COVID-19: The Driving Force Behind Digital Customer Experience in 2020
By Kerry Thomas Head of Customer Experience at IQbusiness
Although businesses and customers might long for a return to some level of normalcy, the reality is that the changes we’re experiencing will be with us for a while. One thing that’s definitely here to stay is that customers are becoming more digitally savvy and – if we are honest – are always on the lookout for discounts. So how can businesses retain brand-loyal customers in an ecosystem where competitors are feverishly working to sway the sale in their favour?
Possibly the most open-ended solution is customer-centricity: the way in which businesses interact with customers before and after a sale to help drive repeat business, enhance customer loyalty, and improve business growth. But in the current context, it is not as simple as changing a mindset or a few processes here and there.
In current times, we’ve seen customer communication evolve from simple human interaction to digital and automated tech. Online sales have sky-rocketed in the past few months, with 37% of South Africans claiming to shop more online due to health risks. Digital purchases have become the new normal for many customers and should be reason enough for businesses to realise the vital position that digital holds. So why not start the conversation on a platform where you know your customers are looking for solutions?
As Tim Matthis, CEO of Genex Insights and Executive Partner at IQbusiness, puts it, “The outbreak has pushed consumers out of their normal routines. They are now embracing technology more than ever to support all aspects and consequences of isolation.”
No longer nice to have, but a necessity, businesses need to incorporate digital customer-focused tactics into their strategies. Because of the reformed ecosystem, many might need to scrap their five-year plans, adapt, and change to secure business resiliency post the pandemic. In truth, both B2B and B2C consumers’ expectations have changed, and those not willing to change with it are at risk of being left behind. It is, therefore, important for businesses to adapt to these expectations and redefine their previous client strategies. But where do you start if you are not already using digital or automated technologies?
First, it is important to maintain the human element of customer experience across digital channels. There is no doubt that this pandemic is driving digital customer experience and in so doing, removing face-to-face service – but digital interactions don’t have to be impersonal.
The solution to this is authenticity and implementing a true people-centred core so that all dealings feel individual. Of course, automated communication doesn’t quite offer the same level of human service as a person on the phone or a shop assistant, but it does offer quick and easy feedback, typically followed up with digital communication. This communication has the potential to spark long-lasting relationships and genuine partnerships with customers. By keeping the lines of communication open and making customers feel heard and valued, companies have a fighting chance to better align with customer goals and produce better results and outcomes.
Second, businesses need to understand that customer behaviour will forever be changed. Because we are creatures of habit and have now found convenience in digital commerce, we will continue using digital to connect, learn and play long after the pandemic has left. To add to this, permanently changed habits can also set new trends in motion. What customers value, how and where they shop, and even how they live and work, are disrupted, accelerating the need to reshape and rethink product and service offerings.
So how do businesses adapt the way their products or services are delivered? How do you meet with clients to discuss their investments, new business opportunities or even onboard new staff? Zoom, Skype and Microsoft Teams come to mind.
The same question pertains to your customers. How do you offer a service without meeting them face-to-face or doing the physical work? Many companies have already jumped on the post-lockdown marketing train by promising services at discounted prices and promoting these deals on digital platforms, for example, social media or Google advertising. Some are even taking an empathetic approach by waiving delivery fees or sending thank you SMS’s to customers for paying their accounts during these uncertain economic times. By adapting to the customers’ preferences and aligning with their behaviours, businesses are more inclined to retain their competitive footing and ensure brand-loyal customers. Digital platforms like CRM systems also offer a wealth of information on your customers, with incredible insights on how to personalise their digital experience and meet their unique needs.
Tailoring your business offering to reflect the needs and wants of your customer is a key tool to retain customer loyalty. By adopting a customer-centric approach, driven by personalised digital communication, businesses will be able to gather enough data to unlock the value and opportunities provided by their customers’ digital experiences. Whichever way you look at it, the potential of immersive digital customer communication spells a better experience for consumers, and ultimately, ensures the longevity of your business as well.