When the pandemic hit in March 2020, businesses had to adjust to remote working. Our customers were patient when they had to wait a little longer for a delivery or an email to arrive. However, there’s mounting evidence that customers are increasingly frustrated with companies using the pandemic as an excuse for the poor customer experience.

Instead of showing more empathy, it seems that some companies dehumanized their customer journeys even more. In this article, I reveal some of the key customers’ behavioural changes businesses need to keep in mind if they want to stay in the game.

What makes customers unhappy?

In one Consumer Intelligence poll of 2,000 UK adults, almost 25% said they were unhappy with the service from their broadband provider. You can’t blame them knowing that 7% had to wait more than an hour to get through on the phone. Similarly, 40% of energy customers were left on hold for more than 20 minutes.

Retailers and financial services providers have also been guilty of subjecting customers to waves of automated messaging. Or, as one writer commented recently in the Financial Times:

“…it’s the same old menu of ‘press 1 for hell; press 2 for purgatory’.”

Some customers even feel that companies are using the pandemic to stop offering customer service altogether. Many are unforgiving when they see companies that don’t publish phone numbers or email addresses on their website and force them to speak to a chatbot.

Listen to your customers: post-covid behavioural shifts to keep in mind

Let’s face it! There is no shortcut to improving customer journeys. The first step in the evaluation of the overall consumer experience is to actively listen to customers and seek to understand their changing needs. After such an extraordinary year, we can’t assume that customers’ habits remained unchanged. The emerging evidence suggests that, in some ways, customers’ priorities and expectations have been permanently shaped by their experience of the pandemic.

BT has been running a global temperature check of customer priorities for customer experience over the last 10 years. In February 2021, they ran a special one-off survey to see if such an unusual year had made any difference. In one key respect, they found little change: customers still have extremely high service expectations, with 77% saying they buy more from companies that offer excellent customer service (that’s up 1% from 2020).

Four things your customers are doing differently this year

 BT also identified four significant behavioural shifts:

  • Customers have found dealing with service issues more exhausting than a year ago. That’s perhaps not surprising. Dealing with a pandemic is bound to be stressful, but customers really don’t need companies adding to it.
  • We’ve all massively shifted to digital channels in the last year. But 82% of customers say they are struggling to do some of the online basics, such as changing their order, choosing delivery slots, or making payments. In fact, many customers still want to talk to a human at least some of the time.
  • Convenience is now ranked as more important than price – reflecting the increased importance of local services and home delivery when people are confined to home.
  • People increasingly like – and expect to have access to – video chat with 85% saying they’d like to engage with organisations over video.

As the situation continues to evolve, it will be more important than ever to gather accurate and timely customer feedback. As well as tracking customer experience after each transaction, companies need to consider those customers who couldn’t get through on the phone or were put on hold for too long. What about those who couldn’t find what they wanted on your website and gave up?

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