CX Insight Magazine

April 2021

Key Findings From The Cxmb Series 2020 Corporate Edition Report

By: Execs In The Know

The Customer Experience Management Benchmark (CXMB) Series 2020 Corporate Edition report, which is produced as part of a research partnership between Execs In The Know and COPC Inc. and was released in March 2021, provides many valuable insights for customer experience (CX) leaders. This is especially true as operational heads develop their post-pandemic roadmaps and long-term strategies. Although the industry will continue to experience the impact of COVID-19 for years to come, the remainder of 2021 is pivotal for CX leaders as they lay out plans to best support customers and employees. In this article, readers will find a recap of five key findings from this latest CXMB Series report, along with perspective on what these findings mean for CX operations and what organizations should be thinking about as plans are laid out for 2021 and beyond.

Key Findings from the CXMB Series 2020 Corporate Edition Report

The COVID-19 pandemic forced the acceleration of strategic initiatives at many organizations.

Looking back at the events of 2020, it is impressive how organizations quickly pivoted to ensure uninterrupted support of customers and employees at a time when there was literally no playbook on how to do this. Even for Copyright © 2021 Execs In The Know, LLC. All rights reserved. organizations that had extensive business continuity plans in place, there was a mad scramble to adjust to an entirely new reality. As a result, 50% of CXMB Series 2020 Corporate Edition survey respondents stated that some of their strategic initiatives were fast-tracked due to COVID-19. Some of these initiatives included: 

  • Greater focus on self-service technologies (SSTs)
  • Increased use of newer technologies, such as artificial intelligence (AI), analytics, and robotic process automation (RPA)
  • Further investments in digital platforms
  • Business continuity planning (BCP)
  • Shift in staffing strategies, primarily work-from-home (WFH)


Although many organizations completely shifted or accelerated their 2020 roadmaps and/or strategies, the implications will reverberate in 2021 and beyond. What does this mean for CX leaders, and which initiatives should they continue to prioritize? If an organization has not already started this assessment, now is a good time to take a step back and evaluate the impact of each major initiatives undertaken in 2020, paying special attention to how things looked before and after:

  • Understand benefits of each initiative. Brands should conduct a deep analysis to understand which of their 2020 initiatives produced benefits, either for the customer, the business, or both.
  • Identify initiatives that will continue to produce benefits. Based on results and projections, brands should identify the initiatives expected to continue to produce benefits longer term (versus producing a short-term benefit based on solutioning for an
    immediate challenge).
  • Uncover root cause of under-performing initiatives. If any initiatives did not produce the expected benefits, brands should identify the root cause and determine if adjustments can or should be made for the next evolution of those initiatives.
  • Assess end-to-end journey. Brands can benefit by conducting journey mapping to assess how each strategic initiative affected the customer journey, whether the impact is positive or negative. It’s important to ask and understand if there are still gaps in the CX.
  • Examine the return on investment (ROI) of each initiative. Of course, brands were responding to a crisis and were often acting out of necessity. But it’s still a good idea to run the numbers and fully understand the business impact and assess the effectiveness of the changes put in place.

It is important to carefully consider the above information at multiple intervals throughout 2021. The reason being that the economy is somewhat volatile, and the impact of a specific initiative can shift quickly from quarter-to-quarter, or even month-to-month. What might have been thought of as a strong trend three months ago may already be changing as the economy reacts to things like widespread vaccinations and changing policies regarding the pandemic, at both the state and federal level. Each business is different, and each brand needs to understand the behavioral changes of its customers, as well as the impact of its own initiatives.

Despite the challenges posed by COVID-19, improving the CX remains an industry priority.

It’s understandable that many organizations shifted their priorities due to the impact of the pandemic. And of course, some industries were more affected than others, with some experiencing explosive growth while others saw a sharp decline. And while no two businesses are exactly the same, CXMB Series research showed that even with a multitude of new and surprising challenges, 35% of survey respondents stated that “Improving the Customer Experience” continues to be their top priority in 2021.


Some of the initiatives they specifically mentioned were:

  • Implement a more holistic approach to measuring CX. (Note: The percentage of respondents stating that their organizations measure CX across all channels increased from 15% in 2019 to 24% in 2020.)
  • Develop systems for better utilizing consumer feedback to improve CX (78% of respondents indicated they were doing so).
  • Proactively follow up with consumers who had a negative CX to remedy the situation (85% of respondents indicated they were doing so).


CX has long been a differentiator, but perhaps now more than ever. Customer behavior and expectations will likely continue to evolve based, in part, on the events of 2020. With the continued focus on improving CX, brands should consider the following as they develop their 2021 (and beyond) strategies:

  • Define CX for the company and embed it in the company’s culture. What does “Improving the CX” mean for a particular brand? Is it a company-wide initiative? Is it embedded in everything that brand does and at all levels of the organization? Improving CX cannot just be a value stated on a poster or trotted out for internal communications. It must be the focus of every decision made at all levels of the organization. Those on the front line and those who talk to customers every day need to see, hear, and feel the commitment from the organization. In other words, the customer should have a seat at the table for every decision being made.
  • Measure CX holistically across all channels. Although the percentage of organizations who said they measure CX holistically across all channels has increased, it is still a small percentage (only 24%). It is critical for leaders to have an accurate picture of their customers’ end-to-end journey. This will likely involve technology and reporting improvements. While it’s not easy to do given that multiple systems and processes are involved, it is important to plan now, develop service journeys with purpose, and create the roadmap that will allow for measurement across all channels.
  • Proactively follow up after negative experiences. Proactive follow-ups with customers sounds logical and perhaps an obvious priority, but logistically it can be complex given the various channels and customer touchpoints. However, the CXMB Series 2020 Consumer Edition report (the sister report to the 2020 Corporate Edition report) showed that this follow-up reduces the risk of a negative impact to future purchasing decisions. Additionally, proactive follow-ups help consumers feel as though they are being heard and understood, which is an important driver of the resolution process. To deliver on this priority, operational processes, technology, data, and organizational structure will need to be carefully mapped out to support it effectively and efficiently.
  • Inventory the available data and develop a roadmap for the ability to curate and leverage CX data. There is no shortage of data available to CX leaders. The challenge (and opportunity) is to make sense of the data, implement technology and processes to curate it in real-time, and most importantly, act on it. Individual brands no longer have the luxury of conducting lengthy studies or research efforts, so it benefits CX leaders to understand where their data resides, the technology needed to aggregate it, which data will provide the most meaningful insights, and how to use that data to make better decisions and provide better outcomes for customers.

SSTs witnessed significant growth and adoption, but there is room for improvement.

Much has been reported about the increase in self-service during the pandemic, and CXMB Series research is no exception. In fact, CXMB Series research found 62% of corporate respondents indicated that their SSTs channels experienced the most growth over the previous 12 months.

While the growth of SST solutions is encouraging and unsurprising for a number of reasons, there is still much work to be done to deliver an exceptional experience via SST channels, as well as deliver on evolving consumer expectations for SST solutions. Some of the additional, related results from the CXMB Series Corporate Edition report include:

  • 81% of respondents stated that their organizations are shifting traffic from human-assisted channels to SSTs.
  • 73% of respondents stated that consumers prefer to use SSTs for “simple/routine” customer care issues.
  • Despite experiencing higher growth of SSTs compared to human-assisted channels, only 25% of respondents stated that first-call resolution (FCR) for SSTs was more than 50%, whereas 62% stated the same for human-assisted channels.
  • 76% of respondents stated that they have specific initiatives to increase the resolution rate for SSTs.
  • “Expanding channel capability” emerged as the most important priority for SSTs.
  • Only half of the respondents stated that their organizations measure the abandonment rate for SSTs.


While many organizations were already actively trying to shift at least some volume to SSTs prior to the pandemic, many were also forced to accelerate those initiatives out of necessity. Unsurprisingly, volumes have increased, but it may be that capabilities have not caught up yet. For leaders who find themselves with SST solutions that are still maturing in terms of
capability, consider:

  • Analyzing interactions that are not solved on first contact with SSTs. The whole point of directing transactions to an SST is to help the customer solve an issue without the assistance of a live agent. If that is not successful, costs go up, as well as customer dissatisfaction. Brands should determine which issues are not being resolved and why, and either address those gaps within the SST, or ensure customers are directed to the channel that can best resolve
    their issue.
  • Focusing on right channeling. As with many initiatives, now is the time to assess the types of interactions that drive the most volume, whether to human-assisted channels or SSTs. Is a brand truly attempting to direct issues to SSTs that have a high probability of being solved? Even if customers prefer an SST but a brand knows that issue needs to be handled by a live agent, are they communicating and directing the customer to the right channel? This is the most effective way to deliver easier resolutions, customer satisfaction (CSAT) scores.
  • Determining which issues can possibly be solved BEFORE they happen. Related to right channeling and improving resolution capabilities, brands should consider what types of problems customers are encountering that could be proactively addressed before a contact occurs. For example, if an item goes on backorder unexpectedly, instead of waiting for the customer to contact them, a brand could send a communication immediately, notifying the customer of the new shipping date, along with links to similar products that available more immediately. This would likely prevent a contact from that customer and puts the customer in the drivers’ seat for waiting for their backordered product or choosing another one. Either way, the proactive brand improves its chances of keeping the sale and satisfying the customer.
  • Develop a technology roadmap that supports an overall strategy. Many corporate respondents said some of their improvement initiatives revolved around leveraging data and insights, active monitoring of SSTs, and adopting more technology such as AI. These are all important aspects of a comprehensive SST strategy, but brands should be careful to not implement something only because it is shiny, new, or the next hot trend. The technology brands invest in should support their overall channel and resolution strategy, especially if the brand is dedicated to a customer-first approach.

Increased utilization of WFH staff is likely to continue after the pandemic.

A lot has been written about the Herculean efforts undertaken by organizations in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. The ability of companies all over the world, to pull off the shift to WFH, and do so as quickly and effectively as they did, should not be overlooked. Looking back, many brands probably believed this was only a short-term shift. But as time has march on, it has become more and more obvious that WFH staffing will be a longer-term strategy, requiring more permanent solutions and strategies. CXMB Series research shows that most organizations (62%) will not revert to pre-COVID-19 staffing models.

Additionally, the CXMB Series 2020 Corporate Edition report showed:

  • Of survey respondents with in-house staff:
    • > 92% stated that they currently have some WFH staff.
    • > 53% stated that they had no WFH staff prior to the pandemic.
    • > 80% stated that more than half of their current staff are WFH.
  • Of respondents with outsourced staff:
    • > 55% stated that they currently have some WFH staff.
    • > 64% stated that they had no WFH staff prior to the pandemic.
    • > 58% stated that more than half of their current staff are WFH.
  • The biggest challenges in managing WFH staff revolved primarily around technology-related concerns (connectivity and hardware) and employee engagement.


Since WFH is here to stay for most organizations, the implications to all aspects of operations cannot be overlooked and will require more permanent approaches to address the nuances of a remote versus in-center staff.

  • Identify and address technology issues. As noted above, technology concerns make up three of the top four challenges faced by organizations managing a WFH workforce. Identifying and developing solutions for connectivity and hardware/software issues must be a top priority. Some organizations are developing standards for connectivity (e.g., specific providers) and even paying for said solutions. Additionally, now companies are developing standards for home equipment and either shipping directly to agents or setting up pickup points for standardized hardware, as well as standardizing software configurations. Moving to cloud environments has accelerated to address some of these issues as well. Security concerns are also front and center, so risk mitigation solutions must also be a standard that companies implement, enforce, and monitor.
  • Focus on employee wellbeing and engagement. Employee engagement and wellbeing strategies have gained in importance in recent years, but the pandemic has shined an even brighter spotlight on this critical topic. These initiatives and programs must now
    be structured and comprehensive to ensure employees feel connected, supported, and valued. Organizations need a holistic approach to ensure it is addressed at all levels of the organization, with a consistent drumbeat of activities and programs from the top of the organization to frontline management. Communication, from companywide memos to frequent department/team level gatherings and individual check-ins, is critical. Beyond that, programs such as book groups or volunteering initiatives drive engagement and a sense of belonging. Providing mental health support, exercise programs and resources, and financial advisors are examples of important support resources that support staff wellbeing.
  • Adjust hiring, training, and coaching approaches. Skills required for WFH employees differ from those working in a physical center. For example, WFH employees must have the ability to work independently. They also need to thrive in an environment that is perhaps not for everyone. Recruiting profile likely need be either changed, or at least closely reviewed. Additionally, the process for recruiting at scale is often different than recruiting and hiring for agents in center. Organizations and hiring managers must be able to rely on remote screening and interviews, with more effective (and creative) skills verification. And of course, training, and coaching approaches are vastly different for remote workers. This involves not only technology, but operational process changes as well.

Organizations need to focus more on multichannel journeys and their channel strategies.

Consumers have more contact options available to them than ever before, which is also resulting in more multichannel journeys, that is engagements that span multiple channels (such as email to chat to voice) in an attempt to resolve a single issue. This was confirmed in the CXMB Series 2020 Consumer Edition, where over 70% of consumers stated that they used multiple channels to resolve a single customer-care issue.

With this volume of multichannel journeys, it was important to know more. Research results showed the following:

  • When consumers and corporate respondents were asked why multichannel journeys occurred, 42%of corporate respondents believed that consumers were forced to take a multichannel journey. Similarly, 47%of consumers surveyed said they were forced to take a multichannel journey.
    • Results from the 2020 Consumer Edition revealed that when a consumer believes they were “forced” to take a multichannel journey, dissatisfaction rates are almost seven times greater and issue resolution is significantly lower.
  • Consumers who rated their experience with multichannel journeys as “not satisfied” increased from 11% to 37% year-over-year, from 2019 to 2020.
  • Only 20% of organizations measure the performance of a multichannel journey against the performance of a single-channel journey.
  • While only 12% of respondents believed that their organizations do a good job of providing a seamless experience for consumers who use multichannel journeys to resolve an issue, only 41% have specific initiatives in place to make it easier for customers to transition between channels.


With the increase in multichannel journeys and the significant ramification of the same, it is critical for CX leaders to investigate why these journeys are occurring and what they can do to improve resolution capabilities, as well as the overall experience.

  • Focus on end-to-end service design. Historically, many organizations have approached improving the overall experience by optimizing touchpoints. For example, they may know their mobile app experience is poor and will focus on that. While this will provide some level of improvement, it will not create transformative change. Instead, organizations must put their customer hats on and identify friction points across the journey, then redesign the journey so customers can navigate it seamlessly and put guardrails in place to effectively guide customers throughout the process.
  • Address the perception (and reality) that the multichannel journey is all too often forced upon the consumer. Based on CXMB Series Consumer Edition results, it is evident that a large percentage of consumers feel like they are not in control of their own issue resolution journey. Better communication up front about which channels are best for specific types of issues, while allowing some level of choice and autonomy, will go a long way in pleasing the customer.
  • Measure, analyze, and address satisfaction drivers of the multichannel journey. Given the increase in multichannel dissatisfaction rates, leaders should understand the performance and key drivers of any customers dissatisfied after a multichannel journey. Is it the process, lack of resolution, frustration with tools, all of this, or something else entirely? This data should be separated and analyzed distinctly from single-channel journeys.
  • Remove organizational silos. Often there are inconsistencies between channels because they are managed by different departments. For example, the website is typically managed separately from the call center. While that can still be the case, departmental leaders must work better cross-functionally, which is part of the service design strategy mentioned in the first bullet above.
  • Create specific plans for creating greater consistency and ease of navigation across channels. If either of these are a priority for an organization, that organization needs to be specific in what consistency and ease mean, using their most frequently used channel as a starting point. Identify and compare the pain points within each channel and understand where inconsistencies reside. Conversely, brands should strive to understand where the processes are good (even if inconsistent) and identify what can and should be replicated from channel to channel.

The Future is Bright

There seems to be a sense of optimism as the world shows signs of emerging from the grip of the pandemic. Although business leaders will endure the ramifications of COVID-19 for years to come, a lot was learned from this past year. CXMB Series research calls out the fact that some challenges remain, but also points the way toward what matters most to consumers. About a year since the world was forever changed, now is a good time for CX leaders to reflect, analyze, celebrate the successes, and refocus on the opportunities that remain. Now is also the right time to be bold in tackling the most stubborn challenges standing in the way of superb CX, while continuing to support and enable employees with renewed vigor.


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