This year hasn’t gone as anyone expected (biggest understatement right there). COVID-19 threw a wrench in the year 2020, and every industry has felt its effects. Customer Experience is no exception. In fact, the CX industry has changed rapidly this year. Digital consumerism went through the roof and remote work became the norm.

The companies that have slid through 2020 with the fewest bruises are the ones that already had strong omnichannel systems in place. They built goals with the future of omnichannel in mind, and now they’re ahead of the curve. Consumers have gone completely digital-first–buying everything from groceries to furniture online–and a lot of companies are swimming hard to keep up. Though we don’t know what next year holds, it’s clear that omnichannel solutions are here to stay.

Here are four strategies to follow to keep up with the future of omnichannel.

1. Keep it personal(ized)

The future of omnichannel lies in keeping things personal. Some 79% of customers say personalized customer service is more important than personalized marketing. So when your company considers where to place its efforts in omnichannel strategy, keep your customers’ needs and interests at the forefront. Your customers have already made the decision to be just that–your customers. If you treat customers like another number, you aren’t valuing them as individuals. And they can tell.

The personal touch your customers look for often starts with your agents. Coach your agents regularly, so they know how to listen to your customers and respond kindly.

If you do even simple things like asking your customers how they want to communicate, you maximize loyalty and minimize frustration.

Gladly’s 2020 CX Report says the top three things customers want their companies to know are:

  1. Who they are (name, location info)
  2. What they’ve already talked about (previous conversations)
  3. What they’ve purchased

With the right omnichannel tools, your agents get access to detailed customer history and can pull up this kind of information with little effort, without putting your customers on hold.

A positive, personalized experience leads to better reviews and referrals. When you deliver on customer expectations, you grow brand loyalty and advocacy. In fact, 77% of happy customers will refer your company to family and friends. And, another 52% will recommend you on a social media platform.

Lean into a more personalized approach and everybody wins. You will end up with stronger employees, satisfied customers, and high referral ratings.

2. Use Chatbots to Increase Customer Touchpoints

As digital demand keeps skyrocketing, companies depend more on digital assistants and chatbots. Right now, about 50% of businesses say they’re planning to spend more on chatbots than mobile apps.

You may be asking, “Doesn’t a chatbot sound like the opposite of personalized?” A chatbot isn’t a real human, true. But there are many ways your company can use chatbots without sacrificing that personal touch.

With the right tools, your bots will be able to pull the right customer data so each interaction still feels personal. Customers will still feel known.

Chatbots can cut pressure on your agents, too. Agents often get overloaded with customer questions, complaints, and tedious tasks. You can use chatbots to handle tedious, but simple, tasks that free up agents to do more problem solving with customers.

Bots and automation can also increase customer engagement. You can define rules to have your bots help with easy problems 24/7. This way, you can reach a more global market and collect more customer data around the clock.

3. Allow Remote Work with Cloud-Native Software

At the start of the year, remote work was still seen as an outlier. Whether it was cost-prohibitive or thought to be too risky, it just wasn’t the norm. Until it was. But for the folks who’d already prioritized a shift to cloud-native technology, the logistics of moving home hardly hit the radar.

In what was likely the greatest social experiment on work our generation will ever see, we found people can work from pretty much anywhere. And, they can do it without missing a step. In fact, 43% of CFOs surveyed by PwC said they’re planning to make remote work a permanent option. That means, the future of omnichannel is already taking foot.

Contact centers had to rush home, but now they’re ready to make strategic business decisions to migrate to the cloud.

Cloud-native systems not only make things easier for your employees, but they also open the door for better customer engagement. Brands that have an integrated CX strategy across many channels earn customer loyalty. In fact, companies with strong omnichannel engagement strategies retain 89% of their customers.

4. Focus on Mobile Integration

Customers have become more comfortable with online commerce this year. As they continue to cozy up with channels like mobile chat and texting, they’ll expect to do even more from their phones.

By the end of 2021, industry leaders expect mobile phones will make almost 73% of eCommerce sales.

Mobile ecommerce is shaping the future of omnichannel

In April 2020, the average mobile user spent 4.3 hours on their phone–up 20% from 2019. As we spend more time on our phones, people are engaging with more brands. And while these numbers are not reflective of “normal” times, they still show that consumers are willing to make mobile purchases.

Not only that but, research also shows your customers are craving help on mobile channels for customer service, too. In fact, 77% of consumers aged 18-34 have a positive perception of companies that offer quick channels, like texting, for customer service. And more research proves that consumers are using mobile chat technology such as Facebook Messenger, Apple Business Chat, and WhatsApp.

Even before the pandemic, customers were turning to messaging apps to communicate with businesses. And more than 50% of people say they’re more likely to buy from a company that provides customer service via chat.

Now is the time to integrate mobile channels, like chat and texting, into your omnichannel strategy. It makes communication with your customers more efficient and personal.

Whether you’re ahead of the curve or you’re struggling to keep up after this year, focusing your future strategies on omnichannel will boost your business. Consider these tech and contact center trends in 2021. Your agents and customers will see the difference.