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Trends into 2021

Release Date: December 15, 2020 • Episode #146

2020 was quite the ordeal! It goes without saying that the number one influencer of how companies designed and executed their customer experience was the COVID pandemic, making 2020 a year that the world would look forward to leaving behind. Host Steve Walker welcomes Walker colleagues Sean Clayton, Ryne Fanning, Sonya McAllister, and Rahissa Winningham for a look at how the pandemic influenced CX in 2020 and what we have to look forward to in 2021.

Sean Clayton

Sean Clayton

Ryne Fanning

Ryne Fanning

Sonya McAllister

Sonya McAllister

Rahissa Winningham

Rahissa Winningham

Highlights

Digital’s rise in CX:

Rahissa: “I think we’ve seen a lot in digital. I think we also see a lot in wanting to get that 360 experience. So being able to take information that’s collected from surveys on digital platforms, even CRM and HCM data, and put that all somewhere. I think we’ve seen people want to see more of the full customer view and not just these one, two, three touch points, but their full journey across.”

Going Touchless:

Sean: “…when people do go into stores, companies are going to look at how many of those interactions during that in-store experience or that hotel experience involve touching things. And we all touch our phones there obviously, for some sort of less than good hygiene practices. So how can we get to what people are calling zero UI, meaning it’s all voice based. It’s all location based, proximity based, which I think you touched on earlier on, as opposed to screens and keyboards. And even now, when you check out in most places, you’re going to get your credit card out or touch the keypad that the retailer provides. So it’s going more in a zero UI direction.”

Step back and think of culture:

Sonya: “I’m thinking more along the lines of how companies now settle in to the new normal. And, you know, everybody has scrambled to adapt to what customers want right now. But 2021 feels like a time that we need to then step back and say, OK, you know, what has all of these adjustments done to things like, our culture, our employee engagement, and you really just revisit whether those strategies are currently on track or need to be adapted as well, so it’s time to kind of step back from all of the immediate changes that companies had to make. And quickly, to just keep functioning and think more broadly now about are they on the right path strategically if we keep moving in this direction or do we need to really rethink some of our particularly, I think, the company culture and keeping a company customer focused during a time when there’s so much less human interaction?”

Transcript

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Steve:
Well, it certainly has been quite a year 2020 with all that's happened, how should we look forward to what CX has to offer?

Rahissa:
I think we've seen a lot in digital. I think we also see a lot in wanting to get that 360 experience. So we've seen people want to see more of the full customer view and not just because one, two, three touch points, but their full journey.

Steve:
A look at what's trending with customer experience into 2021, on this episode of… The CX Leader Podcast.

Announcer:
The CX Leader Podcast with Steve Walker is produced by Walker, an experience management firm that helps our clients accelerate their XM success. You can find out more at Walkerinfo.com.

Steve:
Hello, everyone. I'm Steve Walker, host of The CX Leader Podcast and thank you for listening. As we wrap up 2020 on The CX Leader Podcast, we explore the topics and themes to help leaders like you leverage all the benefits of your customer experience and help your customers and prospects want to do more business with you. Well, 2020 was quite the ordeal. That's probably a nice way of putting it. It goes without saying that a number one influencer of how companies designed and executed their customer experience was the COVID pandemic. But before we enter the New Year, let's take a quick look at what we as CX pros experienced and what we have to look forward to in 2021. I'm always excited to have my own friends and colleagues on the program. They make some of the best guests because they are super talented and passionate and committed to the profession of customer experience. And today I've got four all-stars in alphabetical order. They are Sean Clayton, who's our senior vice president and leads our advisory services group at Walker. Ryne Fanning, our VP of Engineering Services. Sonya McAllister, who's a senior VP and head of our sales and also a principal in the firm, and a first-time guest on the podcast, our friend and colleague Rahissa Winningham, who is a technical consultant and technology consultant and actually leads our group of implementation specialists, Rahissa, Sonya, Sean, Ryne, thanks for being on the podcast and welcome to this last episode of 2020.

Rahissa:
Thanks for having us.

Steve:
All right…

Ryne:
Yeah, thanks for having us.

Steve:
Why don't we just start, go around the horn once and and just sort of knock off some of the notable things that happened in 2020 and sort of what the impact that was on the profession. Sean, you want to start us off.

Sean:
Yeah, well like I said, Steve, thanks, first of all, I think the the big thing we're going to talk about a lot is how did COVID and the pandemic change the way that we think about customer experience and deliver customer experiences. And it really did have a huge impact, I think, from a couple of different standpoints. One, if you're a CX practitioner, CX professional, you really have to change kind of maybe traditional mode of measuring and focused on metrics and tracking and really think more about listening and testing and having a sense of empathy with with your customers. So that's maybe a fairly significant change just in the way that CX as a discipline has been evolving in 2020. And I think the other way is just in terms of how it's delivered and some of the basic principles of good customer experience, it's still that we shouldn't forget about them, whether it's helping customers to achieve what they're trying to do to to get that task completed, get that goal accomplished, whether it's the effort involved and in achieving that goal and making that as smooth and frictionless as possible, or whether it's it's how they felt about going through that interaction, those things is still there. What's really changed is how brands and companies have to now be able to convey that sense of trustworthiness and safety in all aspects, but in particular in industries like retail and dining, hotel travel, et cetera, these that fundamentally new things that they would not focus on in 2019.

Steve:
Sonya, what are your observations on 2020?

Sonya:
And maybe just to continue on Sean's theme a little bit, I think one of the big outcomes of what he described is the change in interactions that would have normally been person to person for those to now be self-service and likely digital, and how that can affect the overall customer experience in both good ways and bad. But there is a very different way of thinking about what a good customer experience is now when an employee is not involved in that interaction.

Steve:
Yeah, everybody's digital now whether they want it to be or not. Right?

Sonya:
Exactly.

Steve:
Rahissa, what's your take on 2020?

Rahissa:
Yeah, just to kind of piggyback off that a little bit, I think we've seen a lot in digital. I think we also see a lot in wanting to get that 360 experience. So being able to take information that's collected from surveys on digital platforms, even CRM and HCM data, and put that all somewhere. I think we've seen people want to see more of the full customer view and not just these one, two, three touch points, but their full journey across.

Steve:
Excellent, yeah. One of the things we talked about, I think it goes back to to Sean's thinking of "from-to" you know, we've had to get way more creative in how we're interacting with our customers and where we're extracting that feedback. I mean, it's forced us to do that, something that we've been talking about for a long time. I mean, we we really we're talking about the need for self-service as far back as 2013. And this is just really been an accelerator. Ryne, what's your take on 2020 now that it's almost over?

Ryne:
Yeah, well, when I reflect back on this year, I think of businesses have had to adjust to make the customer more comfortable. So whatever that means in that specific industry. You know something as simple as grocery shopping. People are not we're not eager to head to the grocery store and go down every aisle. So the pickup and delivery options were a lot more appealing to a lot of people during the pandemic. So, you know, every industry has had to adjust somewhat some more than others, but especially on you mentioned those person to person industries have really had to take a step back and think, what is the customer comfortable with? So that's what hit me the most looking back on this year.

Steve:
Yeah. And, you know, it's it is easy to dwell on the negatives that have come out in this. But, you know, I keep trying to remind myself that even though this is the first time something like this has happened in in my lifetime, this has happened throughout all of human history. It is not that unusual. And the in the world does adjust, and the world, will adjust. So carrying some of the lessons from 2020 and thinking about what maybe comes back to normal and what things might not ever come back to normal or what is going to be the new normal, where do we see some of these trends evolving? Want to go right back to you, Ryne?

Ryne:
Yeah. So I think the more seamless and easy the transaction is for something like retail, like Sean mentioned, I think those companies are going to be successful. So just recently, I had to return something to a store at the mall. There's a lot of online ordering going on in our house right now. And every once in a while, you know, if you're if you're buying some clothing, it doesn't fit. Right. So you still have to return it. There are some options of, you know, sending through the mail. But for this particular one, I decided to drop off this item and it probably literally took me all of 30 seconds to return this item. And I was walking away feeling refreshed because I had pretty much blocked off half an hour of my day to devote to this waiting in line. And I just thought, wow, that was a fantastic experience.

Steve:
Rahissa, what are some of the things that you see that are going to either change forever or maybe come back as we go into hopefully a 2021 that gets us a little more back to normal?

Rahissa:
I think that we're going to see a lot more companies wanting to get quick insights. So kind of like Ryne mentioned, you know, you go when you return the product. But then I've been in places where I've gone and return something or I've had a shopping experience and I'm instantly prompted with a hey, then we bag this correctly, did we… how quick was our associate "X" to be able to be able to load your groceries, etc.? So I think what we're going to start seeing is a major trend to be able to get some quick insights as to how businesses can improve what they're currently doing in the in the pandemic situation that we're in. But I think we're going to start seeing a lot more emphasis on in-app functionality. I think we're going to start seeing a lot more mobile compatibility testing and different things like that.

Steve:
So really stuff that happens right at the moment where, you know, value is supposed to be delivered and and is the experience, in fact, living up to what was promised or what the customer's expecting? Sonya, where do you see things headed as we go out of 2020?

Sonya:
I must explain to kind of tag on to what Ryne and Rahissa mentioned. I think we've talked about this for a few years about needing to meet customers where they are when you want feedback from them. And, you know, 2020 changed where customers are for sure.

Steve:
Yeah.

Sonya:
And you know, how companies have adapted to that is key to their future success. And I, I suspect that except for those cases like airlines and such, where so much of what their prior experience was will need to return, I don't think a lot of industries will go all the way back to where it was pre-COVID. You know, all of the ways that we've made certain experiences, self-service or again, no. No involvement or engagement with another human. I don't know why those need to go back. So companies are probably needing to think about how do we best use those resources that aren't now managing those customer interactions to deliver an experience where our customers are today.

Steve:
Sean, what do you what trends are you going to see us take into next year that have come out of this?

Sean:
Yes, I think another one that we'll see continuing to evolve is is omnichannel, which we've kind of said over and over the years is critically important. It goes back to this honest comment about meeting customers where they are literally physically. But the way we think about omnichannel has changed this year. And some companies have been quite successful about really redesigning experiences. You think about contactless, think about that curbside pickup experience, something that really didn't exist a year or two ago, and now it's being very successfully implemented by retailers like Best Buy. So it's really a hybrid. There's elements of that journey, if you will, that are digital and start off on a on a browser, on a phone. But they're ultimately still delivered physically. And so employees are still really important to how that experience goes and maybe even more critically important that they than they used to be. So when we think about a journey and what are the moments of truth and those moments of truth excelling, or are they painful in terms of that customer experience, those could really shift. An example: Best Buy can get it all right in terms of that contactless experience, that curbside pickup. But if you pull up outside the store and the employee that delivers your video game or whatever it is you just bought shows up without that mask on properly and then those hanging out over it, then that may just destroy that experience and that sense of trust that you might have had. So it's it's really changing the that journey and how that journey should be delivered by brands in a way that in addition to being effortless and easy and pleasant, also reinforces the feeling of trust and safety.

Steve:
Now, let's go and see if we can get out our crystal balls and maybe tell our listeners a little bit about what might happened in 2021. So we'll just go back in the other direction. So, Sean, what do you expect in 2021? What's your big prediction for next year.

Sean:
Yeah, so this is something we've kind of discussed the different people brought up so far in the session today. But I think digital transformation will just be even bigger than it has been up until this point. And it will go into some areas that we've probably only thought about before. But now we've become really central to how customers are able to realize the right type of experiences they're interacting with brands. So we think primarily maybe in terms of digital experience and browsers and phones, I think what we're going to see in 2021 is more of an effort to expand into things like augmented reality, meaning I want to spend as minimal time in the store or interacting with people where there is a risk of a health risk, essentially. And so maybe there are some things now where I can look at products that I want to buy for my house myself and see them in an augmented reality setting at home and then not have to have as much time, if any, in store in a physical setting. And I think in addition to that, when people do go into stores, companies are going to look at how many of those interactions during that in-store experience or that hotel experience involve touching things. And we all touch our phones there obviously, for some sort of less than good hygiene practices. So how can we get to what people are calling zero UI, meaning it's all voice based. It's all location based, proximity based, which I think you touched on earlier on, as opposed to screens and keyboards. And even now, when you check out in most places, you're going to get your credit card out or touch the keypad that the retailer provides. So it's going more in a zero UI direction.

Steve:
Fascinating. That's a great, great take. Sonya, what's your predictions for 2021?

Sonya:
I'm thinking more along the lines of how companies now settle in to the new normal. And, you know, everybody has scrambled to adapt to what customers want right now. But 2021 feels like a time that we need to then step back and say, OK, you know, what has all of these adjustments done to things like, our culture, our employee engagement, and you really just revisit whether those strategies are currently on track or need to be adapted as well, so it's time to kind of step back from all of the immediate changes that companies had to make. And quickly, to just keep functioning and think more broadly now about are they on the right path strategically if we keep moving in this direction or do we need to really rethink some of our particularly, I think, the company culture and keeping a company customer focused during a time when there's so much less human interaction?

Steve:
The company culture thing really speaks to, I think, people like us who are used to working in an office, you know, collaboratively with our colleagues and doing lots of travel on site and being on site with clients. And, you know, we did adapt to that and we figured it out and we've made it work. But, you know, what's what's going to be the hybrid going forward? And there probably are places where the smart companies could invest in, you know, things that are going to come back. And then there's probably some resources that may be misallocated because some of this is never going to come back. Very good observation. Rahissa, what say you on this topic? What's your big prediction for 2021.

Rahissa:
Yeah. So I'm sort of thinking two things, so I'm kind of thinking that EX effect on CX. So I'm thinking these employees that are interacting with these customers either digitally in person on a pickup, what is that effect on CX? How are we seeing these employee interactions, how they're feeling in the day to day in their company culture, affecting their interactions on customer experience? And how is that overall affecting the company, whether or not we being remote and more having less of that face to face interaction, is that really having an effect? And then I also think we're going to see new ways of understanding information. So I know that a lot of people are bringing in voice analytics, text analytics, what are we going to be leveraging and talking about? And outside of just collecting, you know, your CSAT, you're NPS that type of stuff, I think more and more companies want to see we have all this text information. How do we leverage that to be able to better understand customer experience? How can we take it and then make actionable insights out of that?

Steve:
Yeah, I'm glad you mentioned that, because that's an area that I know our our people have tremendous interest in. And sometimes, like, you know, they've already got the interaction recorded. You know, why why can't we just glean some of that information out of it? So excellent. Ryne, what's your big prediction for 2021?

Ryne:
Well, Steve, this is a tough one to go last on. A lot of the good ideas have already been taken, but…

Steve:
That's why we made you the cleanup hitter here.

Ryne:
[Laugh] So I, I think just kind of expanding on a few of the topics that have already been mentioned. So, you know, making interactions more seamless, more touchless. There are a lot of things that have happened over the course of this year where things that maybe were seen as convenient or extremely convenient or maybe even to the point of seeing being seen as lazy, like grocery pick up or grocery delivery are going to become more the norm. Like Sonya was saying, you know, that pendulum probably isn't going to swing all the way back to where we were before the pandemic. And then a few other for fans of The CX Leader Podcast, a few of these futuristic topics have already been discussed fairly recently, like going through the call center recorded data, or one that one that struck me was car delivery service for servicing your car. You know, that's a creative way of not having a customer come to a to a shop that is filled with people. That is a very creative solution. And it saves the customer a lot of time. So I just think innovative solutions like that that will kind of invert how people get together in terms of business will will be the norm, not the exception like they are today.

Steve:
A great set of observations that you all have made on 2020 and 2021 and what the trends mean. So I personally took a lot of notes here and I hope our listeners did too. Sonya, I'm interested in this, you know, this rapid move to digitalization like everything's digital. How do we maintain that personal impact that, you know, that's one of the tenants that we've always had about customer experience is it's got to be personal. How do you do that in a digital setting?

Sonya:
Yeah, I think that's key. And we have been talking about a long time, especially for business-to-business companies who are probably as advanced as their business to consumer counterparts and their ability to deliver personalized digital experiences. Right? A lot of B2C companies have have done a lot in the past few years to understand what their customers are doing during digital transactions and serve up appropriate content that really catches that customer at the right time. B2B companies. Not so much, and I think now, though, that will be an important part of any B2B company's, customer portal or partner portal or any of the ways that they're now setting up for transactions to happen, they'll need to learn those lessons from the B2C companies on how to make those interactions feel personalized and not like the company has no idea who's on their portal and what they're trying to do.

Steve:
Yeah, you make a great point. Know like like Amazon, you know, all of our interactions with Amazon are digital and they're really good at saying, you know, customers who bought this also bought that. And, you know, so those types of things, if if our CX pros can think about that, who have just recently had to adopt the digital platform, just keep going back to your B2C experiences yourself. And how does that apply?

Sonya:
I heard an example just the other day of a company who… a B2B company who figured out in the course of some work we did with them that one piece of information they could have on their customer portal was the whether or not the product was available right now. And that's just a basic for those of us who shop online.

Steve:
Yeah!

Sonya:
But for B2B, that's not a you know, it's just not been a common requirement. But, boy, what a difference it made in that customer experience to know if I place this order today, it's on hand and, you know, it will get here within a reasonable amount of time.

Steve:
That's really good. Thank you. All right, colleagues, it is that time. One of our signature things that we do is we always provide our listeners with some take home value. Typically, that's something that they can learn from this podcast and go and apply very shortly to improve their overall customer experience. And with this special podcast, we can put a little bit of a spin on it. But what is your – based on everything we've talked about, the trends, kind of what we've come out of in 2020 and what we're hopeful for, for 2021 – what are your best tips for our listeners and what's what's your one piece of advice for them as they go into 2021 and Ryne since you complained about being last the last time. I'll let you go first this time.

Ryne:
Yeah. I would say keep your customer experiences as seamless as possible. So even though things are continuously changing, we still need to keep the lens of the customer at the forefront of our of our minds.

Rahissa:
Hey Rahissa, it's your turn for some take home value for our listeners. What can they do in 2021 to have their best chance of success? What's your best tip?

Rahissa:
I would say don't be afraid to explore avenues that you have not yet. So if you've been doing sort of the same thing for the past couple of years, don't be afraid to explore something different. Don't be afraid to explore different avenues or collect information in a way that you have not yet done it. Qualtrics is here to help. Walker is here to help.

Steve:
That's great. Be bold. Be courageous. All right, Sonya, what's your take home value for 2021 for our listeners?

Sonya:
I liked a theme that Rahissa mentioned earlier, which was the employee experience and engagement and how that impacts customer experience. Again, as we're kind of getting all settled back in to what might feel like a regular routine in a regular way of doing business, how do we make sure that those employees, particularly the ones that are now customer facing, are in the right mindset and that we have, again, the right kind of culture in place to support them, to deliver the customer experiences that we we want to.

Sean:
Great. Sean, bring us home?

Sean:
Yes, I think looking back on 2020, COVID forced everybody and just about every profession and vertical into a very reactive mode, there was no way about that. But the companies and brands that have been successful this year did so because they were very nimble and adaptive, they were able to really adjust on the fly to the situation. So coming back to the original remarks that I made, I think from a CX professional, CX practitioners standpoint, 2021 needs to be all about refocusing away from pure measurement and metrics and really putting more emphasis on listening to customers and being more agile in terms of how you're listening. So now is the perfect time between now and the beginning of the year to kind of set a New Year's resolution. So instead of New Year's resolution to look at your current program, your current CX programs, and ask yourself, do we really have a good 360 degree view of our customers? Do we really have employees feedback integrated into how our programs are run and deployed and the insights that are generated? Are we really meeting customers where they are with the way that we conduct customer programs, do we have the ability to be very topical and nimble and agile in terms of being able to react to anything that might come along in 2021 that we're not expecting today? And are we using multiple listening methods, not just surveys, but, as Rahissa and Ryne mentioned, things like voice analytics and qualitative techniques so that we really do have a good holistic view of customer needs heading into next year.

Steve:
Shawn Clayton is a senior vice president of advisory services here at Walker. Ryne Fanning is our VP of Engineering Services. Sonya McAllister leads our sales team. And Rahissa Winningham is technology consultant and leads our implementation specialist group. So very grateful to have all of you on the show and giving your best tips for 2021. And if anybody would like to continue the conversation, could you just quickly give us an email or a LinkedIn profile so they could find you. Rahissa?

Rahissa:
Feel free to email me at rwinningham@walkerinfo.com.

Steve:
Sonya?

Sonya:
Same, except it's smcallister@walkerinfo.com.

Steve:
And Ryne?

Ryne:
Yeah, rfanning@walkerinfo.com. Also on LinkedIn.

Steve:
And Sean?

Sean:
sclayton@walkerinfo.com and LinkedIn.

Steve:
And I believe you can all find all these folks on our website too, if you just navigate through the website and get to the homepage and look for our professional page. Thank you all for being on the program and really appreciate it. I hope you'll come back again in the New Year and we'll see how you did on your predictions.

Ryne:
Thanks, Steve.

Steve:
If you want to download Walker's new report, "Next Level CX for B2B companies", it's a report that focuses on helping B2B companies rise to the next level of CX excellence, regardless of their current program maturity. It's an excellent resource here as you're planning to go into the next year. You can download the report for free at cxleaderpodcast.com/nextlevelcx. If you want to talk about anything you heard on the podcast or about how Walker can help your business's customer experience, feel free to email me at a podcast@walkerinfo.com. Be sure to check out our website, cxleaderpodcast.com to subscribe to the show and find all of our previous episodes, our podcast series and the contact information, so you can drop me a line and let us know how we're doing. The CX Leader Podcast is a production of Walker. We're an experience management firm that helps companies accelerate their XM success. You can read more about us at Walkerinfo.com. Thanks for tuning in all year. Have a great holiday season and a happy New Year and we'll see you again next time.

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