2021 Will be the year brands make winning experiences out of remote interactions

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30-second summary:

  • In line last year’s changes, customers’ behaviors and expectations have also evolved dramatically over the past year
  • 31 percent more likely to purchase online in 2021 than they were just a year prior
  • Cutting through the clutter and creating meaningful experiences for valued customers will be a priority for brands
  • Donna Tuths, Chief Transformation and Innovation Officer at Sutherland foresees four key trends playing out in 2021

2020 has forced brands to completely transform the way they operate in the wake of the pandemic, and it is evident that some of the changes we are experiencing will be permanent. Brand relationships that were once defined by visiting stores or face-to-face conversations with salespeople are now being reimagined as remote interactions. Mandatory physical distancing around the world, coupled with the rise of digital connectivity, has resulted in many brands transitioning from brick-and-mortar to online.

In line with this change, customers’ behaviors and expectations have also evolved dramatically over the past year. For instance, consumers were 31 percent more likely to purchase online in 2021 than they were just a year prior.

While online or remote interactions are not an entirely new concept, the challenge brands face is cutting through the clutter and creating meaningful experiences for their valued customers. Here are the four key trends I foresee playing out in 2021 to make that a reality.

Customer care will shift to a business driver

Marketers are taking notice. In the battlefield of experience, remote interactions with customers have become key. With the vast majority of them now taking place in the contact center, companies have come to recognize these interactions are gold. With the omnichannel capabilities available today, marketers have terabytes of data generated every day by their interactions with their customers that could be mined to hyper-personalized interactions, wow their customers, and make every contact count.

Investments in employee experience will have a greater impact on customer experience than ever before

Happy employees equal happy customers. The more brands invest in the employee experience, the more the customer benefits. AI-enabled tools used for recruiting can turn the power of data into creating a perfect match between their target consumers and the people they entrust to interact with them day in and day out. Furthermore, AI-enabled tools can enable those humans to provide the support that is frictionless, with less effort.  

This year will take brands much closer to getting the human-machine balance right

Rather than replacing humans, machines are elevating what humans do, giving them powers that reach beyond space and time. This delivers benefits to consumers and employees alike. While humans are busy interacting with customers, AI-enabled bots trained on sentiment data analysis and more can scour chat, email, and other channels to identify customers that need help and fast.

2021 may be the year AI-enabled marketing explodes

This would literally give the term “marketing automation” a new meaning. With huge amounts of interaction data available to many companies and advances in machine learning, brands could see next-generation, real-time, AI-enabled marketing where signals are detected and hyper-personalized messages and offers are instantly dispatched without nary a marketer or marketing operations person lifting a finger.

2021: A renewed focus on creating winning experiences

For brands to be more intentional about creating winning experiences across their multiple customer touchpoints, they need to improve on the way they leverage data, deploy aiding technologies and empower their employees to drive these interactions.

It is only by striking the right balance between the three that brands can deliver the kinds of experiences that ensure success in driving increased consumer delight and loyalty.

Donna Tuths is Chief Transformation and Innovation Officer and Chief Marketing Officer at Sutherland.

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