The COVID-19 pandemic has changed practically every aspect of life. Priorities have shifted and customers have new needs and expectations that reflect the current environment. This will continue to be true once life has returned to “normal.” Even after restrictions have been lifted and the coronavirus has gotten under control, businesses will be left facing a new customer and it is important to take steps to effectively adapt their customer experience strategy to this emerging landscape.
Customer Experience Strategy: Then and Now
In the past, brands could compete by offering the best pricing, most innovative new product or through an impactful marketing campaign. Today, when people are dealing with the loss of jobs and family members, customers are more concerned with trustworthy brands that make them feel safe. Businesses need to take steps to improve health and safety while also clearly communicating their concern and care for their customers. Customers want brands they can trust.
Businesses also need to recognize that their main concern should be with their customers who are looking for a sense of comfort and connection. Where the main focus used to be finding ways to grab the biggest market share, now the most important question is “How do I support my customers right now in a meaningful, human and relevant way?” Effectively answering this question will be key to creating a customer experience strategy that addresses their needs.
Building a Better Customer Experience Strategy
- Harness the power of digital engagement. In-store experiences are limited and completely non-existent in some cases. This requires a shift to digital engagement that finds creative ways to connect with customers through apps, websites and other tools. Industry leaders have recognized this need and accelerated the development and implementation of these solutions. While not all businesses have the budget to support these efforts, it is important to try to find affordable digital solutions that help build a connection with consumers.
- Incorporate safety into every aspect of the customer experience strategy. This is especially important right now but will continue to be a priority as customers grapple with the aftermath of the pandemic. Making your commitment to safety obvious and transparent will help customers feel better about supporting your business and work to build your brand.
- Use data and analytics to better understand the changing needs of customers. In the future, customers’ needs and expectations will continue to evolve. Businesses will have to be proactive about gaining insight into these areas and remaining flexible and adaptable. Using a technology solution to create a data-backed customer experience strategy will help businesses in the hospitality industry maintain customer satisfaction more efficiently and effectively.
- Create a contactless environment. It is important to create a touchless experience in order to promote safety and instill confidence in your customers. For bars and restaurants, QR code menus are an effective way to provide a contactless experience and reduce the transmission of germs by way of traditional paper menus.
- Find ways to bring your business to your customers. People are going to be hesitant about heading out to brick and mortar stores for some time. Any way you can find to meet your customers where they are will be helpful in keeping your brand relevant and meeting the needs of your customers.
While it will be sometime before we understand the full impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, we do know that it has significantly changed the way customers shop and what they are buying. Simply entering a store is now fraught with risk, which has influenced customers’ priorities. Brands that want to serve the changing needs of customers need to remain flexible, focus on digital engagement and clearly communicate their care and concern. Using an old marketing and customer experience strategy will result in a tone-deaf brand that is irrelevant.
What areas should I focus on to improve customer service now?
Incorporating safety into the customer experience, improving digital engagement and using data and analytics to understand the evolving needs of customers.
As a B2C business, what should my customer experience strategy focus on right now?
Focus on demonstrating care and concern for your customers and make sure that they feel heard and understood. This will help cultivate a human connection that is vital during times of stress.
How do I remain relevant and important to my customer?
Prioritize the human element of your business. This means making digital solutions as friendly as possible and finding ways to connect with customers on a personal level.
What steps can I take to address customer needs?
Improve and increase digital options, bring your business to your customers and create a touchless experience.
What will post-COVID-19 look like for businesses?
Customers are going to continue to fear contracting illnesses while shopping. Businesses will have to continue to practice certain safety measures and demonstrate that these fears are valid and important.