In 2016, Karl Schwab executive chairman of the world economic forum, wrote: ”we stand on the brink of a technological revolution that will fundamentally change the way we live work and relate to each other.” He was, of course, referring to the digitization that would usher in the 4th industrial revolution. With the arrival of Covid-19 these changes have been unprecedentedly fast tracked. Social distancing and remote work forces have brought to the fore the immediate need for technology to facilitate the new ways we need to work, communicate, socialize, be entertained, stay fit, and shop. The tripod of post-Covid CX, that being, customers, companies and CX professionals, will need to adapt to customer experience changes too.
As customers progress from initial shock towards coming to grips with the situation and living a new “normal” which will eventually lead to a post-Covid life, customer behavior has suddenly, and possibly forever, changed. Companies need to assess how they can respond to create new customer experiences that satisfy new expectations. This calls for agility in their responses which is challenged by the inability to conduct business as usual and the need to adjust to new technology and new ways. CX professionals also need to consider how their role has and will change during and after the pandemic as we can expect these changes in customer behavior to be here for the long term.
Throughout history we have seen how certain events forever changed the rules of business. Covid-19 is no different. Customers lives have been upended by the pandemic. People have lost loved ones, jobs and income. The “social distancing” that has been ingrained into the psychology of people has shifted not only the way we engage each other socially, but also the expectations that customers have of businesses and the manner in which we need to service them. Even when life goes back to resemble some level of normality, or what was, the anxiety, hyperawareness and sensitivity to germs and illnesses will remain. This changed mindset will impact on how people engage.
Customers want information
At any moment, your customers are the life of your business. They are your community. It is important for companies to understand their customers’ levels of comfort in terms of engagement. In uncertain times, customers seek information. Knowledge is power, and information gives customers a sense of comfort and support. Your customers will want to hear from you through messages that build trust and confidence that you will help see them through this challenging time and support them in a post-Covid market. More and more customers are accessing such information via online portals. Billions of people connected on mobile devices with unlimited access to knowledge both instils confidence but also impacts on consumer behaviour.
Online platforms become the norm for customers
Customers’ primary concerns will be about health and safety. Customers will inevitably want to spend more time away from crowds and will prefer engaging digitally. We have seen major spikes over the last few weeks with more people spending more time online and starting to make use of digital platforms that they previously didn’t use such as shopping online, video calling, and using digital exercise hubs. It is reasonable to expect these trends to continually increase after the pandemic as they become part of the norm of consumer behaviour.
Convenience and price trump choice
Behaviour on online platforms is also dictated by certain needs and desires. Research by Convey, a delivery experience management provider found that online shopping trends are affected by convenience, with free shipping and drive-by-to-collect options being substantial factors in enticing customer purchases. So convenience, that satisfies the needs for safety, seems to trump variety or choice and brand loyalty as well. It has also been found to trump shorter delivery turnaround times with customers happy to wait longer than usual for online deliveries if it means they can stay clear of crowds in store.
The other aspect we are seeing that overrides choice is price. Due to job losses and economic insecurity, people have less disposable income and are anxious about what they will have going forwards. As a result, People have also placed a higher value on core needs and what they deem to be truly important and of value. With reduced disposable income levels we can expect more price sensitive and cautious purchasing behaviours.
Over the last decade Customer experience has been the key differentiating factor for companies in their drive for obtaining competitive advantage. Now the challenge is not to just differentiate, but to “pivot, innovate and transform” (Blake Morgan CMO Network for Forbes 27 April 2020) This will take courage and good leadership. Now is not the time for fear. Now is the time for strong leadership and decisiveness as we help customers get back on track after the devastations they have suffered in the face of Covid 19.
Help Customers feel safe and secure
Customers want to feel safe and know that they can trust your company. Companies need to show their customers that they understand what they are going through in terms of possible loss of family or friends to the virus, loss of income, and anxiety about the future. This can be achieved in a variety of ways. For instance:
- Clear transparent messaging regarding safety protocols to offer protection to customers going forwards will need to become part of your CX strategy.
- Special offerings. Many companies have reduced their prices and offer free delivery as a show of empathy towards customers having less available income, and convenience as a means of reducing barriers to purchase.
Become future ready
It is important for companies to be agile and future ready! Covid -19 and the increased global digitization threatens to disrupt value chains and transform entire systems of production, service, and management.
For companies who operate in physical environments, they will need to rethink their space as public spaces will probably need to be redesigned to accommodate customers’ ongoing concerns and social distancing desires.
Companies need to operate lean and focus spending on core business related costs such as digitization and re-orienting their strategies. Get your online presence in order. Billions of people seeking out online information and surfing websites and social media sites means that online marketing may be the best way to access your customer in our new world. Research already shows that more people are spending more time online. Sites are experiencing higher click rates than ever before as companies begin embracing this growing trend feeding customers with important news and information about the current crisis, and updates about how they are responding to continue to service their customers.
Understanding your customers’ needs and responding quickly to establish and enhance digital platforms, processes and touchpoints are key aspects to consider that will improve the experience you offer your customers through innovative usability (UX) design.
With the right attitude, crisis presents opportunity
Although global economies are stifled as businesses scurry to maintain their purpose, operations and market share, at the same time, this crisis offers opportunities of digital transformation, especially to companies who have been lagging in this area.
A possible upside will be experienced by companies in the digital economy industry as home education, home fitness, home entertainment and remote working progress from trend to habit and thus present opportunities.
There may also be opportunity in local production industries as companies and individuals have indicated a desire to support locally manufactured and produced goods and services.
While the core of success at this time is a customer centric focus, attitude and courage are of paramount importance for companies. Instead of feeling defeated, companies need to determine how best to serve their customers in the current time.
New technologies introduce entirely new ways of servicing customers and encourage agile innovation which in turn further disrupt existing value chains leading to rich competitive markets that are better able to satisfy customers.
New mindset leads new personas and journeys
CX is critical now but it can’t be achieved and practiced in traditional ways. CX professionals will need to shift their mindset to accommodate new learnings about how the new customer behaves as our current models used to forecast best case estimates of the future are challenged and may become outdated.
This includes considering and evaluating personas that may have previously been taken for granted due to changing needs. As individuals become more tech savvy and more ofay with the digital space, suddenly there emerges a new persona. New personas and new behaviours equals new journeys. CX executives need to bring to the table new ideas about new customer personas and the new journeys they will take to engage with companies.
Some CX guidance
CX leaders need to guide organizations through this crisis. Remind companies that times of crisis also present opportunities for companies to demonstrate commitment to their customers; and deliver exceptional experience and service despite huge obstacles.
We will need to empathetically ask more open-ended questions in voice of customer communications and listen more in order to get the right information to drive the right change. Communicating with customers will have a lasting effect especially during crisis. We need to guide communication in the right direction, lest the effect be undesirable.
As the situation is fast and dynamic, it is good practice to speed up feedback and response cycles so that you are able to stay ahead of changing needs and expectations. The longer the lockdowns and restrictions remain in place, the higher the chance of these behaviours turning into hardened habits which will then be around for longer. A factor that all CX professionals and marketers should keep in mind as they adapt to transformations due to upheavals resulting from the pandemic and related regulations.
We can therefore expect a new age of business will dawn supported by a new tripod: New customers and new expectations and new ways for companies to service these needs. We will also need a new type of CX leader to align company efforts with customer expectation targets. CX professionals will need to enhance their capabilities to continuously learn how ppl are thinking and feeling, propagate insights into the hands of decision makers and adapt rapidly in the changing environment. Reimagining CX is a necessity and it must happens swiftly and timeously as it may be the only way for business to survive the current condition
Written by Yael Benjamin