Care, creative thinking, and new tools can address customers needs today and underpin stronger ties in the post-COVID era.
In a short period of time, COVID has overwhelmed peoples ‘worlds’ around the globe. It has forced a rethinking of what customer care means forcing a review of customer journeys and satisfaction metrics to inform what customers want to an urgency to address what they need.
In times of crisis, a customer’s interaction with a company can trigger an immediate and lingering effect on his or her sense of trust and loyalty. As millions are furloughed a growing measure of their customer experience will be how the businesses deliver experiences and service that meets their new needs with empathy, care and concern. Keeping a real-time pulse on changing customer preferences and rapidly innovating to redesign journeys that matter to a very different context will be key. The fundamentals of the organisations brand will offer the opportunity to adapt and support the changing needs of the customer. Organisations that can harness this will prosper in relation to its competitors. Here are some thoughts and bases to reevaluate your brand through this period;
1. Focus on fundamentals: Care and connection
Now more than ever, people need extra information, guidance, and support to navigate a novel set of challenges, from keeping their families safe to helping their kids learn when schools are shut down. They want a resource they can trust, that can make them feel safe when everything seems uncertain, and that offers support when so much seems to be overwhelming. Stay true to company values and purpose and leave lasting memories in customers’ minds.
Care for your customers
The first step in caring is to reach out to offer genuine support. Experiences are critical for customers in the short term, and the impact will build positive relationships that are bound to last long after the crisis has ended.
Care for employees
Many companies have pledged to continue paying hourly workers at their regular rate, even if they need to remain at home, while others are still paying hourly workers despite store closures. For those still on the job, employers can provide new tools, training and support to enable employees to deliver superior customer experience in a new environment.
Care for the community
Go beyond the immediate customer base.
2. Meet your customers where they are today
The old habits of shopping in local stores face to face have become difficult or ‘scary’ and digital-led experiences will continue to grow in popularity once the coronavirus is over. Organisations that act quickly and innovate in their delivery model to help consumers navigate the pandemic safely and effectively will establish a strong advantage.
Accelerate digital options
Digital delivery has become essential for most customers who are confined at home.
This shift to digital and delivering superior experiences offers an opportunity to increase adoption to maintain these customer relationships after the crisis.
3. Reimagine customer experience for a post-COVID world
The COVID crisis will end at some point but expect changes in consumer preferences and business models to outlast the immediate crisis. Once customers are acclimated to new digital or remote models, expect a permanent shift or increase in usage.
Find savings without sacrificing experience
In a downturn, cutting costs is inevitable. But that does not have to come at the expense of a good customer experience, which can create substantial value. Often, the best ways to improve experience and efficiency at the same time are to increase digital self-service and to make smarter operational trade-offs, grounded in what matters most to customers. Migrating customers to digital channels is often a successful way to boost savings and satisfaction. Teams can adopt this customer-centric mindset in any cost-cutting exercise, including migrating customers to self-serve channels, radically simplifying a product portfolio, or optimizing service-level agreements.
Reimagine your bricks-and-mortar strategy
Retailers with physical stores are closing rapidly and when the survivors come through and reopen, the world of brick and mortar may be fundamentally different. Customers will have grown comfortable with digital, remote, and low-touch options, even in rural and older populations.
So examine dynamics across digital channels, owned outlet stores, and wholesale partners. Omnichannel fulfillment options such as buy online, pickup in store will increase and consider “dark stores” for fulfillment only or create experience hubs that offer services and encourage purchase across all channels.
4. Build capabilities for a fast-changing environment
Maintaining a strong customer experience understanding through rapid research to understand changing dynamics and new pain or innovation points.
Keep a real-time understanding on changing customer preferences
Through away the slower ways of monitoring and develop new agile ways of Realtime monitoring and research. Being adaptable to rapid changes requires an equally rapid approach to understanding.
Listen to employees
Frontline employees are a company’s eyes and ears on the ground. Solicit and collect employee feedback. Investing in these can make a critical difference in the rapidly changing current environment.
Adopt agile innovation
With the objective to fulfill new consumer needs during this time, the better off both parties will be. Accelerate time to market for new customer experiences, rapidly prototyping and iterating, and releasing innovations in their “minimum viable” state, rather than waiting to perfect them. Build innovation pipelines to set priorities for new customer experiences that line up with remote, digital, or home delivery trends; these will likely continue to accelerate and differentiate.
Leadership should demonstrate care toward employees, and this will be visible to and appreciated by customers. Don’t assume that customers will automatically migrate to existing digital and remote platform so raise awareness and the internal capabilities needed to support adoption of these experiences.
Customer experience has taken on a new definition and dimension in the overwhelming challenge of COVID. Customer leaders who care and innovate during this crisis and anticipate how customers will change their habits will build stronger relationships that will endure well beyond the crisis’s passing.