2020 has been a stressful year, but a good teacher.
Both businesses and customers have been through a lot, but everyone has learned something about capabilities, possibilities, and expectations.
The lessons learned will now serve as guidelines for doing business in the post-pandemic world. Long gone are the hopes of returning to pre-pandemic “normal,” or “business as usual.”
Customer experience professionals urge businesses to adjust to customer expectations, stating it’s the only way to conduct business post-pandemic without losing customers.
Since the start of the pandemic, consumers spend more time online and continue to transition many of their experiences that used to take place primarily in person online.
According to a July 2020 report “most categories have seen more than 10% growth in their online customer base during the pandemic—and many consumers say they plan to continue shopping online even when brick-and-mortar stores reopen. In markets that had high online conversion rates before the pandemic (e.g., UK and the US), e-commerce continues to grow across all categories.”
Brick-and-mortar establishments have to adhere to a lot of new rules and regulations. Some of them have learned to embrace the world of eCommerce through the pandemic, increasing their online presence and learning to serve their customers in new ways.
However, businesses that serviced their customers online even before the pandemic also must make some adjustments in the way they operate and provide customer service.
The bottom line is, whether a business is accustomed to providing online excellent customer experience or has only just embraced the practice recently, the pandemic has changed all the rules across the board.
All businesses must reevaluate the way they provide an excellent customer experience.
Here are 4 ways businesses can take lessons from the pandemic and use them to improve online experiences for their customers.
Go out of your way to demonstrate safety
Naturally, in the pandemic, safety remains a main concern for customers even after stay-at-home orders are lifted. It is, therefore, essential for businesses to proactively address safety.
David Weingot, the CEO of DMAC Security Guard Services, stresses the importance of communicating safety protocols to customers.
“In a post-pandemic world, customers expect businesses to take care of their health and well-being. They will be hesitant to do business with you unless their safety is ensured. Make them feel that you’ll be able to give it to them,” he said.
“If you’re a store owner, assure them that all of the items you’re selling, down to the door handle of your entrance, are all kept sanitized. Keep their safety to be your utmost priority.”
Additionally, some marketing professionals urge businesses to make COVID-19 precautions and safety protocols part of their marketing strategies. The best marketing tactics, they argue, address customers wants, needs, expectations, and concerns even before the customers voice them.
Companies can create a successful marketing plan by engaging in scenario planning, watching out for changes in customer preferences (social media listening is a great tool for that), anticipating operational impact, and, finally, adopting a plan.
“Marketers shouldn’t wait for problems to develop or the market to point in a clear direction before making plans and taking action,” Laura Astarita of Gartner business consulting said.
Addressing safety concerns in all digital marketing communication will help a company establish a good rapport with the customers and create better online experiences for them.
It is not only necessary to give customers a peace of mind, but essential to compete with other brands in the market post-pandemic.
Accommodate No Matter What
One thing has become clear during the pandemic – during a crisis people (and businesses) would do anything that needed to be done. From health professionals to restaurants, people came through for each other.
They showed compassion. They accommodated customers and patients as best as they possibly could. Crisis brought up innovation and creativity.
In the post-pandemic world people will now expect similar practices to take place. After all, we all have seen that it can be done, so why not do it everyday and not just during a crisis?
Ben Walker, the CEO of Transcription Outsourcing says that while businesses should work harder to accommodate customers than before the pandemic, they must seek balance between reasonable accommodation and literal “bending over backwards.”
“Customers will expect businesses to be more accommodating to their needs. They’ve seen how restaurants, even fine dining establishments, can do take-aways and deliveries after all. If anything, the pandemic showed how product and service providers can show compassion, and their consumers will expect that,” he said.
“It’s alright to give in to their expectations, but to a certain extent. Find a middle ground and between you and your customers.”
When it comes to providing excellent customer experience, offering services not offered pre-pandemic can make a brand stand out against the competition. Free shipping, extended free trials, curbside pick up from physical locations, easier check-out procedures – all these can go a long way.
Customer experience expert Chip Bell always advocated value-unique service to better customer experiences. Doing something simple, unexpected, and brand-fitting to surprise and delight customers in creative ways can definitely make their experiences more memorable. That, in turn, can prompt customer-led storytelling, referrals, and further reach of the brand.
Listen to your customers
It is not possible to properly accommodate customers’ needs without knowing what those needs are. Learning what customers expect is essential.
Even before the pandemic customers often voiced their concerns, left reviews, and generally talked about their experiences with a brand online. The pandemic, among other things, increased the time people spend online.
With increased online experiences with brands and more time consumers spending online in general, it makes sense for companies to seek as much information as possible.
Online reviews, social media mentions, and all customer service interactions customer share with the brand online can all serve as sources for information.
Whether the online intereactions are positive or negative, it’s essential for brands to listen to their customers, respond to all inquiries and reviews, and adjust their services and operations accordingly.
As the post-pandemic world begins to shape the future of business, whatever it may be, customer preferences and expectations will continue to change. By keeping an eye on these developments, brands will be able to stay relevant and continue to grow along with their customers’ expectations.
Provide an efficient way to connect
While listening is a great way to collect information necessary to improve online customer experience, providing a way for customers to connect with you is just as important.
There is nothing more frustrating to a customer than having to search for a way to speak to a brand representative, wait on hold, or having to repeat him or herself to various agents.
In the post-pandemic world customers have enough on their plates. If you make their online experience easier, it will improve customer satisfaction.
“Be super-responsive to customer emails, phone calls and inquiries. Extend your live chat hours. Aim for a maximum customer wait time of one minute on live chat, which equates to about five telephone rings in the non-digital world,”said Julie Guest, the CEO of Bolder and Louder.
“Forget your company’s canned email responses. Craft more highly personalized emails to prospect and customer queries to build relationships.”
Customer service communications play a top role in customer satisfaction and excellent customer experience.
According to a Hubspot report, 90% of Americans use customer service as a factor in deciding whether or not to do business with a company, 68% of customers said the service rep was key to a recent positive service experience, and 62% said that this was also due in part to the rep’s knowledge or resourcefulness.
Giving your customer options when it comes to contacting customer service representatives will ensure effective communications.
An efficient, well-run contact center can provide a way for customers to get in touch with the company quickly and effortlessly. It can help build confidence and loyalty with your customers by providing them with 24/7 experienced support to help them through their buyer’s journey.
It can also provide a competitive advantage over other companies, winning you loyal customers. When potential customers feel they have all the information and power they need to make a purchase, you earn their business.
Additionally a contact center can provide you with a unique opportunity to increase sales. By offering multiple channels for support communications, customers’ queries can be quickly and easily answered.
All that benefits both the company and the customers as providing excellent customer experience will always provide a boost in business.
The post-pandemic world is something everyone, businesses and customers are navigating through, learning, and adjusting to daily. There is a long learning curve ahead of all of us.
However, using well-known strategies such as listening to what customers need, providing ways for them to easily connect with you, accommodating their desires to the best of your abilities, and stressing the importance of safety can help customers fall in love with your brand and stay loyal to you.customer relationships