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Customer engagement trends, changes to employee workplace environments and new technological advances are all going to impact expectations and experiences for employees and customers in 2021. Let’s look at what these trends will look like and how your organization can evolve along with these changes.

2021 Trend #1: Remote Operations and Employees Will Remain

The shift to working from home was a forced necessity with the COVID-19 pandemic. However, even with a vaccine being rolled out, most organizations will continue to offer work from home flexibility on a more permanent basis. Many employees have grown to like the convenience and flexibility of working from home and would likely enjoy more work from home flexibility beyond the pandemic. In fact, Global Workplace Analytics reports work-from-home flexibility as one of the highest ranked workplace benefits, especially among Millennials and Baby Boomers. As such, many companies know that going back to business-as-usual pre-pandemic would likely have negative results on employee happiness, retention, and even productivity.

Customer service representatives and contact center staff representatives are no exception to this rule. They too were forced to carry out their job duties outside of the traditional office environment. While this shift created a lot of stress for many employees and businesses at first, innovative market leaders were able to quickly adapt to this unfamiliar environment. In fact, companies that embraced this shift, and found new ways to enable their remote contact center employees, witnessed noticeable improvements among their staff and customers.

Given the fact that many employees have taken to working from home, decentralized workforces are going to become increasingly prevalent. Businesses are also seeing the reduced operational costs and heightened flexibility a remote workforce provides. Thus, organizations should find new tools and resources to widespread operations and staff, or risk losing these employees to more flexible work environments.

2021 Trend #2: The Employee Experience Will Be More Important Than Ever

With more employees working outside of the office, it can be more challenging to create a strong, consistent employee experience. Establishing ways to better understand and support your employees' habits and needs, no matter where they are located, can result in happier, higher performing employees across the board. This is especially true for contact center employees. These individuals are typically presented with hundreds of customer questions and concerns on a daily basis, which can be stressful and overwhelming for staff, especially when managers and team members are not right there to support them.

Consider ways to simplify job functions for these employees to reduce their work-related stress and enhance the overall employee experience. Agent enablement solutions can instantaneously provide your customer service agents the right customer, product or company information, instantaneously and without having to navigate to a new screen. Providing your staff with tools and resources to perform their jobs with more ease and efficiency will enable them to support customers with less stress and confusion. As such, your customers are more likely to have their needs met in a quick and pleasant way, leading to a positive, more meaningful experience with your brand.

With our current environment being what it is, there are a lot of external stressors impacting your staff members and customers alike. Adopt staff enablement solutions to help streamline and simplify processes for employees onsite and at home, so they can continue to have a rewarding, stress-free employee experience that results in a rewarding, stress-free customer experience.

2021 Trend #3: Cloud Technology Integration Will Continue

A more decentralized workforce also means that tools and resources traditionally only available to on-site employees will also need to be made accessible to off-site staff. As such, many organizations have begun to adopt cloud technology solutions to continue operating efficiently, and many more will continue to do so in 2021.

Cloud technology solutions allow businesses to offer a seamless, unified experience for both staff members and employees across all locations and channels. These solutions offer value in numerous areas, such as helping managers to get a better sense of the workload and functional needs of their on-site and remote team members in real-time, connecting information between legacy systems and touchpoints, and building customer journeys across all channels.

The best way to start integrating cloud solutions is by taking a phased, or "hybrid cloud", approach that is controlled, thoughtful and cost sensitive. This approach should happen at a pace that makes sense for the needs of your business and in a way your consumers will respond well to. Take time on the front-end to uncover the needs and capabilities of your current systems, processes and people to determine how, where and at what pace to begin your migration to cloud technology. Every organization will go about adopting cloud technology in diverse ways, but it is important to make this a strategic priority to continue delivering a positive experience tor your customers and employees.

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2021 Trend #4: Customer Data Will Become Even More of a Business Imperative

Data analytics and AI technology will be top areas of investment for many industries and organizations. An ongoing understanding of how, where, and why customers engage with your business - and how, where and why they want to engage with your business - is essential to remaining relevant and competitive in today's on-demand environment. Consumers expect their interactions with your brand to be simple and specific to their needs, no matter what industry you operate in or what historical relationship you have with that customer. Though these factors play a role in the customer experience, they do not cancel out the need to deliver targeted, timely and relevant experiences to each one of your customers. Data is the means to deliver on this more personalized and meaningful customer experience.

If you are just starting out with data, begin with the data you have. Pull as much customer data as you can from systems and touchpoints that are directly within your control, and build customer data sets, going down as far as individual customer profiles, if possible. When building these data sets, look to be as comprehensive as possible so that your understanding of your customers goes beyond their current products and stated needs. As an example, you are a bank and have a customer with only $500 in their account, however this customer is reportedly worth over $1 million. Having this full view of the customer allows you the opportunity to place this individual as a higher priority than your other small accounts and may lead to growth and longevity with this high-potential relationship.

To take this to the next level organizations should start to look for data analytics technology that automates the collection of data and delivery of key customer insights, ideally pulling from your systems as well as external systems your customers have interacted with. Combining these internal and external data sets will build a 360-degree view of your customers, so your organization can deliver an experience with your brand that provides value to every customer, which in turn will lead to more loyalty, longevity and sales for your business.

As remote operations and on-demand services continue to grow and evolve, organizations will need to adapt to these shifts to remain in business. Avtex can help your business capitalize on these changes through consultation and technology solutions that support customer and staff enablement, cloud integration, and data collection. Learn more about how we can help your business drive exceptional experiences and create meaningful value for your employees and customers.

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