companies provide a good customer experience today.”
I am reminding you of this stat again as there is your window of opportunity. How do you fill this gap? 73% of respondents said that customer experience guides their purchases. It is so clear when you look at what customers want versus what they are getting that their expectations are not being met.
82% of the top-performing companies report paying close attention to the human experience around digital and tech.
COVID-19 and the Changes in Customer Expectations
According to the State of the Connected Customer report by Salesforce, 88% of customers expect companies to accelerate digital initiatives due to COVID-19. 83% of customers expect to engage with someone immediately when contacting a company — up from 78% in 2019. With accelerated improvements in technology and automation, most customers still value human interaction to resolve issues.
The pandemic and the upheaval of societal structures have affected all areas of life, including how people interact with brands. Empathy, personalization, convenience, and digital transformation are the keys to exceptional customer experience. 90% of customers emphasized that the behaviour of a company during this crisis demonstrates its trustworthiness.
A staggering 99% believe companies need to improve their trustworthiness, while 88% of U.S. consumers say that how much they trust a company determines how much they are willing to share personal information.
These statistics indicate an emerging pattern, reiterate the importance of customer experience and show you gaps that your brand MUST fill.
Customer Experience Trends 2021
We all have, as a global society, learned to do things differently in 2020. We have adapted, and while we hope the effects of the pandemic and the collective grief recedes in time, the economic, industrial and technological disruption is probably here to stay for a long time.
To thrive as a business you have to adapt to changing customer expectations.
#1 An omnichannel customer experience is non-negotiable
Customers today have multiple touchpoints with a brand. These may be social media, the company website, live chat or even offline interactions. Omni-channel customer experience streamlines the customer interaction across all touchpoints, delivering a consistent brand experience, both online and offline.
When customers contact a company using different channels, they are not having a series of separate conversations. To them, it is one conversation to solve the one problem that is in front of them.
An omnichannel customer experience strategy focuses on delivering a cohesive and unified customer experience regardless of the channel to reach out to your business. No interaction is siloed or repetitive.
Adobe recently found that companies with the most effective omnichannel customer experience strategies have a 10% Y-O-Y growth, a 10% increase in average order value and a 25% increase in close rates.
A classic example of a universally consistent customer experience is IKEA. You go to any IKEA store, anywhere in the world, and you will get the same experience everywhere. They invest heavily into their customer experience strategies, which have paid off well! IKEA has a huge and loyal customer base worldwide. They not only love the brand but also endorse it.
Remember here, though, to not confuse an omnichannel customer experience with omnichannel marketing. The latter focuses on consistent marketing across channels to guide the buying journey. The former addresses the entire lifecycle of a customer even after, especially after, the first sale.
#2 Chatbots automation
An increasing number of customers prefer ‘self-service’ and finding resolutions on their own. Gartner estimates that by 2030, a billion service tickets will be raised automatically by customer-owned bots.
How can companies ensure they are ready for this? By investing in AI and ML. 90% of companies now plan to deploy AI within 3 years, and this number is expected to grow to 40% by 2023.
The chatbots of today are not limited to answer frequently asked questions. Chatbots, though computerized, can personalize customer experience. Personalization is possible through integrations.
Modern artificial intelligence (AI) or machine learning (ML) bots can provide a great deal of continuity by keeping track of returning customers or users, their preferences, buying history, queries and even complaints.
Your ‘chatbot’s persona’ should represent your brand values and reflect the language and tone that your customers associate with your brand. This humanizes your brand, increases trustworthiness and authenticity.
#3 Visual engagement to assist customers in real-time
Visual engagement is a powerful real-time tool that combines video, screen-sharing or co-browsing to drive personalized experiences and rapid problem-solving. Knowledge sharers get online with customers in real-time to guide them or walk them through whatever needs to be done, adding the human element to digital interaction.
SaaS platforms have been using video engagement for product demos or customer support since long. But now even traditional professions have adopted visual engagement to enhance customer experience. Bankers have assisted customers looking at available loan options and guided them through digital application processes, e-signatures, etc. on a video call. Doctors offer video consultations for non-emergency medical consultations, and let us not forget our teachers who have been imparting education and keeping students engaged remotely through a screen.
COVID-19 has pushed people indoors and behind computer screens. We can conduct almost every activity over a phone or a computer. Even the most ‘digitally averse’ customers have adapted to this new way of life.
The pandemic will end at some point. But this change in consumer behaviour will outlast the crisis. Some customers may permanently switch to a completely digital experience, while some may increase their usage.
Digital-led experiences will continue to grow in popularity once the coronavirus is over. The companies that recognize this seismic shift and act quickly to innovate their customer experience strategies and help customers safely navigate their lives in the pandemic will gain a huge advantage.
#4 Focus on the mobile experience
84% of companies who claim to be customer-centric are now focusing on the mobile customer experience. Why? Because a bad mobile experience will seriously damage your brand.
57% of internet users say they will not recommend a business with a poorly designed website on mobile
When I say mobile experience, it is not just the resolution, navigation, the ease of buying through your mobile app, speed or the look of the website but also accessing customer support. 90% of customers report having a poor experience when seeking customer support on mobile devices.
Desktop traffic has been declining over the years, and if customers are shifting to mobile, businesses need to invest in mobile-friendly responsive websites that offer an optimal user experience.
#5 Increased customer engagement with loyalty programs
Loyalty reward programs are a popular way of showing appreciation to customers, letting them know they and their support are valued.
Customers like to know that they are valued and given the option would participate actively in loyalty programs. Loyal customers are more engaged and likely to buy from you. Enrolling customers in a rewards or loyalty program based on their preferences or buying behaviour increases the chances of their buying from you repeatedly.
A successful loyalty program drives immense value and is critical for growth, especially in the airline, retail, car rentals, restaurants, hotels, groceries and drug sectors.
#6 Emergence of empathy as a top customer experience metric
If I had to pick one learning from 2020, it is empathy. Businesses and management need to have empathy while dealing with both their employees and customers. It is an extremely emotional time for many across barriers of borders and geographies.
Businesses are built on people and relationships, and it is vital to humanize each conversation. Be prepared to serve and resolve customer concerns knowing that the customer may be affected economically, professionally or personally by COVID.
For example, a customer may want to cancel a dinner reservation because they just found out their partner has tested positive for COVID, or another may want to cancel a recurring payment because they lost their job. Empathy will guide you to listen proactively, think and connect with each customer so they feel supported.
Loyalty is an emotion, and the pandemic was emotional for many, if not all. During COVID-19, customer loyalty to brands has changed, with customers gravitating towards brands that showed their human side by donating proceeds to COVID relief or writing off expenses, waiving off credit card interests, etc. Customers saw these brands as trustworthy and helpful, hence valuable to them.
In the coming year, brands and companies that are successful will be ones that recognise this and create an actively empathetic organization for the post-COVID world so positive changes can sustain it into the future.
A successful customer experience strategy pays close attention to the customer journey and pain points at every touchpoint a customer interacts with a brand. Customer experiences that make an emotional or self-affirming impact are proven to increase customer satisfaction, increase conversion, grow trust, and build lifelong customer loyalty.
Keeping a real-time pulse on changing customer preferences and rapidly innovating to redesign experiences will be a key differentiator for successful brands.
I would love to hear your thoughts on these trends and statistics. Did any trend ‘jump’ at you? Did I miss a trend you may have noticed? Let me know in the comments below. Also, please share this article if you think it may help someone!