It used to be that customer experience (CX) was one of the best ways to differentiate your brand and win customer loyalty. Now the challenge is not to just stand out but to innovate to effectively meet the shifting needs of customers – customers who have transitioned to communicating digitally, working remotely, using telemedicine and ordering things online. The fact is that almost everyone was impacted by COVID-19 and will be living differently for quite some time. As customer needs and behaviours change, CX leaders need to be agile and prepared to pivot as needed to truly serve their customers.
How to move forward with CX
Providing great CX is an ongoing journey. While COVID-19 has certainly impacted CX, the following actions should help build more resilience into the CX that a company can offer its customers.
- Understand customer mindsets
While marketing departments may have conducted in-depth customer journey mapping exercises, no one could have predicted the impact of a global pandemic on customer behaviour. Right now, CX leaders need to revisit their prior understanding of their customers and employ empathy. They need to put themselves in the shoes of their customers, who may have been ill, lost loved ones, been financially impacted or experienced heightened levels of stress. It’s becoming clear that even as restrictions lift, there will be some permanent changes to the customer mindset and how businesses are correspondingly run. Building empathy into customer interactions will be a critical factor in whether a business can meet customer needs and build loyalty over the long term.
- Focus on digital
Digital communication has become ubiquitous. Prior to COVID-19, technology was rapidly advancing. Now, it’s catalyzed further by the need for new ways of doing business when in-person contact is limited. While we don’t know what the future will bring, it is safe to say that digital communication will be what links businesses and customers together. Many will continue to seek out a digital, touchless experience even as brick and mortar businesses reopen. In order to provide a high level of CX, user experience on digital platforms should be seamless.
- Balance digital with human interaction
COVID-19 is also demonstrating that the increase in digital communication has not negated the need for human interaction. Businesses and customers experienced the pandemic alike. This fostered communication as businesses often became more personally accessible in order to smooth the transition to online or connect with concerned customers. Customers have become accustomed to this personal relationship. Companies who can inject innovation into their offerings in order to add a human component, will offer better CX.
- Be agile as consumer behaviours change
McKinsey research indicated that over 60% of global consumers have changed consumer behavior during the pandemic and cited convenience and value as common reasons. Customers are also selective based on visible safety measures, hygienic packaging as well as the extent to which brands demonstrate care and concern for their employees. This is disrupting brand loyalty that businesses previously enjoyed. Consumer behaviour will continue to evolve over the lifespan of COVID-19. Companies will struggle with CX without architectures in place to allow for pivoting.
Action now will impact CX down the road
McKinsey also cited that during this pandemic, consumers have a “heightened awareness of how businesses interact with stakeholders, local communities, and society more broadly.” Customers are looking to businesses to lead the way forward. CX leaders need to take this as an opportunity to learn, build relationships and serve their customers in new ways. They need to strike the right balance of investing in digital platforms while employing empathy and the human side of business. The actions that leaders take now will contribute to a resilient CX going forward.