With the majority of customer-facing brands already present on social and digital channels and with online customer support pretty standard, we might ask if COVID-19 has really changed much in terms of the experience businesses need to offer customers.
Well, the short answer is yes – because simply showing up as normal will fall way short of customer expectations and may even seem devoid of empathy at such an extraordinary time as this. Not to mention industries that have relied on physical presence, such as retail, gyms and hospitality, whose engagement channels have been completely turned on their head.
Whilst already a key differentiator, customer experience post-COVID-19 will be more important than ever. As consumer behaviour continues to shift around us, let’s look at some of the factors to consider in getting it right.
What are the key shifts in consumer behaviour?
Accenture highlights four different types of behavioural shifts and describes how these influence the way brands interact with and serve their customers:
- Relationship shifts consider what buyers are currently looking for from brands, namely trust, certainty and security. In times of crisis when customers need reassurance, brands that fail to resonate with or connect more meaningfully with their audiences will quickly be forgotten - and potentially left behind as new relationships form.
- The ways buyers engage with brands have changed dramatically with social distancing, forcing those who prefer face-to-face interactions to buy online and embrace digital channels whilst brands shift to new ways of selling, moving field sales ‘inside’ and establishing remote sales, for example.
- Accenture notes how previously fading habits such as ‘the big shop’ have returned for many households for the first time in years as we have had to plan ahead, whilst those who traditionally shopped online now buy from local shops where they find quality and service they can rely on.
- Buyer expectations around the sustainability and transparency offered by brands have been increasing for some time, but this has accelerated during the current crisis when companies putting ethics before profit have really stood out. The pandemic has been a crucial time for brands, giving them the opportunity to deliver on promises and live up to the values they promote, or be exposed.
What priorities should define customer experience?
Many business owners have faced the realisation that their existing customer engagement strategies have not been agile enough to withstand the dramatic shift in the external environment. 2020 could be viewed as a lesson in contingency planning and a stark recognition that strategies need to be more resilient and responsive going forward.
Whilst trends are emerging, we still don’t know which new behaviours will stick and which will fade over time, which makes designing a good experience even more challenging. Businesses will need to adopt an insight-driven approach that keeps pace with what their customers need and expect in the short, medium and longer term. This will include:
Breaking planning down into smaller, more agile cycles.
Capturing insight and analysing buyer behaviours at a granular level.
Using that insight to identify growth opportunities.
Innovating propositions that align with those opportunities.
Using the right channels to get the message heard, with a balance of human and digital communications.
Embedding digital and remote engagement seamlessly within the customer journey.
Some businesses have already demonstrated their ability to understand and adapt quickly to new customer needs, from start-ups developing technology solutions to facilitate remote working, taxis becoming delivery services and restaurants takeaways, to breweries manufacturing hand sanitiser. Organisations that excel in this tough landscape will be those that ensure their business strategies and capabilities are defined by customer needs and expectations and their engagement channels honed to deliver an exceptional customer experience at a distance.
At The Telemarketing Company, our team of voice specialists are working remotely, delivering a flexible range of high-quality phone-based services, from valuable customer insight and responsive support to high-performance remote sales. If you’d like to discuss how we can help you keep pace with customer needs, elevate your customer experience and drive business growth, get in touch.
Get in touch