Four CX practices that will prepare brands for success in a post-pandemic world
Four practices that can frame short-term responses, build resilience and prepare customer-forward companies for success in the days after coronavirus.
In a short period of time, COVID-19 has overwhelmed lives and livelihoods around the globe. With 85% of Brits being unsure or pessimistic about the country’s economic recovery following the current pandemic, 47% are now being very careful with how they spend their money and a further 45% have committed to actively cutting back on their spending.
In turn, this ‘new normal’ has forced a rethinking of what customer care means. Suddenly, examinations of customer journeys and satisfaction metrics to inform what customers want, have given way to an acute urgency to address what they need.
Particularly 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 and retreat into isolation, a primary barometer of their customer experience will be how the businesses they frequent and depend upon deliver experiences and service that meets their new needs with empathy, care and concern.
Now is also the time for customer experience (CX) leaders to position themselves at the forefront of the longer-term shifts in consumer behaviour that result from this crisis. 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.
Hand in hand with this perspective, these four CX practices can frame short-term responses, build resilience, and prepare customer-forward companies for success in the days after coronavirus:
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. A baseline starting point: staying true to company values and purpose.
Our research shows that 64% of customers choose to buy from socially responsible brands, a figure that has grown significantly in the past two years, according to Edelman. The way organisations step up to play this role for their customers, their employees, and the broader community is likely to leave lasting memories in customers’ minds.
2. Meet your customers where they are today
Customers’ normal patterns of life have come to a halt. Simple activities like a trip to the grocery store or dining out with friends are now difficult, risky, or even prohibited. Overnight, demand patterns have shifted. A McKinsey survey of 1,249 participants in 46 cities across China, found in February 2020 that overall online penetration in China increased by 15–20%.
In Italy, GDOWeek reported that ecommerce sales for consumer products rose by 81% in a single week, creating significant supply-chain bottlenecks. Customers need digital, at-home, and low-touch options. Digital-led experiences will continue to grow in popularity once the coronavirus is quelled, and companies that act quickly and innovate in their delivery model to help consumers navigate the pandemic safely and effectively will establish a strong advantage.
3. Reimagine customer experience for a post-COVID-19 world
The COVID-19 crisis will end at some point. We expect changes in consumer preferences and business models to outlast the immediate crisis. This has begun to play out in China, the same McKinsey survey found there has been a 55% increase in consumers intending to permanently shift to online grocery shopping, and an increase of three to six percentage points in overall ecommerce penetration in the aftermath of COVID-19.
Some consumers will be trying digital and remote experiences for the first time. In China, the share of consumers over the age of 45 using ecommerce increased by 27% from January to February 2020, according to Chinese market-research firm QuestMobile. Once they are acclimatised to new digital or remote models, we expect some consumers to switch permanently or increase their usage, accelerating behaviour shifts that were already underway before the crisis.
Further, once the public-health crisis has subsided, economic impacts will persist. Leading companies will deliver on the customer experiences that are emerging as most important in the “next normal,” while finding ways to save and self-fund.
4. Build capabilities for a fast-changing environment
Maintaining a strong customer experience in crisis requires rapid research to understand changing dynamics and new pain points as well as agile innovation to address them. Customer leaders who master that approach will create value for consumers in high-priority areas and in an environment of increased competition.
A new dimension
Customer experience has taken on a new definition and dimension in the overwhelming challenge of COVID-19. 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.
Those relationships will be the key to all businesses regaining the performance they had achieved before the pandemic struck.