Consumer behavior changed in 2020. Really, we had to adapt in all areas of our lives. One constant? High customer experience expectations. What with next-day delivery (or faster), online chat, and the attention paid to our input, customers are demanding better CX. As companies work to continue to raise the bar to earn customer loyalty and grow the business bottom line, we’re seeing customer experience expectations bleed over into other areas of our lives too.
The global pandemic did shift some customer experience priorities. Safety and convenience became top considerations. Yet, with digital transformation, we’d already seen many shifts in CX expectations. Knowing that companies are competing for their dollar and emboldened by the increased access to information online, consumers have higher expectations.
Customers consistently demand:
- Conversational approach
- Faster response times
These core CX expectations are shifting the way businesses meet customer demand. At the same time, having these expectations met in our buyer’s journey leads us to shift our expectations in other areas of our lives as well.
Customer Experience Expectations in 2021
Let’s first dig deeper into each of the six expectations we can (ahem) expect to remain top priorities for customers in 2021.
Convenience remains one of the top “must-do’s” for 2021. “Nearly 80% of American consumers say that speed, convenience, knowledgeable help and friendly service are the most important elements of a positive customer experience,” according to PwC.
When it comes to CX, convenience can mean many different things. Among conveniences a customer wants include:
- Access to products and services at a convenient location.
- Easy open packaging
- Rapid delivery
- Scheduling power
Brands today aim to leverage their data to build better relationships with customers. Meeting customers where they are, when they want you is, to borrow a now oft-used phrase but for a fresh context, the “new normal.”
In Genesys’ 2020 Consumer Survey, 71% percent of respondents said that customer service had become “much more” or “somewhat more personalized” in the last five years. Interestingly, those in Germany, the U.S. and the U.K. said customer service had grown increasingly personalized while a third of respondents in New Zealand and Japan think service is less personalized.
McKinsey went so far as to say customers now take personalization for granted. Successful personalization, “yields 20 percent higher customer-satisfaction rates, a 10 to 15 percent boost in sales-conversion rates, and an increase in employee engagement of 20 to 30 percent.”
Popular personalization techniques such as recommending related products or services, recognizing the buyer’s intent, taking care of replenishments, recognizing the customer across all channels can make a difference. Yet, they must be used without crossing the line into “creepy.”
On top of greater personalization, consumers also expect a more conversational approach. Subrah Iyar, founder of client experience company Moxtra, predicted in a Forbes article that customer experience would shift from a “Push” to a “Pull” model. What does that mean? “The ‘Pull’ model for digital business-to-customer interactions makes customer engagement more humanized.”
As customer service author Adrian Swinscoe added, “When customers contact a company using different channels they don’t think they are having a series of separate conversations. They think they are having one conversation focused on trying to solve the one problem that is in front of them.”
Faster response times
Remember when a customer had to come down to your business to say something. Or write a letter? Or at least make a phone call? With email and online chat and social media, the expected response time has been curtailed dramatically. According to a survey by SuperOffice & Toister Performance Solutions, “nearly a third of customers expect businesses to respond to emails in one hour or less.”
You may think this is only among digital natives, but actually Boomers scored highest on expecting response immediacy. Some 36.4% of those aged 55-64 expected a response in one hour or less compared to 34.5% in the 45-54 range and 32.9% in the 18-24 demographic.
Oh, and it’s not just email. One study showed that 18% of customers expected response to questions or comments on a company’s social media within one hour.
The good news? The number of people expecting email responses within 15 minutes is declining. It’s down from 14.9% in 2015 to 11.3% in 2020. Whew.
Consumers expect their voices to be heard. Marketers build customer personas. Product development teams solicit customer input. Social listening provides a company with a window into the customer’s (carefully curated) soul. So, consumers expect to be understood.
Yet anyone who has sought to gather and analyze customer input knows how difficult it is to ask the right questions to garner useful data. Still, today’s customers expect to be asked. They know that they have the power. They recognize that digital technology is making it easier for company’s to reach out for input. They are already consistently interacting with:
- Customer satisfaction surveys
- Customer contact forms
- Email feedback requests
- Usability tests
- Social media polls
Plus, they are informed enough to know you are tracking their activity on your site and collecting data about their activities online or in-store. But they want it to be valuable to them that you are doing so. They want to see that you are listening!
With customers concerned about their health, their finances, and job stability, every business had to look for ways to demonstrate care and concern. Empathy was a big 2020 buzzword.
Look at the call center, for one. Instead of requiring quick dispensation of a call and moving on to the next contact, some businesses encouraged agents to spend more time communicating with customers. Or companies that couldn’t get out to make sales calls put a link to a calendar app in employee email signatures inviting clients to get in touch for a virtual coffee. Not to talk products, but to just connect with another human.
Nevertheless, in the Genesys research, 48% of consumers didn’t think companies show enough empathy. Across generations, 63% of Gen Zers felt businesses were working to resolve issues with empathy while only 47% of Boomers believed the same.
Impact of CX on Other Aspects of Life
Having these expectations met by companies that don’t even know us, not really, can impact our perspective in our personal and professional lives.
Why doesn’t a Mom get the baseball bat the kid wants within hours of that request? No tween wants to wait until the weekend for that need to be met. And it’s not just kids who are being shaped by their digital interactions with brands.
Adults want their needs not only met but anticipated. In this digital environment where we are inundated with information to absorb, we appreciate content curation and the convenience of having fewer choices to make.
So, customer experience expectations play out in our day to day experiences as humans. What we’ll talk about next, though, is how customer expectations for high level of attention impact employee experience expectations.