The past year has made the world re-evaluate – not only what is important, but also how we do everything from schooling and shopping, through to the definition of work and business process. There is no doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic will go down in history as an event that changed the world, but as we begin to tentatively emerge from the pandemic, it is important to identify the changes that we want to hold on to (other than wearing pyjama’s while we work).
Like many other business practices, Customer Experience saw rapid shifts in both delivery and customer expectation, and we think that some changes should be kept
Care and connection
At the height of the pandemic, many businesses saw customers move way from expecting purely utilitarian service, to wanting more care and connection in their interactions. This meant that service staff were no longer required to simply be knowledgeable, but needed to express a far higher level of empathy when interacting with customers. This expectation of empathy not only impacted how frontline staff needed to act but also the back-end processes that supported them (read more about empathy as a CX metric). Many organisations were forced to rapidly prioritise client lifetime value over short term gain by recognising that offering discounts and payment relief for a period would have a lasting impact. While this strategy may seem to be unfeasible in the normal course of business, what COVID – 19 has undoubtedly done is force business to see their customers as people, and not simply as numbers of a financial report – and we say, long may it last!
Convenience is king
One of the most fundamental changes that happened, almost overnight, is that customers wanted to interact with businesses remotely (be it telephonically or online) – and they wanted to be able to achieve the same things using remote communication as they did face to face. Across industries, we learnt that customers, and indeed employees, were not willing to undergo unnecessary effort (in this case, physical risk) to achieve what they needed. From online shopping to banking and education, customer rapidly shifted their expectations as to what great service was. The impact on customer experience was immediate – businesses needed fully functioning remote operations, that delivered the same, if not better, service than that of physical stores and branches. This led to many discovering innovative channels and methods through which to serve their customers. These channels fed the need for convenience, helping customers get what they needed in the way they wanted, and for us, this omnichannel approach to both service and product delivery, as well as customer service should remain entrenched in all business long after lockdowns lift.
Businesses got to see first-hand how employee experience impacts customer experience, and some, for the first time, started prioritising employees. The change to a remote working environment has been pervasive, and is likely to continue, because, despite the difficult times the world was facing, employees discovered the benefits of remote work. Businesses, in turn, saw the direct correlation between employee and customer experience. When employees were under pressure, or short of resource, customers suffered. There was a sharp upward trend in using pulse surveys within teams to conduct ongoing check-in’s that gauged employee engagement and provided the opportunity for swift reaction to bad results. These were done regularly, which for most, showed a big change from annual employee surveys that took months to analyse and action. This shift towards continuous voice of the employee is a change we think should certainly continue into the future, regardless of where the employee ends up working from.
One of the biggest impacts on business during the last 12 months when it comes to Customer Experience, is that voice of the customer is important – it’s not just a score on a dashboard, but real-time insight into how your customers is evolving and invaluable information that can help you keep up. If this is the only business lesson that we keep long after this pandemic has faded into the history books, then customers and businesses alike will be better than they used to be for many years to come.