A business relationship with customers is built over time, nurtured by experiences throughout the customer journey with many physical and online touch points, based on expectations and confirmed through repeated interactions.
The emergence of a crisis puts the strengths and weaknesses of that relationship in the spotlight. And the coronavirus pandemic is not an ordinary crisis.
Almost a third of the world population has to stay home as a result of the pandemic. The implications of this for many brands are that they are on the verge of collapse. With an increase in the number of infections, there is no date to return to normal life.
How Is This Crisis Affecting The Customer Experience?
With the coronavirus outbreak, the world changes every week. Customer Experience (CX) teams at have had to quickly adapt to an environment marked by product and service cancellations, market volatility and increased uncertainty. Additionally, most of these teams do this from home, putting additional pressure on their ability to respond effectively to them. For many, that means learning and adapting as they go.
All clients have changed their behavior. But brands have had to adapt, too, and this has a direct impact on the customer experience. In fact, experts indicate that 30% of customers have reviewed their expenses and regular bills, with the intention of reducing them.
How to manage the customer experience during COVID-19
Confinement is altering consumer expectations, activities, and motivations. This has affected customer perception and forced us to rethink what customer service means.
Suddenly, examining the customer journey and satisfaction metrics to report what customers want, has given way to urgency to address what they need. Particularly in times of crisis, a customer’s interaction with a company can have an immediate and persistent effect on trust and loyalty.
As a result, what matters most to customers right now is changing. Brands with the best price, best product, or most memorable marketing campaign may not have an advantage compared to those that display emotional intelligence and communicate with honesty and empathy, and as a result build trust. In times of crisis, people want to be understood and are extremely sensitive.
Hand in hand with this perspective, the following customer experience practices can frame short-term responses, build resilience, and prepare companies for success in the days after coronavirus:
1) Focus On Trust And Connection
The customer experience during the COVID-19 crisis is about generating empathetic engagement. To show empathy, companies need to communicate before customers are concerned and take clear steps to meet their needs before they express them.
Now is the time to be human and show humanity. To that end, Emotional Intelligence (the ability to use emotional information to guide thinking and behavior) is a good skill that companies must rely on as the COVID-19 crisis continues to plague customers.
If a brand shows its customers that it is doing everything in its power to protect and serve them rather than to seek profit, customers will be much more understanding when mistakes occur and show more brand loyalty.
2) The Importance Of Reporting
Probably the most important part of managing the customer experience during this time is making sure that the brand communicates clearly and quickly.
It is good to communicate with interested clients and offer them all the information they demand, using agile and personalized daily communications to keep them updated.
Attitudes and perceptions will change very quickly; so real-time monitoring and reporting will be essential.
3) Optimize The Mobile Experience
Being at home is driving smartphone use, especially among the younger generation. According to data collected between March 16 and 20 from 13 countries, 70% of people worldwide say that they spend much more time using their mobile phones since the COVID-19 crisis began, 80% in the Generation Z case.
Therefore, if a company has a presence on the web, they will want the customer experience on their smartphone to be as smooth as possible.
4) Focus On Social Media
With social distancing and home confinement, people are more interconnected online than ever, and there has been a significant increase in the use of social media.
This has become a trend and companies should use it as a competitive advantage, especially if an organization cannot function on a regular basis. Participating in social media is a great way to keep the brand active and offer value to customers, albeit in a different and new way. This is an opportunity to be visible and interact with clients in a less formal setting.
5) Increase And Improve Digital Marketing
With around 3 billion people in their homes worldwide, the online world has become a good opportunity for companies. That means that instead of increasing sales, it would be a good time to expand and improve digital marketing.
This is the perfect time to interact with customers, talk to them, and listen to their feedback.
When it comes to social media marketing, posting three times a week might have been enough before, but now once a day isn’t too much, especially if companies change the services and products they offer almost daily.
There Will Be A Before And After The Coronavirus Crisis
The COVID-19 crisis will end sometime, but it is highly likely that consumer preference and business models have changed when this happens:
- People will get used to teleworking. Using the right tools, productivity will increase rapidly.
- COVID-19 will accelerate the shift from face-to-face interactions to digital communications. Online shopping will be the norm.
- Users will establish deeper and more emotional personalized commitments with selected companies. Marketing experts know that emotionally engaged customers are twice as valuable as satisfied customers, and by 2025, 60% of top brands are projected to improve customer engagement by detecting and managing emotions to influence purchases.
- The movement of omnichannel digital experiences will be accelerated to impact relationships and behaviors at work and with companies.
In conclusion, COVID-19 will not disappear in the short or medium term. This problem, and everything else that is affected, including unemployment, low consumer demand, etc., will last for months, if not years. But there is still time for companies to proactively engage their customers.
Brands that take proactive steps to protect the safety and trust of their customers will earn a strong reputation, bringing long-term benefits. The key is to listen and follow up on what they need.
Now is also the time for customer experience (CX) leaders to position themselves at the forefront of the long-term changes in user behavior resulting from this crisis. Adapting to changes in customer preferences and innovating quickly to redesign your customer journey will be key.