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2021 is almost over, and we’re not even over 2020 yet. But even as the year flew by, we learned a lot about customer engagement. We saw brands scramble to respond to a crisis at the US Capitol in January, we watched as they tried to guide customers through the distribution of vaccines (and now boosters!), and we celebrated as they helped us get back out into the world over the summer.
So… Now what? What can we take away from yet another tumultuous year? And what should we expect from the next 12 months — both good and not so good? Look, we don’t have a crystal ball. We’d tell you exactly what will happen in 2022 if we could, but we can’t. But we can give you data-backed and useful predictions, informed by CX experts with decades of experience. Here are the four customer engagement trends you should be on the lookout for in 2022.
The rise of digital customer engagement means the rise of more channels. But, most importantly, it means having a unified view of data and experience across all channels. The growing digital CX trend has exploded since the beginning of 2020, and it’s only accelerating. When customers interact with brands, they demand a seamless experience across every channel they usually use to connect with friends and family. This means brands must have the ability to take conversations from voice to SMS to social media without a hitch or a delay. For contact centers handling all of those channels and data at scale, that’s a real challenge. And for marketers creating a desirable brand experience across all channels and modalities, that’s also a challenge.
Fortunately, brands can use digital customer engagement solutions to meet this challenge. Broadly speaking, there are two steps brands should take to create better, more seamless cross-channel experiences for their customers.
The first step toward a better CX is to give your contact center the right tools to digitize. Some contact centers attempt to staff up to handle inquiry spikes and make sure they’re taking care of customers on every channel. You might, for example, have a specific team dedicated to customer care on Twitter, while another one takes care of SMS inquiries. But this creates two problems. First, it’s inefficient. In a time when contact center budgets are falling in most industries, it doesn’t make sense to hire more staff to take care of customers. Second, it creates silos. Imagine you’re a customer trying to make a return, and you send the brand a Twitter DM to initiate the process. Then, later, you want to check up on the process but you’re not near your computer, so it’s easier for you to text the brand. If different teams are handling Twitter and SMS inquiries, you’re not going to have a seamless transition from one to the other.
This is why some of the world’s top brands, instead of staffing up, are investing in solutions that combine customer care from many different channels in a single digital platform. These solutions eliminate the need for different teams handling different channels; this way, agents can handle Twitter DMs, SMS messages, and much more all in the same platform. And rather than investing in more agents to handle volume spikes, brands can increase efficiency even further with AI chatbots. These bots, while they don’t replace human agents, can handle simple inquiries and assist agents with more complex ones, cutting down on average handle time while increasing customer satisfaction. This means a better bottom line for digital contact centers.
Still, as great as it is to meet your customers on the right channels, that’s no longer enough to ensure an exceptional experience. Channel digitization can take you only so far; to really go the extra mile, you need to intimately understand the customer journey so that you can change it when you need to. This is why omnichannel analytics solutions are so important: they can spot trends that a human would miss and turn those trends into actionable insights to improve CX.
Imagine, for example, that your brand just changed its billing system, creating a confusing new line item on customers’ bills. While you may not have expected this new bit of confusion, customers are calling, emailing, texting, and chatting about it left and right. If you’re only looking at customer satisfaction surveys, there’s a good chance you miss the broader trend here.
But an omnichannel analytics solution uses natural language understanding to examine every customer interaction across all these channels to catch this trend, allowing your billing department to take care of it before it further disrupts the customer journey. Just like that, an issue that could have caused customer confusion and maybe even churn is eliminated quickly and efficiently.
Customers in 2020 and 2021 have started caring more than ever about having genuine interactions with their favorite brands, and they expect those brands to take real, concrete action to make the world a better place. These trends will only accelerate in 2022 — and that can create both unique challenges and exciting opportunities. Likely the biggest challenge is providing that human touch in every interaction without coming across as forced or overbearing.
The best advice we can give here, as almost always, is to start with your customers. They know what they’re looking for and they won’t be shy about telling you. If there’s a pain point in your customer journey, that feedback, both solicited and unsolicited, will help you find out how to fix it. You just have to make sure you’re paying attention — and that starts with using the right technology to listen to all your interactions, across all channels. (That’s right, I’ll say the magic word again — omnichannel!) Solutions like Khoros CX Insights can give you this kind of breadth of insight in your customer interactions.
It’s also important to remember that listening to your customers isn’t just about fixing things when they go wrong. It’s about recognizing and celebrating them when they go right. Highlighting really genuine interactions can go a long way for your brand, as this is a way to humanize yourself and disarm potential naysayers. One great example of a really heartwarming, genuine customer interaction comes from an amazing eco-conscious fashion brand, Rothy’s. Earlier this year, Rothy’s SVP of Merchandising and Product Erin Lowenberg joined our very own Spike Jones and Katherine Calvert on our CX Confessions podcast, and she shared this incredible story:
Someone wrote to us to share that she went to visit her mom who was not well, and all her mom at that time wanted to do was just to go for long walks — that’s all she was able to do. This customer, who was new to the brand, had only brought one pair of shoes, and it was a pair of Rothy’s. And she put 15 miles on them every day to go on these walks with her mom. And she openly shared this appreciation for our product, which she bought because she thought it was a cute pair of shoes, but which also helped her get through one of her hardest times.
That kind of genuine customer appreciation, and the interaction it spurs, doesn’t happen very often for any brand. But when it does, it can really show how your brand plays an important role in peoples’ lives, even if that role is just to provide a really comfy pair of shoes. You can’t buy that sort of interaction or that sort of brand love; you have to earn it one interaction at a time.
Lowenberg says that Rothy’s started “with the earnest desire to do something better in the world.” That’s how they approach every part of their business, and it really shows. So if you’re looking for better customer interactions in 2022, take a page out of their book: give back and listen to your customers at every opportunity because you never know what amazing stories will come as a result.
No matter whether you work in a contact center or marketing team, 2022 will have you thinking about growing revenue in new ways. Whether it’s an executive priority or not, departments that thrive will be profit centers, with clear ways to attribute that revenue to their work. Commerce experiences, like conversational commerce, will come up more in 2022 as teams work to personally engage consumers.
It’s no secret that mobile usage outpaces desktop usage; it was that way before the pandemic, and it’s remained that way since. In fact, mobile users account for more than half of web traffic, page views, video views, social media consumption, and just about everything else. What is surprising is that even as people stayed home during the pandemic, mobile usage still increased. In fact, mobile users’ share of web traffic increased by more than 10% in 2021 alone — that’s an enormous jump during a year when a lot of people were still socially distancing. The rise of 5G is only going to accelerate this trend. What’s more, mobile interaction is typically cheaper and more efficient than desktop interaction: phone-based costs per click are 24% lower than desktop and have a 40% higher click-through rate.
Likewise, 57% of customers feel that a brand’s website appearance is important, and they don’t recommend businesses who have poorly designed sites. That represents a lot of missed opportunities and even churn if your mobile experience isn’t up to standards. Customers want mobile navigation to mirror desktop navigation and be quick, intuitive, and inclusive of options like web support. In other words, brands need to optimize their mobile experience to provide the best customer journey possible.
If you’re interested in learning more about the latest trends in digital commerce, check out our whitepaper, Navigating the Rise of Digital Commerce.
Last but certainly not least, another trend we saw continuing from 2020 and 2021 is the high value that customers place on their own privacy. Among worries that large corporations and social media platforms are collecting customers’ personal information, many consumers are wary to trust brands — even brands they’ve trusted in the past. This has led many businesses, including social media channels, to begin offering assurances that they take customer privacy seriously.
Tech giants like Google and Meta are at the forefront of this trend. Meta, formerly Facebook, rebranded in part to step away from negative consumer perceptions about privacy, and with that shift will come new initiatives to protect customers. Likewise, in January 2020, Google announced plans to limit collection of users’ information on its Chrome browser. And although they will need more time to fully eliminate basic data collection features like cookies, the amount of privacy consumers can expect will continue to rise in 2022. The upshot for brands in 2022 is twofold.
First, the impending lack of data from browsing and social media will present a dilemma for brands that rely on customer data for marketing purposes. These organizations will need to find new avenues to learn about customers, and to keep their finger on the pulse of the market. That’s because the information they gather doesn’t just help them target ads; it also informs the content they produce. This is exactly where social listening solutions come in. Social listening occurs when organizations monitor social media for conversations about their brand, products, services, industry, or anything else relevant to them and their customers. The insights that come from social listening help these brands understand what’s going on not just in the market, but in the minds of their customers.
Used correctly, this information can be just as valuable to a brand as data collected from social media platforms.
Another upshot of these increasing concerns among consumers is that brands will have to devote more resources to designing for privacy. In fact, Forrester predicts that in 2022, many CX leaders will reevaluate their approaches to designing user experiences that center on privacy and consent. This will mean a few different things. Perhaps most obviously, designers will look for new ways to provide individualized experiences without relying on third-party data.
Just as important are other changes to make user experiences more secure and trustworthy for customers. When customers interact with brands, they often have to share important private information: account numbers, credit card numbers, social security numbers, and more. Any time a customer has to share this information, it creates an opportunity for a brand to make the exchange feel safe — and with the recent consumer focus on privacy, that feeling of safety is an absolute requirement. Solutions like Khoros offer ways for customers to send this information to brands without feeling vulnerable, and that goes a long way toward fostering trust and creating lifelong customer relationships. To see how one enterprise telecommunications brand leveraged Khoros Messenger to improve security in customer interactions, check out our Sprint case study.
That’s all on CX and customer engagement for now. From all of us here at Khoros, we hope you have a great holiday season and New Year. Be sure to check back with us in 2022 to see more about the latest in customer engagement — and if you’re looking for a way to deepen relationships with customers at your brand in the new year, it’s always a good time to schedule a demo.
See you next year!