Managing Customer Experiences in Post-COVID World
Rotary Dials technology as simple as Rotary dials inspired Customer Experience designs back in the post-World War I years. With the introduction of rotary dials in bell telephones for commercial use after they had been successful in serving the frontlines; the customer no longer needed operators to switch their calls. As the locals had started to get more telephone connections, stores back then figured they could have orders called in by having telephones installed at their premises.
Worldwide Crisis has always been followed by dramatic change in customer behavior and commercial organizations have always been adept to embrace such changes. With shelter-in-place and social distancing now becoming an integral behavior of the people, mapping customer experience in the post-COVID world is yet another challenge that industries face. Organizations are looking at a customer that’s more cautious, digital, engaged, local and transitional. It is the moral imperative of providers to map these behavioral changes of customers after the COVID-19 pandemic and formulate customer experience designs to accommodate their needs. It still remains a close call between the development of new CX techniques or pushing the adoption of underutilized CX technologies for organizations. What they need is a bird’s-eye view of current customer behavior dynamics.
Critical Changes in Customer Experience Management during COVID crisis
Change in consumer behavior as an outcome of the COVID-19 crisis is not only limited to people’s purchasing behavior but also the way they communicate with brands. Early assessments show that while the demands of core purchases remain relatively the same (apart from COVID related expenses), the in-store experience of customers, loyalty programs, peer-to-peer consulting, renewal of subscriptions, and the go digital attitude have changed exponentially. 18% of the US customers recently switched to new brands during COVID 19 pandemic and 64% wish to continue with their switch for the next years. People want the same products and services today but not from the same providers and certainly not in the same way. Creating new self-service and micro customer experiences has become a major post-COVID World strategy for many businesses.
Also read [blog]: How your organization can create seamless customer experiences for millennials for the new normal.
The Blind Spots of Customer Experiences where customers used to pursue unpredicted actions are now becoming action centers of the world. Large IT organizations are driving their marketing messages with product support services and not product innovations. Onboarding of direct to customer services which used to be blink and miss routines for most organizations have gained traction with improved information management workflows, automated document factories, real-time conversation analytics, and natural language processing (NLP). Depth of interaction and the extent of virtualization have become important characteristics of customer communication during the crisis.
Being connected to customers is proving to be a great institutional asset in these times. Walmarts of the world are losing their store footfall to residential community WhatsApp groups. Gestures as small as wishing a neighborhood buyer a healthy and safe day are getting ahead of typical ‘COVID-19 Response’ setup by well-positioned corporate houses. Almost 40% of the surveyed customers during the COVID-19 crisis complained that their product and service providers didn’t respond well to the situations.
Some of them are still receiving communication messages conceived in pre-COVID times which in no-way are optimized to the new needs. Customer Communication Silos have uniquely isolated organizations from their customers in this way.
State of Consumer Behavior and Customer Experiences in COVID-19 Crisis
Here are some observations made by FCI about the factors that highlight the critical outcomes of the Coronavirus on Consumer Behavior and by extension Customer Experiences across the world.
- 28% of the customer groups surveyed by E&Y recently confirmed that they’re going to extravagantly change their ways of communication. 15% said the same about their banking habits.
- Zendesk observed a 24% spike in weekly customer service tickets of its partner companies across the world, during the peak weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic.
- E-Commerce sales in Italy rose by 81% within a single week after the declaration of curfews. This led to a nationwide logistics crash.
- Overall internet penetration in regions of China increased by 15-20% within a few weeks of the coronavirus outbreak. Something that generally takes years for any country.
- Some fitness and web-based learning applications saw a rise in installations and orders between 80% to 250% during the COVID pandemic.
- 53% of the customers are ready to share personal information to help monitor and track an infection cluster, any infection cluster in the future.
- 1/3rd of Baby Boomers made their first e-grocery purchase during the worldwide coronavirus outbreak. Almost all of them are going to continue getting supplies this way.
- A survey conducted by PwC just before the worldwide COVID outbreak showed that 73% of the customers considered experience among the top 5 factors for making buying decisions.
- 41% of the customers surveyed between April 2, 2020, and March 25, 2020, confirmed that they were only buying from brands they trusted.
Not only factors like these but some auxiliary behaviors are also influencing how customers are communicating their renewed demands to the providers. 46% of employees who had never worked from home have confirmed their intention to continue working that way. Customers working from home now have more time to go through customer communication messages, but they’re still biased towards interactive and hyperpersonal messaging.
The relative shift of customers towards finding more messages with the “What’s-in-it-for-me” intent is visibly observed by many customer communication platforms. While it is yet uncertain which factors might surface in the long run after removal of COVID-19 measures; it is evident that behavior-centric customer communication is going to shape the demand-supply dynamics in the post-COVID world.
Others are reading [blog]: Where should CCM and CXM Converge?
Customer Experience Solutions for Post-COVID World
The institutional response of leading organizations in the first weeks of the COVID outbreak was to identify the degree of digitization in their business. Despite years of investment in product development some of the leading organizations didn’t have requisite emergency response systems in place. The argument raised by 51% of the customers who believe that their regular brands are not responding quickly and effectively during the social restrictions; may yet have its roots in the inefficiency of legacy systems. Thus, organizations have to adopt relatively newer methods of making their communication attempts more visible and probably suited for the latest ways of engagement as discovered in recent months.
Intuitive and Conditional Customer Communication
Customers have redesigned their priorities for now but the effect on micro-economies is yet to stabilize. The volatility of decisions on how customers are expecting to go banking, studying, socializing, communicating, accessing healthcare and even traveling range between 8% to 49% on the scale of ‘getting normal back again’ to ‘cautiously extravagant changes’. To mitigate such behavior the current systems, need to have powerful conditional modeling for their communication systems. Such systems while managing regular omni-channel communication can identify potential shifts in preferences and trigger dynamic rule authoring for automated changes.
Automated Response Management
PwC in its pre COVID world survey found that 80% of customers surveyed were biased towards customer experiences that were faster, convenient, friendly and knowledgeable. Nothing has changed during the COVID crisis regarding this fact. Customers are still looking for organizations that have identified their experience-expectation gap. Setting up automated contact centers for lending core critical support to customers is one way to bridge it.
Developing zero-based digital delivery designs will lend customer communication management systems an ability to make a real-time analysis of customer responses. Customer experiences will have to automatically replicate the behavior of customers in the coming times or they may likely fall-out from the stabilization curve of the post-COVID world. Real-time analytics of customer communication will lend crucial data to set up such functions.
Download [Whitepaper]: Our Banking Case Study on how Digital Onboarding Framework can create higher Customer Satisfaction.
Self Service and Low Contact Communication
Community communication largely remains digital and grows even so during this crisis, but that’s not the case with customer communications. Print-based and Analogue engagement is still a key transactional communication device for numerous businesses across the world. The limitation of single-point interactions has specifically added to the concerns of the financial industry in this series.
Enabling kiosk-less services for transactional communication in sectors like banking and insurance is critical towards maintaining customer relations. Increasing diversion of forces towards a cloud-first approach and full API integrated Digital Support Systems can help avert these concerns for banking and other industries. Developing such systems will not only control the churn losses but also fill the gap created in existing customer lifecycles of organizations that had been disrupted by changes in post-COVID World behavior.
Transactional Communication as a Marketing Channel
43% of surveyed financial institutions in 2020 Q1 till now have claimed that maintaining strong customer communication remains their top priority. With customers decreasing their movement preferences in the post-COVID world, outdoor advertising and mass media communication has been largely rendered inefficient in meeting this priority for many organizations. Amidst the social grapevine, customers have already decided to stick with authentic communication channels only.
Digital Transactional Communication offers organizations a critical opportunity to harness their existing digital real estate towards marketing efforts. The consumer interest in ‘What’s in it for me’ messaging is clearly a positive outcome of the social restrictions. Running an end-to-end customer experience audit to find opportunities for transactional experience management can enable CSAT stability for businesses in these times. Automated document factories and Cloud-based CCM solutions will lend a transformational edge to existing transactional communications for marketing opportunities in the post-COVID world.
Managing Customer Experience Challenges before crisis saturation
After the world banking collapse of 2008-2009, it was observed that customer experience leaders surfaced 3 times more profitable than CX laggards (late adopters). Customers always rely on proactive stabilization of experiences after any worldwide crisis. The opposite is equally true. 71% of consumers in the USA claimed that if they see a brand putting profits above consumer interest, they would disassociate with the brand permanently. It is these same reasons why telehealth and e-learning have emerged as winners of this COVID crisis across the world.
There are obviously other trends that take a higher road in the post-COVID world scenario, like health-conscious buying, contactless delivery, stockpiling, work from home and social distancing. Customer experience however continues to be the north star for all these other customer behavior outcomes. Organizations just need to pick their intervention genre and employ the best CX strategies to resurface. While the new normal is yet to settle in for the customers it is our duty as product and service providers to help customers ease into the transition with better experiences.