Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

What does CX look like in 2021?

By Amy Kelly, Director of EMEA Marketing at UserTesting

2020 was certainly one for the history books, but what will the rest of 2021 look like for the world of CX?

People are still adjusting to reduced in-person contact. Organisations and consumers have been, and are in, unforeseen circumstances and the overarching lesson that we have learnt is that empathy for your customers and fellow humans isn’t optional.

Our research revealed the current state of CX. Surveying more than 4,600 professionals, it has found that more than two-thirds (72%) of firms expect an increase in the frequency of customer feedback in 2021. Over the last year, 42% of companies have increased their research into customer experience and 100% of executives agree that customer experience is essential for their organisation’s success.

Feedback has gone remote

The remote-centric business environment prompted by the pandemic is here to stay. Gaining customer feedback remotely is a new strategy that many companies will continue to embrace in the “new normal”. UserTesting’s survey revealed that online user research can cut costs by an average of 40% and increase revenue by the same amount. With a reduction in costs and a rise in revenue, the benefits of remote research are clear. It’s no surprise product teams are pushing to make research virtual, with the majority of survey respondents intending to permanently reduce the amount of in-person research they conduct in 2021.  Customers have higher expectations and less tolerance towards any friction points so the incorporation of real human insight into design and development is invaluable.

In 2021 and beyond, most people are expecting to continue to work entirely remotely or a reduced number of days in the office. With this new, remote mindset, 71% of respondents noted that they’re either in-process or have completed their digital transformation. This is a sharp increase from UserTesting’s 2019 survey results, in which only 56% said they were that far along in their journey. The pandemic has motivated teams to improve overall CX, with more time and resources dedicated to remote feedback.

The pandemic has put focus on CX

Undoubtedly, customers expectations have never been higher as COVID-19 has changed the way they interact with brands. UserTesting found companies increased the use of customer feedback, which caused more investments into both customer feedback and user research. These trends are likely to continue. Despite this, many survey respondents noted their companies are lagging behind in  CX practices, with 60% admitting that their organisation doesn’t have a formal CX strategy in place or only reacts to issues as they happen. To prosper in 2021, a solid CX strategy is crucial.

Most companies expect their customer feedback activity to grow significantly this year. These companies have seen how important it is to retain customer loyalty throughout the pandemic, and are consequently prioritising it. Michael Mace, VP Marketing Strategy at UserTesting thinks “there is a feeling that big changes are still happening”. “There have been so many changes to customer behaviours and so many opportunities to take advantage of new methods”, says Mace. Thus, it seems that everyone is becoming aware that as we return to “normal”, consumers and organisations must be prepared to accept that our definition of normal has evolved.

Teams are doing more with less

Nearly 70% of businesses reported reductions in spending on workforce resources due to business changes brought on by the pandemic. The impact of this is clear, with over half of respondents (53%) reporting an increase in workload. Many companies also needed to quickly pivot their product or service offerings, and nearly half (46%) changed their product roadmap last year.

Last year, some companies cut CX spending whilst others doubled down. Moving forward, most expect CX spend to rise. Our survey revealed that generally, company investment in research has increased. In 2021, companies will be more careful with their budgets and invest consciously. However, this does not necessarily mean a cut in the customer research – with remote research reducing costs by almost half, while increasing revenue, this practice allows budget conscious companies to “do more with less”.

 It is evident that customer empathy is essential for businesses in 2021. With the new nature of remote work, digital transformation is now a survival skill, as opposed to a financial luxury. Everything has had to turn remote, especially user testing, and there’s no sign that it will change back. There’s no excuse for firms that don’t practice customer empathy. Give customers the friction-free, optimised service or product that they want, or risk being left behind.

 In 2021, companies must remember there is always room for improvement. They need to make it clear that everyone in the business is responsible for CX. Use user videos and feedback as evidence to prove the value of your work, to coordinate your teams. With this, ensure that your products are tested early and often, to make sure you create the best outcome for the customer.

To explore the full UserTesting 2021 CX Industry Report, click here.