For most customer service and support leaders, spending allocations in 2021 will prioritize digital channels and capabilities. A survey by research and advisory company Gartner, Inc. found that 70 percent plan to dedicate the largest portions of their budgets to those priorities this year as transitioning to self-service channels and bolstering digital capabilities remains a top focus.

In October through November 2020, Gartner asked more than 80 customer service and support leaders from B2B and B2C organizations to rate their 2021 priorities based the changes and challenges they encountered in 2020. Migrating contact volume from assisted to self-service channels, upgrading legacy contact center technology and automating customer service processes—all of which fall under digital channels and capabilities—were rated the top three most important priorities in 2021.

“Although 2020 challenged the operations and strategy of many service and support leaders, the focus on developing a greater digital and self-service product in 2021 remained consistent,” says Jacob Joseph-David, senior principal in the Gartner Customer Service & Support practice. “To deliver on this digital promise, service leaders must progress beyond adding new channels and capabilities to making the functional transformation into a self-service-dominant organization.”

Gartner also reports there is a growing focus on the need to understand the customer’s experience through data. It says that service leaders foresee a large shift in the next 10 years from simply handling customers’ requests to using customer data to provide high-quality service that handles both the issue at hand and customers’ end-to-end experience.

“Collecting voice of the customer data is one of the best tools service leaders can deploy to understand customer experience,” says Joseph-David. “To facilitate the shift to end-to-end experience, service and support leaders will need to benchmark their current voice of the customer data collection methods, understand value of the data currently collected via each method and the future value of the methods in the next five years.”