Shep’s Top 10 Business Predictions for 2021

January 7, 2021

About Shep’s Top 10 Business Predictions for 2021

Each year I take a look at what I have learned from our clients, the latest business books, and hundreds of articles that I’ve read during the year to come up with some predictions and trends worth sharing. What’s interesting is that some of these trends have been ongoing for a number of years. And my number one prediction has been the same for five years. But without further ado, here are my top 10 predictions for 2021:

  1. Customers continue to get smarter.This has led my list of predictions for several years. Our customers keep getting smarter about customer service and experience. They tolerate fewer customer service failures and demand better because they know it’s possible.
  2. Customers are becoming impatient. They want what they want NOW. Let’s put some numbers behind this. In our 2020 Achieving Customer Amazement Surveyresults we surveyed over 1,000 consumers and found a whopping 96.2% of them are willing to leave because of bad customer service. That number will stay high and is more important than ever during a pandemic.
  3. Convenience is no longer optional. This was a differentiation that could help distance a company from its competition. For example, before the pandemic, delivery was a nice option that some businesses offered. Now, it’s an expectation that businesses have scrambled to incorporate into their day-to-day experience.
  4. The virtual and remote workforce is business-as-usual. There are many companies that would have never thought it possible before but now embrace the remote workforce to the point of saying, “We’re shutting down offices.” Not every company thinking like this is going to go 100% remote, but the option is there if they want—or need—to take it to that level.
  5. Companies and brands find more ways to automate and digitize the experience. If you want to see a prediction come to life, just look at what happened in the first few months of the pandemic. Companies were forced to adapt and adopt technologies that they would have eventually used, but not for three to five years. Covid-19 pushed us into the future. You just witnessed a prediction for the future come to life in real time.
  6. The word for 2021 will be empathy.While customers have embraced self-service solutions and digital selling experiences, Covid-19 saw customers who normally would be happy with the digital experience, reaching out to companies just to talk to someone who cared. More than ever, empathy is at the root of a successful human-to-human interaction.
  7. Chatbots will do more than just communicate with customers.Most people use chatbots as a way to manage customer support. Chatbots will continue to do that, and get better at it, but they will also be a catalyst to the next steps. They will be the starting point for automating processes and automatic escalation to a human.
  8. Personalization at a digital level is getting more personal.As sophisticated CRMs (Customer Relationship Management systems) and AI integrate, the data that is generated will help companies create a truly personalized experience. Customers enjoy feeling connected—when companies know who they are—even if it’s at a digital level. And AI will fuel this trend.
  9. Companies will over-automate and over-digitize.This is as much a warning as it is a prediction. Overdoing any of the technologies puts companies at risk of being a commodity with little or no differentiation from their competitors. There is a gap that is getting wider and wider. That gap is the distance between the customer’s automated experience and the customer’s human-to-human experience.
  10. Problems can be predicted.Companies will have more capability to fix a problem before customers ever know they have it—or at least to inform customers about the problem before they call. Different sensors, alerts and alarms will trigger companies to proactively manage a customer’s experience like never before

There are plenty of other predictions that will be made by many other experts. All of these can be used to start discussions around what’s next, what must change, and more. Whatever you do, don’t lose sight of the customer. As you make decisions based on these and other predictions, always look to the future and anticipate the impact on your customers and employees.

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