As nations around the world come together to fight the current COVID-19 crisis, businesses are also struggling to rethink the new normal. It’s evident that COVID-19 has forever changed the way humans think, be it as an employee, citizen or as a consumer. While we hope for things to go back to the way they were, there’s anxiety all around and people are scared.
Organizations have to understand that they will have to face significant shifts in behavioural patterns at a scale and speed that we have not seen before. Some of these visible examples are social distancing, frequent handwashing, working remotely, cocooning in our homes and so on. And these shifts are here to stay!
This crisis will be full of customer moments that matter. By placing your customers’ interests first, you can lead by example. As your customers prefer isolation at the moment, they will be looking up to brands that they have been trusting for so long to deliver experiences that cater to their new-found needs with empathy and care. The way organizations respond with a new customer experience strategy will help them navigate the long-term shifts in consumer behaviour as well in a Post COVID-19 world.
What are the behavioural shifts that will impact your Customer Experience Strategy?
Shift #1: A corrosion of confidence
“The future is uncertain and I need to account for possible threats going forward” has become the common sentiment. People are postponing purchase decisions at a time of uncertainty and have adopted a wait-and-watch mentality. They are finding it hard to trust and brands will have to invest their effort & resources into confidence building through every channel. There’s a lot of information doing the rounds and people want the right resources to trust and make them feel safe.
Consumers will be less tolerant of taking risks and prefer established brands. CX experts need to take note of these trends and decide where their brands will stand and in terms of customer experience strategy how they will play their part towards their customers, employees and communities in general.
Shift #2: A virtual wave
As normal lives have been disrupted, basic activities like walking to the grocery store, hitting the gym, or dining out & ordering are now either risky or restricted. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought a forceful transition to online and virtual mediums in all walks of life. Whether it is consumers buying stuff online, employees working remotely, and people communicating with their friends and family, virtual is the new normal.
Your customers are also expecting you to provide digital, low-touch points. What organizations are looking at is a long-term digital strategy even in a post COVID-19 world. Organizations need to streamline any roadblocks to adapt to a digital strategy. For instance, retail companies that have not prioritized full scale eCommerce until now will face hurdles when managing the current level of surging demands.
To emphasise this point even more, consider the fact that there’s been a 55% increase in consumers who have expressed that they want to shift to online channels for grocery shopping a 3 to 6 percentage point increase in overall eCommerce penetration in China as the pandemic took shape there. (McKinsey survey, February 2020).
Shift #3: Self-isolation as the new normal
The inclination to self-isolate will continue. Brands that can tap into this opportunity with creative strategies to enable a home-based experience will lead. Delivering engaging experiences while your customers are at home will be the winning strategy. Home-based spending will likely increase. People will be more likely to place their trust in local goods & services as global might be met with scepticism. People have been thrown into a new social paradigm and humans are creatively coming up with innovative ways to deal with it. Brands need to tap into, capture & respond to this new shift.
Action points to revamp your Customer Experience Strategy
Business leaders at this point may find it hard to focus on Customer Experience when there’s so much going on and cost-cutting is what’s on everyone’s mind right now. But a former Forrester research will convince you that investing in Customer Experience efforts is going to produce a lot of value.
According to this study, leaders who focussed on effective CX strategies emerged as winners during the economic downturn in 2007-09.
As organizations face tough times now because of COVID-19, they should proceed with a customer-centric mindset to stand out. With this thought in mind, let’s look at the action points that CX leaders should focus on relevant for this situation.
Action point #1: Reach out with care and empathy
Your customers are looking for support and this is not the time to reach out with marketing or selling in mind, but to offer genuine assistance. Organizations have been proactive to respond to the emotion which is important for the customer right now – confidence & trust.
Case in point: Citi reached out to their customers with a proactive email to inform customers about what the brand was doing to take care of customers’ safety & health in mind. They mentioned how they were sanitizing their branches, emphasized on the digital & mobile apps, and even informed that they were waiving off monthly service fees.
As the anxiety rises, people are coming up with never-before-asked questions and service centers, government hotlines, and have been swamped with massive call volumes. To build lasting relationships at this point, companies have to respond proactively. They are taking the help of technologies like Conversational AI. There has been a shift to automation of high-volume requests with chatbots, virtual agents and cloud-based interactive voice response.
Action point #2: Put the spotlight on Digital experiences
As businesses shut down and employees start working remotely, a wave of digital transformation has set in. According to a survey by McKinsey, about 40% of consumers in the US said they are likely to reduce their spending in a few areas like travel, out-of-home entertainment, clothing & footwear etc. But in the other categories like grocery, at-home entertainment, consumers expressed their intent to spend more and spend online.
COVID 19 has obligated banks and financial institutions to digitize their core banking processes such as eKYC, digital signature collection, and online document submission. To handle the growing volume of customer queries, banks are leaning on contactless customer engagement.
Organizations have been made aware of how vulnerable their businesses can get in the face of an event like this. Companies that have not matured in their digital transformation journey have no option but to accelerate from experimentation to active scale-up.
Case in point: A consumer-packaged goods company witnessed a surge in online orders but could not manage the operational chaos that ensued as a result. On the other hand, businesses empowered by technology like Zomato in India could move fast as they partnered with grocery startups to meet the rising demand for essentials.
Faster the companies move to fulfil the new-found customer demands and re-align their customer experience strategy, the better it will be. Demand and supply forecasts will not be easy to manage if you do not have the right data & insights at hand at lightning speed. Keeping this need for relevant data & insights at a fast pace in mind, Knoldus created a COVID-19 dashboard to represent the impacts of the pandemic on various countries in a single view. If you want to customize this dashboard specifically for your business needs or create similar dashboards to visualize your business metrics with quick turnaround time, we are here for you.
Accelerating time to market, rapid prototyping, and releasing innovative features in their “minimum viable” state can be some of the strategies that companies should adopt. Evaluate your innovation pipeline and align them with new customer experiences that correspond to remote and digital channels.
Action point #3: Deliver experiences at home
Cater to the demands of at-home, digital, and low-touch options. As we saw in the previous section that home-based spending will see a rise and the trend has already picked up in countries like Italy and China. Contactless deliveries and drive-throughs are picking up pace like never before.
Case in point: A delivery platform called Instacart in the US initiated a concept called ‘Leave at my door delivery’ in the first week of March itself. Ping An Bank in China initiated their “Do It At Home” feature to encourage the use of their digital services. The campaign was a huge success and received 8 million page views and 12 million transactions within half a month.
Companies are also making a few digital services available for free to target new audiences and engage the current ones. A lot of gyms and fitness apps like Cure.fit are offering free trials and masterclasses online that can be availed from the comfort of one’s home. The results have been amazing as some of these companies have seen an 80 to 250 per cent rise in app download and signups.
Contactless delivery of food and grocery has also been a rising trend. Meituan, a major food delivery company in China, witnessed major shifts in the consumption pattern. Soon after they launched their contactless delivery option, 80% of the orders opted for it in a span of two weeks.
How can technology help transform the Customer Experience Strategy post COVID-19?
The new normal of social distancing will be here to stay and we will outgrow traditional customer experience strategies in a big way. So companies, especially retail brands have to re-evaluate their strategies to keep social distancing norms and. Let’s walk through a few value propositions that will shape the customer experiences of tomorrow.
Serve customers according to their convenience
Retail brands and restaurants will have to think about convenience and safety for a long time to come. Customer experience models like “buy online, pick up in store” will prevail. Contactless pickup, as in the case of Meituan above, is here to stay along. Another emerging practice called the curbside pickup is helping businesses to cater to their customers’ needs. Orders are placed online or over the phone, packaged, and are placed in a customers’ car trunk or outside the store for pickup.
The role of technology: CX models like contactless delivery and curbside pickup will continue to thrive even in a Post COVID-19 world. But their successful execution will depend on robust eCommerce, order management, and fulfilment systems.
Engage with them to assist
Under normal circumstances, a physical store would have sales assistants to keep customers engaged and help them browse through the store till they find what they are looking for and suggesting them more options. But social distancing norms would give rise to a world where such consultations would be replaced by virtual assistants.
The role of technology: Customer experience journeys will be revamped to identify the exact stages where digital engagement would be required. The role of AI-driven automation and chatbots will become ever more significant.
Get the community to collaborate
Gone are the days when retail brands would bring like-minded customers together so as to increase footfall in physical stores. For example, one of Disney’s engagement strategies involved an in-store playroom where children could come together, learn, and engage in activities that simulates a community-like experience.
The role of technology: To mirror these experiences in a digital world, collaborative technologies like video conferencing tools, augmented & virtual reality.
Retaining trust with revamped supply chain management
Managing the customer trust will get more complex as product safety will be on everyone’s minds when they make online purchases. Innovations in supply chain management will be necessary as packaging and delivery will come under the radar when it comes to building customer confidence.
The role of technology: Manufacturing & supply chain processes will see a major shift. AI-based sourcing strategies will leverage unstructured data in real-time to manage risks.
Knoldus can help you navigate the COVID-19 crisis with the right technologies…
At Knoldus, we believe that collaborative efforts will go a long way in managing and responding to this crisis. We highly recommend you to better serve your customers by enhancing the support of digital solutions & prepare for the next normal. Our digital transformation solutions include technologies like Reactive microservices, Fast Data, Artificial Intelligence, Real-time Data Analytics at scale and more.
Knoldus has brought together insights and solutions to help you overcome the COVID-19 business challenges you currently face and help you prepare for the future.
We are also helping our customers in these tough times with Pre-assessments of their current IT infrastructure. If you’re looking for similar solutions to determine gaps to automate your operations, reach out to us. Get in touch with us to schedule a call with our expert or drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.