Top CX predictions for 2021: Our experts speak

Customer experience will continue to be the key competitive advantage in our increasingly digital, always-on world. Our experts share their key CX predictions for the coming year.

Written by Sravani Gade on

2020 brought about change on an unprecedented scale across the world. A global pandemic redefined every activity that we considered “normal” – going to work or school, shopping, socializing, pretty much every aspect of our lives. With in-person activities largely restricted, consumers invariably moved to digital solutions to meet their needs.

Businesses of all sizes and sectors have had to embrace digital channels and online solutions to survive. Delivering an exceptional customer experience no longer means just being where your customers are. It has transformed and evolved into creating meaningful interactions with customers to drive engagement, trust, and value. It means making every interaction matter more. 

Consumers and businesses together are resetting global trends while adapting to this “new normal”. Reports suggest that Black Friday online sales in 2020 saw a 22% surge while Cyber Monday’s online sales shot up 15.1% making it the largest online shopping day ever in the US. Businesses are having to accelerate their digital transformation initiatives earlier than planned and starting to embrace more innovative technologies and intelligent automation to meet customer demands at scale.

Our in-house experts, with a proven track record of helping businesses deliver seamless customer interactions, share their predictions about the key factors that will shape CX in 2021.

Video, rich messaging, and integrated payments will combine to create new business opportunities

Jay Patel, CEO, predicts, “Business-to-consumer interactions have seen a radical change in the past year. The need for better interactions, at speed and at scale, has forced many businesses to rethink their communication strategies in order to survive. As we enter the new year, increasing levels of automation, richer communication channels, and video will continue to fundamentally change how businesses engage with their customers. Video interactions will become more popular across industries with different use cases emerging from healthcare professionals to customer service agents.

With messaging apps becoming more and more ubiquitous in their usage, a combination of video interactions and rich media messaging with integrated payment options will become the next logical step in enhancing customer experience. Popular messaging apps like Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and Apple Business Chat have already integrated payment services within the messaging experience. It is only a matter of time before this becomes the natural extension for business-to-consumer interactions."

End-to-end customer interaction management is a strategic need

Sudarshan Dhamapuri

Sudarshan Dharmapuri, EVP Products, states, “Customer interactions will expand in scope and sophistication among businesses. This means that customer interactions at scale will increasingly need to be managed, automated, and orchestrated across systems, departments, and functional boundaries within an enterprise.

For example, a customer interaction that begins with a marketing message may lead to a conversation between the customer and a virtual assistant (or a chatbot), followed by a handover to a customer support agent, followed by an automated process that activates a product or an offer for that customer. Therefore, platforms that address such end-to-end customer journeys become critical and strategic in the enterprise IT estate. Ultimately, the overall customer experience is a function of how seamlessly such end-to-end processes and journeys that can empower each interaction are delivered and managed.”

Rich media messaging and personalized video content will dramatically increase

Bruce Bales

Bruce Bales, CEO, North America, shares, “2021 will be about rich content with an increased focus on interactive experiences. Messaging channels like RCS, WhatsApp, Apple Business Chat, and Facebook Messenger will continue to enable businesses to reach consumers with rich media and real-time interactions across mobile web, apps and the messaging inbox. 

MMS is rapidly growing in the US and will expand elsewhere for its ability to bring video content to a large audience. Viewed as an expensive channel previously, the cost of MMS is going down, and marketers increasingly look towards digital messaging channels as content sharing platforms, making MMS a compelling messaging channel for businesses. As video interactions become more and more common, personalizing video content will be key to delivering a CX that stands out among consumers. Leveraging static customer data to create dynamic, targeted, and personalized interactions will become mainstream in 2021.”

NLP and AI-driven customer service and emerging 5G networks will make an impact

Steve Murphy

Steve Murphy, CIO, North America, comments, “The acceleration of eCommerce and digital consumer engagement will lead to the growth and adoption of NLP and AI-powered chatbots for two main reasons – providing personalized customer experiences and to be the front line of customer service. Machine learning will begin to move into more applications and uses in businesses as well.

The spread of 5G networks will not only enable more video interactions and messaging capability on mobile devices but will also provide higher speeds and flexibility across wide areas. This will enable businesses to respond to customer inquiries and send marketing updates using rich media among other benefits, providing the fast and convenient experiences consumers expect. Emerging 5G networks will accelerate the adoption of network-based channels like RCS and OTT channels like Apple Business Chat or WhatsApp that combine rich media features with the speed of delivery that customers increasingly expect from businesses.”

New–age and traditional messaging channels will co-exist and transform customer interactions

Thomas Boesen

Thomas Boesen, SVP, predicts, “As most businesses have embedded two-way messaging into their customer communication strategies, it will be interesting to see how newer messaging channels will impact inbound and outbound customer communications. With the launch of Google’s Business Messages that allows users to seamlessly turn their web searches into interactions with businesses, customer-initiated contact and the need for instant responses will increase. Outbound campaigns launched on rich messaging channels like WhatsApp and RCS will co-exist and impact communications on traditional channels like e-mail and SMS. Voice calls combined with the ability to deflect to messaging channels or even video interactions will also gain popularity.

The combined result of the above developments will increase the pressure on businesses to improve their customer interactions. I expect that this will lead to a greater investment in automation and AI technologies in order to manage communication volumes more effectively whilst delivering a conversational customer experience.”