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Aimie Chapple

Customer expectations have shifted dramatically as a result of Covid-19.

Speaking at a CEO roundtable hosted by thought leadership magazine Critical Eye, Capita’s CEO of Customer Management, Aimie Chapple, outlined five key thoughts on what customer experience will look like in 2021, and what CEOs need to be doing to stay one step ahead of customers’ expectations.

Over the past 18 months we have seen a huge change in customer behaviour across a number of sectors. Whether your business has been disrupted due to the pandemic and is thriving in the face of the challenge, or struggling in response to the change, it’s sure that none of us have been immune to disturbance. What is clear is that the pandemic has provided businesses with an opportunity for mindset change and leaders should take this chance to ensure they are placing customers and customer experience at the centre. A recent Walker study found that at the end of 2020, customer experience overtook price and product as key brand differentiators, with 86% of buyers being willing to pay more for a better customer experience. For CEOs and senior executives going forward, the challenge lies in placing the customer at the fore and then identifying the short versus the long-term needs, worries and interests and how they are reflected in the changes in customer behaviour, to ensure that businesses remain relevant and their customers engaged.

Customers need reassurance

In a time when so much is out of our control, customers are looking to regain power in as many sectors of their lives as possible, and this includes the companies and businesses they support. Therefore, it is key that going forward companies provide their current and potential customers with reassuring and informative messaging to help support their spending decisions. This could include how companies are prioritising the health, welfare, and safety of both their customers and their employees and reassuring them of how the organisation’s user experience has changed as a result of the pandemic. No matter your business, in 2021 it will continue to be critical to be transparent and communicate with wary customers to reassure conservative spenders of what to expect when spending at your company, helping to keep the customer empowered. They also want to be seen in the process – so treat them as people and bring humanity into the experience.

Focus on customer loyalty

Despite the increase in demand for transparency from businesses, last year customer confidence hit an almost decade low according to Growth from Knowledge, an AI-powered intelligence platform and consulting service for the consumer products industry. This, alongside increased competition, is why finding new customers and first-time buyers is now more challenging than ever. Heading into 2021, successful businesses will heavily focus on customer loyalty and retention, rather than on building new audiences. Some measures that companies could implement to aid this could include customer loyalty schemes, with Amazon Prime being perhaps the most successful and lucrative example. Think of your customers as members of your brand – and what it will take for them to continue to want to be associated and engaged.

Sustainability is a must have rather than a nice to have

Now more than ever customers are keen to align their values and shopping habits, and as a result companies may need to reassess and re-evaluate their approach to sustainability and eco-friendliness. Over the last five years there has been a noticeable uptake in the popularity of sustainable consumerism, and research has shown that increasingly customers are willing to change their spending habits to reduce the negative impact to the environment. The events of 2020, beginning with the Australian bushfires in January followed by the visible worldwide effects of national lockdowns, have only helped to speed up the demand for more sustainable approaches initiatives within business. Therefore, companies that want to remain favourable to their customers will have to renegotiate their approach to sustainability going forward, as this trend will only continue to increase in popularity.

Customer experience must now exceed customer expectations

The ability to deliver personalised customer experiences is rapidly becoming a necessity rather than a luxury. Customers don’t just want a personalised experience, they expect it. To meet this surge in expectations, businesses will have to fully embrace the benefits of data, analytics and AI as they will form the foundations for successful customer experience implementation. Knowing your customer is more important than ever – and, knowing them for what they are today versus what they might have been 18 months ago, may be the difference between loyalty and churn. Overall, it is clear that businesses have a lot to reflect and act on if they want to continue to be a favourable option for customers. All of the above trends, however, can be tied into one essential concept: customer experience is king and successful businesses will focus on continuing to improve this in 2021.

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Written by

Aimie Chapple

Aimie Chapple

Executive Officer, Customer Management

Aimie leads the division which delivers multi-channel customer experience services across the UK and internationally, for many leading brands in sectors ranging from telecommunications and utilities, to financial services and technology innovation.

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