Sandra RadlovackiSandra RadlovackiJune 25, 2020
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3min737

Gift cards have taken over physical gifts, making up 14 percent of lockdown gifting compared to 12 percent of physical gifts.

According to the latest research from The Gift Card &Voucher Association (GCVA) in partnership with Globaldata, among 2,000 UK shoppers, 14 percent bought a gift card for somebody else. When asked about their motivation for switching to gift cards, 30 percent of shoppers responded that the heightened difficulty of purchasing physical gifts was the main motivator, as gift cards offer more convenience. Twenty-five percent opted for gift cards because they can be easily delivered to the recipient.

Around 21 percent of consumers chose gift cards as a token of support to their favourite business during challenging period. This goes in line with a growing trend among consumers who were more orientated towards brands that showed better customer service and loyalty

Most purchased gift cards are from retail, acquired by 44 percent of consumers, while 38 percent chooses multi-store gift cards. Gaming gift cards particularly rose in popularity, having been purchased by 24 percent of consumers. Experience gift cards which can be used for weekends getaways or local bars and restaurants were purchased by 10 percent of shoppers, which is reflective of the current public uncertainty.

Gail Cohen, director general of the GCVA, commented: “Some of the UK’s most popular gifting occasions, such as Easter, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, fell during lockdown. To adhere to social distancing, consumers needed gifting solutions that minimise contact, could be sent instantly, and enjoyed at a later date. For this, as well as recognising our key workers and even keeping the nation fed, gift cards have been the perfect solution. 

“The pandemic has also given rise to a new, extremely interesting gifting trend, known as “sunny day gifting”, referring to when a gift card is purchased with the intention of being used at a later date once everyday life has returned to normal. As shops continue to reopen their doors and the leisure sector gears up for reactivation, we anticipate a major surge in footfall as customers flock to spend the gift cards they have bought or received in lockdown, offering a much-needed shot in the arm for the sector that could benefit businesses for months to come.” 


Adhish KulkarniAdhish KulkarniJune 24, 2020
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8min1044

The multi-level infrastructure and communications shift, demanded in large part by digitization, has rapidly become a critical issue for Communications Service Providers (CSPs).

That’s because, in the telecommunications world, new subscriber growth has slowed and profits have slowly been eroded due to price wars that often lead to the self-destructive commoditisation of services. This reduces monthly ARPU at the same time that the cost to serve and consumer demand for connectivity speeds/volume of data consumption have increased.

In some ways, this is ironic. Simultaneous with the above mobile, fixed line, broadband and media/TV convergence or partnerships have meant an increase in the products and services available to consumers – while IoT, other new delivery paradigms, and new types of devices are driving the trend for individuals to use and pay for multiple lines simultaneously.

So what next? At a time when their offerings are in greater demand than ever before, many service providers are struggling to compete. The end user may have reached the promised land but the enterprise, it appears, has not.

This new landscape and its associated realities clarifies one thing. No longer can the telecommunications industry treat or charge customers as they have done before, at the SIM card level. Today, how CSPs engage customers at a household level is their key to future profitability.

Successful customer engagement in the Age of Customer-Centricity requires a deeper understanding of user preferences, profiles and requirements in order to capture their interest in relevant products and services and thus to maintain brand loyalty. Traditional approaches to customer engagement i.e. batch data-based, below-the-line campaigns and static, transactional points program-based solutions must therefore give way to a set of new, highly engaging, offer and loyalty programs that are built for a generation of demanding, social media-empowered digital natives.

The Four Pillars Of Engagement

The recognition of this accelerating technology-led change has led us to identify four key pillars of action, the response to which I believe will define how brands drive customer loyalty in the nascent, always-on, connected world and how successful they are at doing that. These are:

Intelligent Customer Engagement – A focus on customer engagement must now be a priority for any business operating on a digital platform; with particular regard to loyalty, it is critical in order to keep customers satisfied and maintain long-term, active relationships with the brand. The digital channel allows CSPs to engage customers in real-time, at the ‘moment of truth’, no matter where they are. Intelligent customer engagement, for example via gamified mechanics, keeps subscribers excited and satisfied.

Deeper insight through analytics – The amount of data available to brands continues to grow at an exponential pace as consumers use digital channels to interact and transact, thereby leaving digital footprints that provide insight into the entire customer journey from initial awareness through to post-purchase satisfaction. For CVM Campaign and Loyalty programs, this data will form the basis for personalisation, reward relevance and for designing superior customer experiences; it is therefore critical that CSPs are able to access solutions that fully leverage the insights that data holds.

More choice through an open partner ecosystem – The walled garden approach of traditional rewards programs is giving way to a more open ecosystem of partners where loyal customers can ‘spend’ their credits with a host of different partners. The digital channel has opened the opportunity to integrate with physical and digital partners on a global scale. This trend of openness is here to stay, and will remain a key element for brands to remain relevant and to secure ongoing customer engagement within their loyalty programmes. For CSPs, the technologies required to manage such open relationships with important brand partners is now critical.

Catering to always-on and omni-channel – Customer Value, Retention and Rewards Programs have to adapt to an always-on consumer who is channel agnostic, expecting the brand to engage on email, app, or twitter, or SMS in real-time. This is difficult, but it is also an opportunity to engage with customers in a highly relevant and timely manner. Telcos must find ways to provide meaningful cross-channel experiences at the right level of frequency.

Investment required. But in what?

The Four Pillars of Engagement suggest that CSPs urgently need to revitalise or even reinvent their customer engagement tactics and processes. This is because they have to manage their customers’ journeys more effectively and deliver a far more personalised experience.

Neither of these goals can adequately be met using legacy technologies. This means that CSPs will face making vital investment in customer engagement.

Applications addressing requirements in areas such as self-care and provisioning in particular have seen increasing attention in recent months. A piecemeal approach to solving the problems of operating effectively in the new digital landscape is unlikely to work. Joined-up thinking and joined-up operations (a new, lean customer-centricity where experience is prioritised by both operations and IT systems) has to be the goal.

Data also represents a challenge as it is axiomatic that improving customer-facing processes requires better access to data sources. This is why data management has been a focal point for early digital transformation efforts. Effective customer engagement means bringing together multiple data sources. Good-quality data and improved data storage are the backbone of both improved engagement and innovative use cases.

Engagement, driven by personalisation, demands the unification and standardisation of communications across multiple channels and categories of customer-related operations. Technology therefore needs to leverage a broad mix of capabilities.

New systems will need to integrate with both digital and non-digital customer channels as well as with back-office platforms such as billing and product catalog and front-line activities such as sales and marketing. A wide range of functions will need to be better aligned to support the customer experience, including cloud infrastructure, unified customer data management, security and compliance mechanisms, interaction intelligence, and process automation.

The requirement today is for a new type of Customer Engagement Platform (CEP). This will be a technology that moves away from traditional product-centric and siloed approaches and replaces legacy with a holistic approach to customer engagement.


Howard LaxHoward LaxJune 23, 2020
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8min1443

The pandemic has dramatically redefined how we live, work, play and interact with each other. Our daily routines, relationships of all stripes, simple indulgences, even our personal hygiene have been upended.

No one really knows if this will turn out to be a seismic interruption of some duration after which life slowly returns to BC (Before COVID) or if “normal” has been indelibly altered.

Regardless of what tomorrow looks like, one thing remains unchanged: the underlying rationale for focusing on Customer Experience.

CX is a business strategy rooted in the proven premise that the experiences a customer enjoys (or endures) today will affect their relationship with and behaviour towards a firm tomorrow. It is incumbent upon the firm to deliver those experiences that motivate the customer behaviours that create value for the company, while minimising the likelihood of customer behaviours that destroy value.

What’s changed?

While the objectives behind CX remain unshaken, the context, the operating environment has been shaken to its core by the pandemic shock waves.

1. All modern economies are consumer-driven and, mostly, decentralised. That is, customers have options and create business winners and losers by the choices they make. The concept of consumer “choice” has a new meaning, however, when the unemployment rate is the highest it has been in 90-some-odd years. No one working today was in the work force the last time we saw similar levels of unemployment (as well as underemployment).

2. For those fortunate enough to be employed, spending patterns have been disrupted: savings rates have climbed sharply, while discretionary spending is down. This household fiscal conservatism may be prudent financial management, but it isn’t a very good way to reignite the economy and boost business.

3. Distribution channels have been broken, disrupted and redefined. Both the supply chain into the firm from its suppliers and the outbound channels have been affected.

4. Employees are frenzied, almost apoplectic. To say that employees are worried and treading water in a sea of uncertainty would be an understatement. They are trying to navigate between and cope with the lesser of two evils, the dual threat to their family’s health, on the one hand, and their economic well-being, on the other.

5. Customer experience delivery systems have been upended, redefined or taxed to breaking. For most firms, their employees were their CX delivery system. The in-person dimension is just beginning to come back on-stream, albeit in new ways. Phone, chat and video conferencing have catapulted in importance, but we just don’t know how this will affect customer relationships over time.

Digital solutions certainly saved the day for many companies – the more digitally prepared a company was going into this mess, the more likely they were to not see a serious disruption in the experiences they delivered. Virtually every firm has seen its customer touchpoints and journeys disrupted, redefined and pushed to their limit.

6. Customers are frustrated: some want to return to life Before COVID as quickly as possible and are impatient for the world to reopen. Others are reluctant to jump back in too quickly. All are faced with an environment where the economic, health and familial issues are compounded by political dimensions that colour everything.

What needs to be on the To-Do List?

Companies need to focus on those challenges that most affect them and where they can have an impact.

Employees are front and centre. It will be a Buyer’s employment market for years to come, with plenty of ‘warm bodies’ to hire – but attracting and retaining the right talent will require a reciprocal bond of trust between employee and employer.

Companies need to understand and empathise, in both words and deeds, and smooth the transition back to a new working normal.

  • Make sure you involve employees in the process of re-acclimation to whatever the new normal becomes. Ask for and respond to their input . . . then ask again, and again, and yet again.
  • Companies must make their employees feel safe. This will, at some point, inevitably lead to a conflict with a customer who is, shall we say, is a bit more cavalier in their attitude and behaviour regarding the pandemic and health risks: the customer may be royalty, but the firm must support their employees in their efforts to protect their safety.

There has been a secular shift away from in-person experiences to experiences delivered remotely. For the most part, customers have been understanding of the challenges companies faced in shifting to all remote interactions, but the digital and electronic world make shopping around and switching easier.

When the smoke clears, companies will need to be more nimble than ever in delivering experiences where, when and how customers feel most comfortable – and that location, time and mode of interaction are likely to evolve over time, especially if there is a second wave.

Ultimately, of course, it’s about the customer and how to meet their needs and expectations. Let me offer three suggestions.

  • First, assume that all prior measurements and key driver models need to be revalidated and/or updated and regularly monitored until we come out of the other end of the tunnel. If nothing else, you will need to add new items to measure around health and safety and gauge their impact on customer experiences and loyalty.
  • Second, borrow a page from the scientists and the way public health experts and policy makers have responded to the pandemic: take a data-driven approach to decision making. All of us have heard people wax on about the pandemic numbers, the shape of the curve and the latest predictions. Yes, the data changes and the models evolve, but they are the only sound criteria for decision making.
  • Finally, this is a perfect scenario for what we at Confirmit refer to as VoC/E: augmenting your VoC work with direct input from employees regarding how to redress customer experience problems and shortfalls. When customers flag a performance failure or disappointment, mobilise employee input for possible solutions. This is a great way to generate ideas for how to respond to changing customer needs and concerns and actively involve employees to both improve the customer experience and boost employee engagement at the same time.

The business imperative for CX may be the same, but the environment presents a host of new challenges demanding attention. Companies need to respond smartly.


Jo BoswellJo BoswellJune 23, 2020
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7min672

Jo Boswell is Founder and Director of Sentio-B and one of CXM Top 25 CX Influencers. Having previously judged three times at the Awards hosted by Awards International and shared her experience at two previous CX awards, Jo was a Chair of Judges at the first ever live online awards event where she assessed the best initiatives from the region…

We have all been spending a lot more time on video conferencing calls over the last couple of months; and like many others I have been using the technology extensively for both business and social purposes. At the end of May, however, I found myself using the technology in an entirely different and unexpected setting:  judging the inaugural Customer Experience Awards for South East Europe, hosted by Awards International.

The event was originally due to take place in Belgrade; but in view of the widespread lockdown in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the organisers had moved swiftly to adapt to the circumstances and reinvent it as a purely virtual one. As this was my 4th time judging, I was curious to see not only what the standard of entries would be like for the region, but also how the experience would translate from a physical one to online.

Given how little time the organisers had to rework the event, they did a fantastic job at staying one step ahead and ensuring that the judges had all the information and reassurance they needed to ensure the day would run smoothly. Following a final briefing for Chair judges the day before, I found myself sitting down at my desk early one Friday morning, with my husband firmly briefed to keep out of the study, meeting my fellow panel judges via video conference.

With 77 companies from 16 countries taking part, the day felt truly international. I was really impressed with the standard of the presentations, and particularly with how well the presenters established rapport with the judges, given how daunting it must be presenting in a foreign language over video conferencing technology.

The category I judged was ‘Employees at the Heart of Everything’. Much has been written about the link between employee experience and customer experience. In the current environment, when so many businesses are having to make dramatic shifts in the way they operate and serve their customers, it seems to me that engaged and empowered employees will be an even more vital ingredient for success in the coming weeks and months as organisations adapt their approach in the wake of the pandemic. More than ever brands need to demonstrate empathy and understanding to their customers; but that outcome will be hard to achieve unless employees feel valued, trusted, and respected by their employers, particularly in these uncertain and challenging times.

What stood out for me in the case studies presented was the efforts these companies were making to really tap into what is important for their employees, and find ways to improve the emotional connection with colleagues by deepening their understanding of all aspects of the employee experience.

The Gold Winner was E.ON Romania whose case study showcased the journey the company has been on to achieve greater employee engagement. Whilst the launch of an agile transformation programme two years ago has undoubtedly played a key role in engendering a sense of responsibility and accountability at all levels in the organisation, their approach included a number of other strands aimed at deepening understanding of what is important to employees, and putting action plans in place to improve the employee experience in the areas that mattered most. What particularly impressed me with their story was the ongoing stakeholder engagement that ensured full support from their senior management team, including a highly effective ‘reverse mentoring’ scheme that gave senior managers a much better understanding of the employee perspective. The benefits of their approach were clearly shown in some impressive employee engagement scores; but importantly they evidenced some tangible business benefits alongside this. It was a compelling story of simple concepts that had been intelligently applied, and consistently followed up.

For my part, the day did not run quite as smoothly as I would have liked – an uncooperative internet meant that I had a nail-biting 15 minutes trying to reconnect to the judging portal. Luckily, my fellow panel judges and the Awards International facilitator were able to cover for me, and we were soon back on track. Despite that slight glitch, I was nevertheless delighted to play my part in this double first event. Congratulations to the organisers and participants for embracing the changes necessitated by a global pandemic. I can now look forward to judging the UK Digital Experience Awards in a month’s time, confident that it will be similarly successful.

Jo will be judging for the 5th time at the upcoming UK Digital Experience Awards 2020.


Tamar SassonTamar SassonJune 22, 2020
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7min1424

Personalised face serums, skin formulas, and anti-ageing vitamins are now available to the masses thanks to the availability of data and technology. Consumer preferences for beauty and skincare often dictate what products brands create and sell.

According to Statista, by 2025, the global skincare market is estimated to be 189.3 billion U.S. dollars. Yet the beauty industry has been hit hard by the COVID-19 crisis. First-quarter sales have been slow as the pandemic continues to alter the face of skincare and beauty.

As more consumers shift to digital shopping experiences it is no secret that collecting and analysing consumer reviews to find drivers of positive sentiment became the key for a successful go to market strategy. Any e-commerce business today should be focused on personalising their marketing messaging and developing product formulations with more functional ingredients and packaging.

Consumer reviews with positive sentiment attract more customers yet negative reviews can ruin a brand’s reputation. This is why we put Revuze’s AI to work and analyse over 500,000 consumer reviews of skincare products gathered from major eCommerce websites.

Here are three tips global beauty brands can apply online review analysis to effectively engage with consumers amid COVID-19:

1. DIY & Customised Scents: How Brands Can Embrace Nostalgia Amid COVID-19

As coronavirus continues to disrupt lives around the globe, consumers are tapping into distant memories to cope with the pandemic. Our analysts uncovered a spike of more than 300 percent for quotes related to “smell” in consumer reviews in the last six months. For example, “This cream smells just like a bright sunny day, and it also smells like a sunset on the beach, it brought up all my memories from my childhood and happy summers I had.”

Brands can personalise nostalgia in their marketing messaging to further connect and engage with consumers and increase their overall conversion rate.

Another trending topic is DIY cosmetics as consumers are turning to DIY solutions and customising their own hand sanitizers, body, and facial solutions with a focus on recreating smells from old memories: “I remember when I was a kid, witch hazel was always in the medicine cabinet but recently I downloaded a book on how to make homemade soaps and facial cleansers.”

2. Personalised Skin Care Regimens

Brands such as Glossier & The Ordinary are taking personalisation to a whole new level. In 2018, Glossier launched its first 10-minute skincare quiz to give customers insights into their skin types and offered personalised skincare routines based on the skincare quiz results ahead of their purchases.

Self-tanning drops are also gaining momentum in the skincare category as consumers enjoy using Isle of Paradise, Clarins Paris, and other self-tanners because they can customise their tans by using a specific amount of drops, “I love this stuff and it’s great on sensitive skin! I really enjoy how you can customise the tan that you want just by the number of drops you use. I put 2-3 drops in my moisturizer before bed and wake up to a sun-kissed looking face that matches the rest of my body!”

 3. Personalised Thank You Notes Post-Purchase

Personalisation doesn’t end after the sale. Companies such as COOLA, Glossier, Drunk Elephant, Teddie Organics are investing in customer service departments that are dedicated to personalising skincare regimens based on the customers’ skincare concerns post-purchase and ensure the customer is satisfied with the product’s results, “This company also has great customer service they email you to make sure you are satisfied with their product.”

Brands that engage in post-purchase marketing and customer service will differentiate themselves from the rest. Post-purchase messages can have a variety of subjects ranging from product recommendations, reorder reminders, personalised skincare routines, and other tips/tricks.

Digital Transformation Through Personalisation

Personalisation in beauty is still nascent and there are many issues brands will need to address before the beauty and skincare category can go mainstream.

For example, personalised skincare routines, customised packaging, and ‘concierge-like customer services’ make it increasingly difficult to scale personalisation. Price is another factor as these high-end services and customer engagement strategies are expensive.

Today’s customers expect brands to cater to their fickle needs and preferences so the integration of personalised technology and services is here to stay. Brands that offer this digital experience and personal connection are poised to win after COVID-19.

 

Interesting links:


Sandra RadlovackiSandra RadlovackiJune 19, 2020
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2min987

UK Complaint Handling Awards winner Capita has signed a contract with Irish Water following a win on a public competitive tender process for the transformation and operation of Irish Water’s customer contact centre services.

The contract is worth €10m a year over five years, with Irish Water having an option to extend the contract for an additional two years, worth an extra €17m over years six and seven.

Under the contract, Capita will transform customer management support services for Irish Water’s customers with a range of new software and digital capabilities

The service operating from Cork will deliver digital expertise such as data and analytics capabilities – to provide improved customer and service insight, allowing for quick identification and resolution of customer problems and greater efficiency in service delivery.

Aimie Chapple, Executive Officer for Customer Management, said: “We are delighted to be working with Irish Water and to have the opportunity to build on our record of delivering highly efficient, technology-enabled customer support services, while at the same time providing greater value for money.”

“This contract award is testament to the strength of Capita’s pan-European platform. Capita benefits from having a proven management team in Ireland, focused on delivery in the local market, complemented by the transformation and technical capabilities of the wider company”, added Chapple.

Yvonne Harris, Head of Customer Operations for Irish Water, said: “Irish Water is looking forward to engaging in this new partnership which will build on our existing service offering through enhanced digital offerings and other best-in-class technologies.”

“Capita will work with Irish Water to transform our contact centre services for both domestic and non-domestic customers over the next five years. We are looking forward to working with the team over the coming months and years.”


Sandra RadlovackiSandra RadlovackiJune 16, 2020
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3min1034

Insurance firm Ageas UK has appointed new Customer Operations Director to take over responsibility for front lines and service operations alongside the business-wide customer service strategy.

Former Chief Customer Officer, Ant Middle, now CEO of Ageas UK has created two new appointments to replace his previous role.

Caroline King (pictured), the former Director of Sales and Service, has been appointed Customer Operations Director. Caroline joined Ageas in 2014 with extensive experience of leading customer operations within the industry, and has transformed the company front line sales leading to financial benefits and award-winning initiative.

A Chief Distribution Officer will be appointed to lead both Ageas’s intermediated and direct to customer distribution channels. Significant progress has been made in the recruitment of this role, with the appointment to be announced in the coming months. The role will work with Mark Auchterlonie, Darren Whittaker and Russell White, who were appointed as Directors of Distribution last year further cementing Ageas’s commitment to the intermediated market.

Ant Middle, the company’s CEO said: “As I take on the role of CEO, my priority is to lead Ageas to emerge strongly from the current situation. We remain financially strong, we have a sound strategy, and the priorities we set out at the start of the year remain highly relevant. If anything, our experience in recent months has enhanced our focus on some elements of our strategic development, not least our desire to grow profitably over time and maintain our reputation for customer service and claims excellence.”

“I welcome the broad and valuable experience that Caroline brings to the executive team, ensuring both the customer and our customer facing colleagues are at the forefront of the strategic decisions we make.  I am well advanced in the process of recruiting for the Chief Distribution Officer and look forward to announcing that news in the near future. ”

Ageas UK won Gold in the Contact Centre Large category at the UK Customer Experience Awards 2019.

CXM had the opportunity to speak with Caroline in January 2020.


Stephen HewettStephen HewettJune 15, 2020
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12min1381

Take time now to prepare for change and get ahead of the curve by anticipating the evolving needs of your customers. A common understanding of customers’ needs and a consistent method for measuring those needs is critical for businesses to be sustainable in a post-COVID-19 world.

This applies to both B2B and B2C and across industries. In this post we’ll provide key strategies that will help you be well-positioned to meet customers’ emerging needs.

Take this quick on-line survey to find out how prepared you are to meet your customers’ emerging needs.

Make CX a priority

“At this point, depending on your brand’s category, you might think that your primary issues are oriented to your supply chain and not to changes in customer preferences, attitudes, or behaviours. It’s sensible to plan ahead for interruptions to your production and operations, but customer-centric organisations will also prepare for how their customers’ questions and needs will change rapidly in the coming months.” Augie Ray (Gartner Blog Network)

Typically, customer experience focuses on supporting operational change to meet their customers’ needs. However, the transition period is much faster than organisations realise and it is both systemic and radical. This rapid speed of change is driven by the general market, rather than competitors.

Your future success depends on being able to anticipate the needs and wants of customers in the ‘new normal’. Customers will not likely return to the same place after the crisis passes and some of the current measures will become standard practice. A Customer Experience (CX) programme is key to making informed decisions as you position yourself for the post-pandemic world.

Have a common understanding of CX terminology across your organisation

The first step to being well-positioned in meeting emerging needs is to be able to differentiate between yesterday’s and tomorrow’s needs.

An understanding of needs is typically delivered through your CS programme. However, everyone must be on the same page when talking about customers’ needs and wants.

Having a consistent, concise method of summarising the key needs of your customers and a way of measuring them is the starting place for understanding emerging needs. It’s a huge red flag if you don’t have these things in place.

Stay informed of emerging consumer trends and adapt quickly

Buying behaviours have changed due to COVID-19 and some of them will be permanent. Accenture’s report, COVID-19 will permanently change consumer behaviour identifies three key trends:

  • A focus on health – supporting a safe environment that puts the health of consumers, shoppers, and employees first will be “a strategic differentiator”.
  • A desire to buy local – consumers want to support local business in the way they shop and what they buy
  • A rise in conscious consumption – limiting food waste and providing sustainable options for consumers

“Brands will need to explore ways to connect locally—be it through highlighting local provenance, customising for local needs or engaging in locally relevant ways.” (Accenture Report)

Being virtual has become a virtue

Experts predict that consumers will continue to buy online after the pandemic. As well, they predict the number of people working virtually will likely be higher than it was pre-pandemic. Companies like Twitter are permanently allowing employees to work remotely. What techniques are you using to engage clients virtually as they shift to working from home and do more of their shopping online?

But don’t get caught in the trap that everything has to be digital

Digital will definitely be a significant enabler, but don’t get caught in the trap that everything has to be digital. We are in agile times so if you rely only on digital transformation then you may not be able to transform quickly enough to a completely digital environment.

Deliver on needs by human and non-human assets and understand the remix of these assets to maintain a permanent model from a cost POV. In the short term, there are solutions that you can implement until you can optimise digital solutions.

For example,

  • Safety concerns can be addressed by posting a sign to indicate the number of people allowed in a shop at one time or tape on the floor to mark physical distancing.
  • Customers can simply phone to place food orders vs an on-line food ordering website

To be sustainable you have to do things at the lowest possible cost. Use tape on the floor to mark physical distancing and use human assets where they add the most value.

Imagine the Impossible

What was once a barrier or thought to be impossible is now possible. Cultural and historical barriers have been knocked down. The need to engage beyond your house is now being done virtually.

Zoos, museums and art galleries are doing to virtual tours to provide customers with a safe alternative during COVID-19. In the future perhaps they will consider moving to a more robust virtual offering. This model would be sustainable and collect revenue and reduce costs by using non-human assets—guides could give online lectures, the website could have advertising or click-throughs, there could be an extra cost for a special part of the tour such as feeding times. The need for car park attendants would be removed and car parks could be turned into more space for the animals.

COVID-19 has forced us to think in new ways. Film crews are being replaced by one person. A popular garden show in the UK has homeowners filming their own ‘virtual garden tour’. Are media companies going to decide on a scaled-down version? Late-night talk show hosts are broadcasting from their homes and interviewing a wide list of guests who are also sitting at home. Less people travelling is having a positive impact on the environment.

Decide if your pop-up model is a temporary fix or a long term solution

“Retailers and consumer real estate providers alike are benefiting from the fast-paced, short-term format of pop-up tenancies and shoppers are engaged with fresh, seasonal retail offerings. Compressed lease terms that recycle available spaces in shopping centres and in retail street fronts give retailers an opportunity to roll out new product offerings quickly and test-drive new entrepreneurial concepts. Pop-up retail is here to stay.” Michael Kehoe (Real Estate News Exchange)

Agility is essential to sustainability. Businesses go bankrupt because they can’t afford to move to the next stage. Does your pop-up model embrace all of the emerging needs or is it a cheap perversion of your existing operating model?

  • What and where are the lost opportunity costs?
  • What are the possible outcomes of freezing your product where it is now, making few or no changes, to save money?

Restaurants, for example, must consider whether to wait for the increased need to eat in a place that provides some ambience over concerns for safety. Can you make more money just by operating the kitchen or do you want people to come back?

In response to the pandemic, Tesco changed their operating model because they discovered a new need – health & safety. They were challenged about increased profits due to panic buying, but other areas of the business such as clothing and petrol were down 70 percent. The costs of installing safety measures were balanced out by the loss in profits in other departments.

Whether or not your pop-up model is temporary depends on your industry, centre, and context. But no matter the situation, you must deliver needs at the lowest possible cost in order for your business to be sustainable.

Tips on how to be prepared

  • Listen to your customers – Use platforms that capture the voice of the customer (e.g. BigEars)
  • Choose cheaper solutions you can implement in the short term – solutions don’t have to be digital
  • Work with your customer care team to find out what feedback they’re getting from customers
  • Provide consumers with local choices in the way they shop and what they buy
  • Be proactive with information for customers – convey what your brand is doing to ensure a safe shopping experience in physical locations to earn consumers’ trust
  • Re-envision marketing plans to include emerging needs and brand purpose

We are in unprecedented times

The world has changed and continues to do so rapidly. Both governments and organisations are entering unknown territory post-COVID-19. Different economic drivers caused the crash in 2008-09.

It might be dangerous to look at the current situation and try to understand the needs through this lens. For example, supermarkets didn’t need to understand social distancing, now they do. It is vital to understand the needs and wants of your customers and how they are changing now as well as in the future. Evaluating your customer data and forecasting shifts in future wants and needs is a customer-centric way to prepare your brand to better serve your customers. Are you ready?

 

This article is the second part of a two-piece series on changing customer needs post COVID-19.


Alon GhelberAlon GhelberJune 12, 2020
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7min1430

2020 is going to be remembered as a time where customer loyalty took a major hit, closing borders and lockdowns affected the three foundations of brand loyalty: trust, confidence, and availability.

While some economies open up and the stock market erases its losses from the beginning of the year, brand loyalty might take time to recover.

Consumers’ tastes are changing at a faster pace than ever before. We all remember seeing empty supermarket shelves as it was just a couple months ago where shoppers just picked the item which was available (if they were lucky to find one) and not their favorite brand.

Luckily these days are over but consumers got to experience new brands and in most cases much to their surprise, the quality was just as good or even better than expected.

In order to regain brand loyalty brands must act differently and rebuild their shopper’s loyalty, here’s why:

  • Economy – Brands have to compete harder at current as unemployment is at its highest in the 21st century and customers are less likely to make new nonessential purchases.
  • Features V.S Branding – Brand loyalty is being steadily replaced by functional needs as supply chains don’t always have the brand you wanted, which forced consumers to look for equivalents.
  • Online Sales – More customers turn to eCommerce and D2C (direct to consumer) websites where they have more time and data to compare alternatives.
  • Sustainability – COVID19 had strengthened green initiatives and do good movements

According to Edelman Trust Barometer 2020, a staggering 81% of consumers want to be able to trust brands to do the right thing and that this is a deciding factor for them. In addition, the report states that 62% of consumers believe brands play a critical role in winning against the pandemic and that the country will not make it without the help of brands. This is why 33% have already “punished” brands that didn’t respond well – “I have convinced other people to stop using a brand that I felt was not acting appropriately in response to the pandemic”.

With all of these hard metrics, it’s pretty clear why trust is key these days with brands and why consumers are strict about it. However, most brands nither have the resources to run a 12k participants study across 12 countries nor the experts to analyze the results and come up with actionable recommendations.

Instead of running such surveys why won’t we just listen to the content these shoppers leave across social media, eCommerce websites, and other publicly available sources? Analyzing user-generated content (UGC) is where every brand can get an understanding of what their customers think.

So, Why UGC & why now?

User-Generated Content (UGC) is all around us and is actually expected to be over 90% of the world data soon. It includes the likes of online ratings and reviews, social media, blog posts, etc.

UGC is important across the board. It’s important to millennials, as 86% of millennials say that UGC is a good indicator of the quality of a brand and 68% of social media users between the ages of 18 and 24 take into account information shared on social media. Fast forward to eCommerce, and 87% of people say that social media posts help them decide what to buy, while research from the Spiegel Research Center showing that leveraging reviews can increase online conversion by 270% and that reviews by verified purchasers (vs anonymous) can bump up purchase likelihood by additional 15%.

This is why brands encourage customers to leave reviews and provide feedback. But why now?

With COVID-19 and the huge shift to eCommerce and even D2C (Direct to Consumer – where brands develop their own eCommerce channels), UGC becomes the storefront of brands. When a person is online and shopping for a product, brands must have the right UGC next to that product to ensure the purchase. If beforehand some brands could rely on retail shopping and neglect D2C or eCommerce, now we’re at a completely different world. eCommerce had accelerated with the consumer health concerns and social distancing and it will not go back. Brands that commit to eCommerce (and all really should) must embrace UGC as a way to get found better (Search Engine Optimization – SEO), convey trust with authentic, verified purchasers’ comments, and encourage a purchase. It’s the only storefront there is.

Conclusion

With consumers looking for confidence in brands they know, and brands moving to eCommerce and D2C there is really only one way to project trust – UGC. Brands embracing eCommerce and D2C should invest in UGC generation as a way to stay visible and trustworthy in the new world so their online sales are competitive. With UGC comes not just the opportunity of revenue growth but also the opportunity to mine these comments and feedback for insights on the commerce, shopping, product, and service experience. In short, go UGC!!!


Sandra RadlovackiSandra RadlovackiJune 11, 2020
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4min1155

The unprecedented COVID-19 crisis has shaken the world to the core.

Many organisations managed to carry through by shifting online while many others had to stop with their business entirely.

Regardless of the position companies found themselves in due to the current circumstances, a plan for the next phase is on everyone’s agenda. With restrictions easing and the economy slowly recovering, staying connected not only with the needs of your customers and employees but with the partners as well will be key in regaining trust and resolving issues effectively.

Staying connected fundamentally means listening – listening to what matters the most to your customers, employees and partners.

In pre-COVID era, the consistent rise in customer expectations, dynamic brand cycles and shorter product life cycles required organisations to continually learn about people’s thoughts and feelings, deal with an increased flow of insights and adapt accordingly, all under the name of Experience Management.

The crisis has made abrupt changes in customers behaviour, therefore keeping up with a shift in focus should be one of the top priorities for organisations as they should strive to sense rather than rely on trends in the market, to be able to understand that behind the statistics there is a human being.

Three core attributes of sensing in line with the capability of adjusting to sudden changes are:

  1. Less asking and more listening
  2. Smaller-scale insights
  3. Multi-channel feedback

To assist you in staying connected with your customers and adopt a mindful approach to return to business, Qualtrics has developed a set of flexible CX solutions:

  • Frontline Connect – when customer insights fall short from their end, frontline is your second most reliable source. Acquire all the important details about your customers and take action to have them coming back. Keep an eye on customers response as the situation develops.
  • Customer Confidence Pulse – building confidence and trust in conditions like these is twice as difficult. Make sure to act on customer feedback quickly and meet customers’ expectations.
  • Digital Open Door – putting more effort into digital channels of your organisation and keeping the communication doors open is a way to make customers feel like they can always rely on help or response from any channel

The impact of the pandemic is immense and it continues to shape the world. While many have faced difficulties and isolation, there is room for creating meaningful interactions even in times like these. Empathy, compassion and patience to listen to your customers (and employees) voice are the means of restoring the connection that was there before. Getting back to business in a new era will require new approaches and increased effort but it may pay off more than expected.


Nitzan HasonNitzan HasonJune 10, 2020
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10min1207

The coronavirus pandemic is arguably the most unprecedented event around the globe since the Spanish flu.

With the virus spreading fast regardless of geography, consumers have avoided public places as much as possible, leading to a shift in shopping trends.

Many shoppers have gone online because they now see it as a necessity. The convenience of shopping in the comfort of home has always been a benefit of online shopping, but now it has become a vital facet of eCommerce.

With the rising concern about the pandemic, sales of consumer packaged goods (CPG) spiked to as much as $8.5 billion in the US, and approximately one-quarter of shoppers said they expected to shop online more frequently or for the first time.

eCommerce is now at a critical stage because the changes in customer behaviour point to a trend that will last in the long term. Online retailers have the responsibility to ensure consistent positive customer experiences by keeping communications lines open and aligning expectations, especially in this time of shipping delays and inventory management challenges.

Importance of Customer Reviews for eCommerce

Any online business looking to control its online reputation knows how important customer reviews are. People always prefer to buy products that have a good number of reviews. With more customers turning to online shopping, customer reviews have become increasingly important. They are a way to understand customer sentiment and help in creating positive customer interaction. In the coronavirus era, it may be the only way to promote your product or brand. Below are a few ways customer reviews help eCommerce.

  • It boosts sales.

    Ultimately, this is the greatest benefit of customer reviews. Customer reviews arm customers with information that can help push them to make a purchase. People are more likely to purchase a product that has positive reviews from its users.

  • It increases engagement.

    Customers who leave online reviews are often looking for responses to their reviews or want to see what others have to say about the same product or brand. This online exchange fosters a community atmosphere and creates a bond between customer and brand.

  • It improves ranking.

    Customer reviews are commonly referred to in marketing as user-generated content (UGC), and it’s very useful in maintaining an online presence and building a reputation. The more people talk about you, the more your online search ranking improves.

  • It builds loyalty and trust.

    Customers who take the time to write reviews are those that are really invested in your product or brand. It gives them a voice and an avenue where they can provide valuable feedback to other customers like them. A 2020 survey shows that customer reviews affected the decision of most consumers on whether they will use a business or not.

Changes in Customer Reviews in the Coronavirus Era

In times of crisis, building consumer trust is vital for all businesses both offline and online. It’s important to understand how customers feel about your product and how they experience it. To do this, you need to go beyond the reviews themselves and determine the sentiment behind them. Focusing on the analysis of customer sentiment allows you to craft an appropriate response.

Although customer reviews have long been an avenue for marketers, it’s of more importance now due to the changes brought about by the global pandemic. Customers have time to post and read reviews so more people are relying on them before they decide to purchase. People trust customer reviews, and this is evident in the 104 percent surge in review engagement in just a month’s time.

How can you leverage customer reviews for your eCommerce business? Below are a few tips.

  • Revamp your UGC tactics.

    Always encourage customers to leave reviews—either on your website, social media channels, or third-party reviews sites. Provide incentives for those who actually leave reviews in the form of gift cards, coupons, or rewards points. Treat negative reviews as opportunities to improve your product; they may not always be objective or constructive but they are almost always honest. Respond to them accordingly and show customers that you care through a personalised message or solution that addresses their specific concern. Global marketplace Etsy sells review labels as a creative way to ask for customer reviews. The company also sends a follow-up email or text message requesting the same.

  • Create a Q&A page on your website.

    Customers will have questions about your product or company, especially if they’re new. They want to feel confident about the product they’re about to purchase, and you should be ready to answer these questions. You can’t always be available to respond to customers, however, so the next best thing is a Q&A page on your website. Think of what your customers want to know about your company and product and provide detailed answers. Customers will appreciate this and take it as a sign that you care about them. Google My Business offers a Q&A feature together with its reviews to help businesses connect with their customers.

  • Re-evaluate your review collection methods.

    The current situation is a sensitive time because of the global pandemic. Ask for reviews as much as possible but be sure that you ask with tact and compassion. Get creative with your copy and tactics and ensure that the message you’re sending is neither pushy nor insensitive.

    Aside from incentivising customer reviews, you can also run campaigns that promote positivity and goodwill. American Eagle currently runs a campaign that encourages shoppers to post photos of themselves wearing branded apparel. This encourages users to buy from the site because they see real people, people they can relate to, who’ve already bought from the site.

  • Showcase existing reviews.

    In these uncertain times, it’s vital to take stock and leverage what you already have, where your business is at, and what’s working for you right now. If you have existing customer reviews, find a way to showcase these to help promote your online reputation. These already existing ones will also help if you’re unable to get new ones during the crisis. Amazon is one of the best examples of this, showcasing product reviews on the product page itself. Online clothing shops would also do well with showcasing reviews just like Modcloth.

The change will be inevitable and unpredictable during the COVID-19 pandemic, as evidenced by the sudden changes in customer behaviour. If businesses are to thrive, they need to be nimble and be able to adapt quickly to the ever-changing business landscape.

Now more than ever, customer sentiment is vital and must be monitored so that businesses can respond accordingly and promptly. With no accurate way to predict what will happen in the near future, customer sentiment can mean the difference between making it through and succumbing to the pandemic that is COVID-19.


Ian GoldingIan GoldingJune 9, 2020
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10min1759

No one needs to be told that the world is in crisis right now – at times like this, it is not necessary for the obvious to be stated.

Our health, our economies, our planet – in fact, the whole human race – is right in the middle of its latest catastrophe. I say ‘latest’ as we have been here before. Yes, this may be the first time that Covid-19 has rocked the world, but historians will point to several natural and/or man-made disasters that have had a similar, if not worse effect on human lives.

Despite this, we are still here. Even though we have had catastrophes in the past and will no doubt have catastrophes in the future, human beings will continue to survive and thrive for many millennia – we hope!! Although we often seem to do unimaginable bad to ourselves at times, human beings are remarkably resilient. The bad is always undone by the good – in fact, I have always believed that good will inevitably prevail.

The point I am making is that however challenging things seem right now, things will get better. For some that will happen sooner than others – but for all of us, the world will keep on turning. It is therefore vital that we focus, not on the negative of the ‘here and now’, but the positives – both of the ‘here and now’ and of the future.

When things go wrong, unexpectedly, it is completely natural for your body and brain to panic. We all go through different emotional states – from panic, denial, frustration, and anger, to apathy and confusion.

There are several interpretations of the ‘change curve’, a model originally developed in the 1960s by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross to explain the grieving process. It is a model that has been widely utilised as a method of helping people understand their reactions to significant change or upheaval – it is an immensely powerful model to explain what is happening now.

Understanding how humans’ transition through these different emotional states is extremely important for businesses trying to deal with the current situation. Customers AND employees are all humans by the way!!

The better able businesses are at understanding the emotion of customers and employees, the better able they will be to NOT react to the current crisis, but to ADAPT and RESPOND to the current crisis. The way businesses adapt and respond, will define them now and in the future.

Those who have heard me speak will know that I describe the customer experience as containing three component parts – the FUNCTIONAL, ACCESSIBLE and EMOTIONAL. The functional component represents an organisations products and services. The accessible component represents how easy it is for customers to interact with those products and services. However, it is the third component that is the most important of the three. The third component is the emotional one – representing the way the experience makes a customer feel. The reason why it is the most important of the three, is because the way an experience makes a customer feel is what they are most likely to remember.

Customers will remember one of three outcomes from the experiences they have – the very good; the very bad; or nothing at all!! As businesses adapt and respond, it is the ones who can leave customers remembering their experiences for the right reasons that are the ones who are ultimately far more likely to prevail.

It is more important than ever before for businesses – shareholders and employees alike – to work together. Work together to listen, learn, understand, and respond to the needs of human beings in a way that leaves customers remembering the experiences they have for the right reasons.

I have always believed that the most important underlying principle of customer experience is the principle of Empathy. The ability to understand and share the feelings of another person – empathy – is a core driver of sustainable business growth.

Empathy builds advocacy with a customer – it turns them into ‘fans’. Fans become loyal. The more loyal customers a business has, the more they will spend and the more likely they are to recommend you to others.

The more loyal, spending customers a business has, the more money it will make – it is not complicated!

So, with the principle of empathy in mind, I want to conclude this article with five things businesses should be focused on in managing the customer experience through the Covid-19 crisis:

  1. Have a simple, clear message. What are you doing as a business now and going forward and what do you want the experience for your customers and employees to be? Are you clearly communicating the message in a way that fits into the changing lives of your customers and employees?
  2. Focus on your employees first. If you want your people to be able to deliver an experience that leaves customers remembering you for the right reason, then you MUST make sure that you have thought about how your employees are being enabled to do that in the first place. You cannot expect your people to treat your customers in a way you are not treating them.
  3. Give your people time to think. To be able to empathise, your employees will need to be able to think and act in the interests of the customer. This may mean giving them a greater ability to do ‘what is right’ for the customer, rather than sticking to rules and regulations devised without the crisis in mind. If they just ‘do what they are told’, they will be less likely to empathise with customers. This will not only negatively affect the customer experience, but also the employee experience.
  4. Listen more and talk less. This is not a time to dictate to customers and employees. This is a time to listen. Customers and employees need reassurance – they need to feel as secure as possible. They need to trust the businesses they are dealing with. Listening to their needs, wants and concerns and acting accordingly will have a significant effect on the emotional outcomes of their experiences.
  5. Close the loop. If we are listening, then we should also be ‘acting’ on what we are listening to. Far too many organisations fail to act on the feedback they capture from customers. This is an opportunity to ensure that we demonstrate empathy, authenticity and sincerity and tell our customers what we have done with the feedback they have given.

We will never forget 2020. It is a year that has had such a dramatic effect on the world, that our grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and great-great-grandchildren, will be studying in school a hundred years from now. Whist the world will be a vastly different place in 2120, it is also a very different place to the one it was in 1920. Change is inevitable. A very rocky road of change is also inevitable – that we can do nothing about. It is how we adapt and respond to change that will determine if we are still around to tell the tale.

 

This is the first instalment of exclusive ‘Customer 1st Aid’ series of articles by Ian Golding for CXM.


Stephen HewettStephen HewettJune 8, 2020
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10min1676

Research shows that today’s wants become tomorrow’s needs.

Great organisations respond by thinking strategically about emerging needs. What your customers need from your business may be dramatically different from a few weeks ago.

This applies to both B2B and B2C and across industries. In this post we’ll discuss emerging needs post COVID-19, highlight examples of how organisations are responding to these needs, and provide 8 tips for getting started to determine emerging customer needs for your company.

What is the difference between a need and a want?

Before we continue, it is important to have a common understanding of the terminology. We define a need as something that must be there or else the experience, service or product is failing. A want is something customers may notice, positively comment on, and may pay extra for, or invest time in.

Usually it takes time for needs to evolve, but once in a hundred-year events like COVID-19 cause needs to mutate rapidly. Emotions and needs are running high compared to regular periods. Customers will perceive different brands in different ways. This event will alter consumer motivations, expectations, and actions.

Our opportunity to delight, or disappoint our customers is greatest right now.

Take our quick on-line survey to find out how prepared you are to meet your customers’ emerging needs.

Emerging trends in consumers’ attitudes, behaviours and purchasing habits

There probably aren’t any genuine new needs, but there may be new needs for your business.

For instance, infection control was always a need in hospitals, but it is a new need in a supermarket setting. Face masks were always part of equipment in a healthcare setting. Now, they are potentially required in supermarkets and on public transport.

The overriding emerging need is safety. Putting measures in place to protect people’s health is an emerging need no matter what type of business you run.

Going beyond the focus on health and safety, there are three other trends:

  • The balance between global and local supply chains has changed. Global supply chains are too extended and aren’t resilient to this type of event. There will be increased pressure to bring supply chains closer to home.
  • A virtual presence will be a higher priority because it offers the ability to go beyond the home.
  • Retail will become highly specialised where physical interaction is a genuine need and not a ‘nice to have’.

A recent study done by Accenture discovered that, “Digital commerce has also seen a boost as new consumers migrate online for grocery shopping – a rise that is likely to be sustained post-outbreak.” The study also noted that 55 percent of people will continue to make time with their family a priority post-pandemic. This will impact the way people spend their leisure time. DIY and entertainment will benefit from this consumer shift.

Source: Accenture

 

Be genuine

“With the right customer-centric attitude and an awareness of what people need right now, companies can emerge from this crisis having strengthened their relationships with customers. Give consumers your HEART during this difficult time. It will cultivate long-lasting goodwill with past customers and help ensure they will stay with you in the future.” Harvard Business Review

People will remember whether organisations genuinely tried to meet their needs, or the needs of the business. This will be a major driver of business in the future.

Price is always a major motivator. If a business can redesign their operating model to use lower costs (e.g. non-human assets) and then share that saving with the customer, they will keep more customers.

For example, if an organisation meets a need by offering the lowest price and does so by implementing changes such as installing self-service screens to place an order vs placing an order with a person, it generates a warm feeling on the part of the customer because that business has met their needs.

On the other hand, there are businesses that profess to be worried about the needs of their customer but are just trying to generate business. The problem arises when businesses reduce costs but keep the extra margin.

If self-service screens are introduced, but the price of the food doesn’t come down then people will feel that the business was not genuinely concerned about meeting their needs.

Another example of a business that is demonstrating a genuine interest in meeting their customer’s needs is a music website in the UK promoting small bands and individual artists. They encourage their listeners to buy music on Fridays because all the money from the sales that day goes to the artists. That brand is genuinely being seen as supporting the artists. The artists love it because it’s helping them generate an income when they can’t play in the local pub. The customers love it because they are supporting the music they care about. This action is seen as a genuine sacrifice on the part of the brand. It sends the message, “We believe in the music we support.”

Eighty percent of people buy on price so it’s difficult to determine how long this effect will last. However, there will be a percentage of customers where this will continue to influence their buying preference.

The economy will have an enormous impact as well. We will be faced with more poverty and unemployment. It is important for businesses to genuinely meet the needs of this group of individuals without being insincere.

Actions you can take right now

Great organisations not only meet their customers’ needs but also deliver against the changed perspectives of their clients. Identify potential changes in customers’ journeys and the touchpoints that may be most important to customers in these unusual times. Understand, anticipate, and go above and beyond to fulfil customer needs.

Use this time now to:

  • Ensure that whatever pop-up model you’ve created is sustainable
  • Invest in your CX and UX – research customers to uncover the changes to customer needs and journeys
  • Leverage the right technology to stay ahead of your competitors – invest in building end-to-end, personalised digital strategies vs simply adapting your live events strategies to virtual ones.
  • Communicate messages focused on helping customers
  • Improve or expand on what you offer, driven by meeting needs and wants
  • Go through all the fixes teams wished they had time to do – stop putting band-aids on flawed products
  • Walk through a proper user-centred design process to make improvements
  • Service design your internal workers’ experiences

People are changing in ways they don’t realise

The impact of not meeting needs can be significant. Events like COVID-19 force people to change in ways they don’t realise. What we can be certain of is that our customers have changed their perspective on something, and possibly in very dramatic ways. Prepare for these changes. Get ahead of the curve.

Evaluate your customer data and forecast shifts in future wants and needs is a customer-centric way to anticipate the evolving needs of your customers. The best companies in the world will prepare NOW for how to meet the future needs of their customers.

 

This article is a part of a two-piece series. Stay tuned for the next part on how to prepare for the emerging customer needs in post COVID-19 world.


Emily CollinsEmily CollinsJune 4, 2020
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6min1433

Brands have a personalisation problem.

While marketers and CX pros alike share visions of delivering individualised and anticipatory experiences that earn loyalty, the execution usually undermines customer relationships.

They can’t even get the basics right: only 7 percent of UK consumers agree that emails are usually timed well with their needs.  Right now, amidst a global pandemic and economic crisis, the stakes are high. You can’t afford to alienate customers with:

  • Personalisation that puts the business, not the customer, first. Personalisation efforts today are often narrowly focused on product recommendations or next-best offers that drive incremental purchases. A “buy this, do that” mentality prioritises the product and short-term revenue targets over what the customer wants.
  • Mounds of data that don’t yield the right insights. Much of the first-party data brands collect helps link purchases to a single customer, but it doesn’t provide much insight into who the person is, what motivates them, or what they’ll need in the future – all elements of a more meaningful personalised experience.
  • Tools, processes, and goals that reinforce the wrong priorities. Many of the personalisation tools out there are built to market products and drive sales – not meet customers’ unique needs. And since personalisation can manifest in marketing, service, sales, product, and other experiences, organisational silos and resource constraints only add to the challenges.

Success starts with a shift in perspective: reframe your personalisation program to put the customer needs front and centre. This means focusing on what value you can deliver for the customer, rather than the value you can extract from them.

Ground yourself in the customer’s journey and ask questions like, “What will they want?”; “How do they feel?”; and “How involved do they think our brand should be?” to define key moments where a personalised interaction might be welcome. And when you do start to test new kinds of personalised experiences, don’t forget to involve customers in your efforts by asking them for feedback in real-time.

Then, to enhance customer interactions and experiences based on context and preferences, you need data that’s going to tell you what those things are. A multi-national eCommerce retailer saw a 40 percent uptick in lifetime value when it used both purchase intent and customer motivation data in campaigns.

Lean on preference centres and progressive profiling to gain insight into lifestyle preferences that cannot be derived from what your customer bought last.

Whether you’re using customer segments to targeting offer content or machine learning algorithms to dynamically modify website experiences, check your personalisation efforts against three key questions. Does it:

  • Deliver relevance? This means determining what kind of value your customers want – and finding ways to provide that value, not just hawking the latest and greatest from your brand.
  • Build emotional resonance? This is all about creating memorable moments and feelings that have the strongest connection to customer loyalty. Demonstrate that you have a deeper understanding of your customers by talking to them about who they are and what they value, not just what they’ve bought lately.
  • Show restraint? Brands assume that if they have customer information, they should use it. But consumers already feel inundated by emails, and many crave privacy over personalisation. Respecting customer preferences might lead to some surprising results: a US footwear and accessories manufacturer found that shorter emails led to high customer interaction.

Done well, personalisation captures customer attention and creates value for your customers, which in turn drives customer loyalty and long-term profitability – all things you should be focusing on in this time of crisis. It’s never too late to leave your short-sighted product-obsessed personalisation ways behind. Your customers will thank you.

Emily Colins is a Research Director at Forrester Research.

Learn more about Forrester and their research content here.

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Sandra RadlovackiSandra RadlovackiJune 3, 2020
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3min1365

According to the latest industry research from the Gift Card & Voucher Association (GCVA) in partnership with data specialist GlobalData, gift cards for self-use of the purchaser is now one of the main drivers of gift card purchasing, representing 22 percent of consumer spend on gift cards.

The value of this trend amounts to just over £1 billion, as more and more shoppers are purchasing gift cards through B2B channels (e.g. employer programmes) rather than waiting to receive them from someone.

The factors that have contributed to this trend are the rise of gift card and loyalty card hybrids where the primary mechanism for online purchases is the gift card itself, as it is the case with video gaming industry.

Another gifting trend may have also promoted the increase, termed “sunny day gifting” referring to gift cards purchased with intention to be used at a later date once everyday life returns to normal. This new trend has already been largely adopted by the UK consumers, who have been purchasing gift cards for their favourite shops, bars and restaurants to support businesses through the pandemic.

Gifting for others still remains the most popular purchase driver of gift cards, making up 70 percent of the market. A small percentage of the total market (6 percent) makes up purchasing of gift cards by company bosses for staff to recognise loyalty and hard work.

Gail Cohen, director general of the GCVA, commented: “Our gifting habits continue to evolve over time, as evidenced by our latest research which reveals that, sometimes, we just like to treat ourselves, for which gift cards are the perfect solution. ”

“Gift cards’ versatility, despite the name, in fact extends far beyond being used as a gift for others. Whether rewarding key workers, helping to provide free school meals to schools or even just being used to pay for the weekly shop, gift cards have emerged as the safe, flexible payment option of choice throughout this pandemic. Given this, the continued rise of gift cards for self-gifting, at a time when we all need a little lift, comes as little surprise”, adds Cohen.


Sandra RadlovackiSandra RadlovackiJune 2, 2020
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4min699

The finalists for the 2020 UK Business Awards have been announced, with a shortlist of hopefuls representing the very best firms in the country this July.

Hosted by Awards International, which brings events including the UK CX Awards to the capital each year, the UK Business Awards recognise the finest accomplishments from the world of British business.

Now in its sixth year, ‘The Dons’ are back with 16 categories, in which businesses of every size and sector have the chance to do well.

Among those shortlisted as finalists are Greater Manchester Police in partnership with HCL Technologies, The Green Energy Advice Bureau, Swimtime UK, The AA, and many more. For a full list of shortlisted finalists, click here.

Categories for 2020 include Best SME, Business Change or Transformation, Well-being at Work Award and Leader for the Future.

Known as ‘The Dons’ in honour of Awards International Chairman Don Hales, the event is celebrating its sixth anniversary in 2020, and the ceremony will be held on July 9 on Videoconferencing Platform.

All the biz: The UK Business Awards is celebrating its sixth year

Those who wish to attend can take advantage of an Early Bird Discount offer until June 15.

Awards International CEO Neil Skehel said: “We are all about celebrating and rewarding business excellence, and the UK Business Awards have become one of the country’s premier platforms to do just that.

“This will be the sixth year of The Dons, and will be the most significant to date, with a wide range of categories across B2B and B2C disciplines. As ever, the event itself will be a fantastic opportunity to network with business peers and share best practise, as well as celebrate our category champions, this time live online. A huge congratulations to all those shortlisted.”

WHAT’S NEW THIS YEAR


Oliver EhrlichOliver EhrlichJune 2, 2020
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8min768

The COVID-19 global humanitarian and economic crisis has forced individuals and companies to rapidly change how they live and work.

Many elements of business and life are being challenged; in some cases, the next normal may look very different as new ways of working are carried over into the future.

Customer experience takes on a new meaning against this backdrop. Leading organisations are re-orienting their customer experience- and communication efforts to meet their customers’ primary needs, such as safety, security, and everyday convenience. By consciously providing empathy and care for their customers during this crisis, companies can build a foundation of goodwill and long-lasting emotional connections with the customers and communities they serve.

Seven actions to demonstrate empathy for customers in times of crisis

Over the past few months, companies had to quickly act to stabilise operations and safeguard their own employees. With this foundation established, companies have started finding genuine, creative ways to show empathy and emotionally connect with customers.

The following seven actions outline how companies can address essential customer needs around individual safety, security and stability, convenience, ease of use, emotional bonds and trust:

1. Minimise risk by reducing physical interactions

Society’s first responsibility during a pandemic of this scale is eliminating opportunities to spread the virus, especially among the most at-risk populations. Companies have been doing this in lots of ways, such as limiting the number of people in stores, and providing markings to guide shoppers on the right distance to remain apart.

Grocery retailers, for example, have also responded by taking extra precautions, such as extending opening hours for the elderly and healthcare workers as well as free home delivery for the vulnerable and elderly.

2. Actively contribute to safety by innovating the product portfolio

Companies should ask themselves two critical questions: Do we have a product the world needs right now? Or can we contribute to society and rapidly adapt our product portfolio to provide goods that are urgently needed?

For example, some distilleries are using their ethanol supplies to provide materials for hand sanitisers through partnerships with refineries. Others using their manufacturing facilities to support the production of personal protective equipment, or ventilators.

3. Provide pragmatic help to customers in financial distress

As companies are forced to decrease operations for an uncertain time period, individuals and millions of small business owners face massive income and liquidity issues. Providing flexible solutions when dealing with financial challenges is now both a responsibility and a huge trust driver for companies.

Financial institutions and utility providers for example are not penalising customers with charges or service termination for those unable to meet payment obligations.

4. Bring joy and support the emotional needs of customers ‘trapped at home’

Many people are still forced to stay at home, and experience all the concerns that come with that. Companies are acting to make homelife more enjoyable and to also ensure the well-being of their customers.

Families have to entertain children at home, making easy access to online content a truly fundamental need. Telcos are providing free unlimited data, and entertainment companies have released new content ahead of schedule.

As another example, meditation and mindfulness providers, such as the Headspace app, will be providing free subscriptions to healthcare professionals and unlocking free content for consumers.

5. Actively shift customers to online channels

With so many directives around the world to remain at home, companies that previously relied on physical operations have had to direct customers to online offerings.

As an example, since many gyms have been directed to close all physical facilities, they are now offering hundreds of free online home workout courses to members. Companies offering virtual capabilities, as with Cisco’s Webex, are assisting schools and universities as they transition to remote learning by offering free tools for teachers, parents, and students to support the development of online-learning plans.

Companies without online services can find ways to establish and scale online offerings to meet the customer’s digital experience needs. This shift to online and digital channels has the potential to dramatically increase online traffic post-recovery.

6. Stay reachable and treat customers with care in personal interactions

With physical channels such as bank branches and stores less accessible, many customers are turning to other channels for queries and requests that need personal attention and care.

Service companies in telcos and banking are currently experiencing increased inbound call volumes in their contact centres, while at the same time having to shift their customer-service centres to remote-working arrangements. For example, a leading European telco equipped 10,000 call-centre agents with laptops and tool infrastructure within a week, enabling them to take calls from their homes. Companies that provide customers with additional guidance and support can maintain communication and engagement.

While most companies must address reachability, some companies, such as those in the medical industry, face callers who have significantly different types of questions than they did prior to the pandemic. Another key priority is proactively training call-centre agents to manage these new questions.

7. Demonstrate care for the community through company values

Companies can stay true to their vision while showing that they genuinely care about their customers. Actions taken during crises can help build trust and reinforce brand values.

One of the most talked-about company initiatives in Germany came from McDonald’s and ALDI. The two companies initiated a staff sharing plan so that interested McDonald’s workers from temporarily closed branches can redeploy at ALDI stores to ensure that the retailer can meet the currently increased customer demand. Supporting local communities while linking these efforts back to company values is exemplified by companies delivering free, fresh meals to medical workers in the cities they serve.

Forging lasting connections with customers

During times of crisis, leading companies are pivoting from marketing to helping, and from fulfilling customer desires to meeting customer needs. Socially conscious organisations across sectors and geographies are finding ways to get involved and support their customers and communities.

In this respect, the current COVID-19 outbreak is an opportunity to re-think the connections companies have with their customers. Leading in a caring, empathetic manner during these difficult times has the potential to create real connections and new customer experiences, that will outlive the social and economic impacts of the pandemic.

The author would like to thank Fabricio Dore, David Malfara, and Kelly Ungerman for their contribution to this article.


Paul BidderPaul BidderJune 1, 2020
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9min1079

More than ever retailers must be high alert during for unexpected trading shifts.

During these uncertain times, inventory is crucial not just to manage spikes in demand but also to provide a positive customer experience – here, stock visibility, analytics and forward planning play a crucial role.

Digital services have made managing the customer experience much more complex than it once was. Where we used to call a business to enquire around stock availability, use teletext for last-minute deals or look through the Yellow Pages, we are now spoilt for choice and have everything we need at our fingertips.

Spoilt for choice

Brands have rushed to supplement traditional customer service channels with digital equivalents – while the benefits of doing so have been plentiful, it’s also come at a cost in the way we react as personalities.

We now expect instant answers, quality customer service and contextual experiences. Additionally, the advent of faster mobile data services and improved capabilities has fuelled the desire to be able to “reach out” at any point to anywhere in the world and find what you are looking for, from brand information to product pricing to reviews.

A core area of the industry that is most visibly impacted by this is retail, and one of the areas that needs addressing and urgent attention for many brands is inventory.

For years we spoke about the age of mobile and realised we could use these devices for much more than calls and playing snake – but also to interact with brands and shop right there and then. Utopia, right? Wrong…

Keeping customers loyal

This kick-started a spiralling issue for brands: loyalty. How would brands keep their customers loyal? Price played a big part, but so too did customer service and customer experience, with inventory being a key part of being able to maintain that experience.

Early movers such as Schuh understood the importance of this. If they did not have your shoe size or type in store but had it somewhere else, then it would be shipped free of charge to any mainland UK address for your convenience.

And Schuh continued investing in this area of customer experience. Next-day delivery six days a week is now driven by a warehouse that can pick 12,000 items an hour while its analytics tracks KPIs for delivery, delivery accuracy, and a nimble replenishment model that helps stores to stay stocked. They also fulfil orders from store so customers can reserve shoes online and pick it up in store just 20 minutes later, raising the bar for competitors.

Consumer expectations on the rise

Those who could not adapt relied on spreadsheets, siloed systems and even paper-based in-store stock checking. Essentially, they were unable to give an honest and truly convenient customer experience to their client base, spelling disaster for consumer loyalty.

The age of Amazon Prime and Click-and-Collect means consumers are expecting stock visibility on any device, fast fulfilment, transparency throughout the entire fulfilment chain, and not to mention easy returns. Remember that the cost of retention is significantly lower than the cost of acquisition.

survey of Gen Z consumers found 60 percent always or sometimes check a store’s in-store inventory availability online before going to make a purchase. Stock visibility is crucial, and if you are not owning the customer experience by managing your inventory and offering full visibility, you can be sure one of your competitors will be.

Keep things consistent

A clear omnichannel customer experience should allow customers a frictionless experience on any channel or device. Customers use various digital and physical channels during the buying journey, and it’s vital that these mirror one-another. This can be extremely difficult for businesses whose data is stored disparately across multiple sources, making it hard to give a real-time view of inventory at any given time… which is the holy grail for many a business.

First come, first served: Sorry, the item you ordered is no longer available.

Traditionally, one of the reasons consumers visit brick-and-mortar stores is for a higher quality of customer service. However, inventory can be an issue for physical retailers, increasingly as many stores diversify their product lines and offer in-store experiences, with shelf space at a premium.

But a lack of in-store inventory shouldn’t mean a lost sale. Aligning in-store technology or mobile sites and apps with inventory management systems provides customers ample opportunity to purchase their goods.

It’s an opportunity to offer fulfilment options – pick up in store, free speedy delivery – and make buying frictionless and attractive, as opposed to the customer leaving the store and finding a competitor.

What do customers really need?

Online and mobile shoppers will be comparing like-for-like products on various sites. Differentiators here will be price, availability and fulfilment options. This is where retailers need to display their inventory, create urgency if possible, and highlight fulfilment, loyalty or discount options to stand out from the crowd.

On the front end, AI-driven analytics tools and inventory management systems, plus cloud-based platforms mean accurate, real-time inventory information can be personalised and displayed to customers anytime, anywhere.It’s vital these customers are given the information they need at key moments in the buying journey.

If the warehouse is low on stock, create buying urgency with a low stock warning. If the warehouse is out, signpost to a click and collect option if stocked in the nearest store, or even better ship directly to the customer from that store. A single view of inventory makes this possible.

Inventory visibility is mission-critical

Ultimately, brands cannot ignore inventory visibility. Clarity on stock levels is now fundamental to success, informing decision making on discounts, upselling, as well as communication.

The pandemic has served to make the relationship between supply, demand and stock availability mission-critical. Businesses which have proactively supported customers during this time and taken steps to provide seamless experiences will likely build meaningful relationships moving forward.

Meanwhile, the consequences for those who have failed to do so could be severe. As we return to normality, we’ll enter a world where eCommerce rules the roost and where full visibility around inventory will be crucial.


Darrell ColeDarrell ColeMay 28, 2020
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8min1135

As a customer, getting service in the digital age can be very trying. 

Hoping that your email messages don’t end up in spam filters or disregarded, getting lost in automated telephone trees, having conversations with chat-bots, among others, leaves most people screaming for interaction with a fellow human being.

Email Fails

One of the most common methods for businesses to interact with their (potential) customers is through email. Have a question, complaint or request? No problem. Just email us (typically through Info@).

Despite claims of easy access and quick responses, my experiences over the past year have been anything but. I was experiencing what seemed to be a decline in customer service when dealing with organisations via email. This feeling was so significant that I decided to track my interactions over a four-month period (pre-CoVid19), just to see if what I was experiencing was real.

Here are the results.

I was seeking a local brew pub to partner on an event and sent a detailed email message to several through their respective websites. Of those contacted, only one replied. As a follow-up, I decided to personally visit two of those establishments. One of them told me they would have to discuss it with the owner and get back to me. They never did. In the end, we held the event at a local restaurant who responded to my email message the same day. It was a roaring success and they gained profile and customers.

I am a season ticket holder of a local dance company. I wanted to buy a second ticket and sent them a message asking how to do that. After four such email messages over the span of a month without a response, I tried calling.  I never received a response to my call. I also visited their office twice, hoping to catch someone there. They were closed both times (no office hours posted). I was finally able to get a response after the fifth message. I won’t be renewing with them next season.

Our company belongs to a local business association, one that we pay for a membership in and correspond with frequently. Its primary mandate relates to providing services for its business members, yet my email interactions were something less:

  • I sent an email asking about a policy position. I received no response.
  • I sent an email informing the association that I could access a free resource for interested fellow members. How could we best approach getting the word out? No response.
  • I sent an email asking for clarification regarding event dates as a couple of them had contradicting dates between the brochure and the website. No response.

I finally informed an employee of the organisation of my struggles and he apologised, citing that “they had been very busy” and he would call me the next day. I never heard from him again. I doubt that our company will be renewing our membership next year.

I contacted a local company about a group gathering they were hosting that I was interested in paying to attend. I emailed them twice before getting a one-line response that did not answer my question. I tried emailing them once more but received no response. I never joined their event and they lost the sale.

I emailed a winery asking them if I could get their product in a city I would be travelling to, as I wanted to purchase a case. No response. I never purchased any of their products.  

Somebody Gets It

Now, let me now tell you about another example of customer service I experienced that started with an email message.

I contacted a local grocery store (national chain) to ask them why they put their high-end products in re-sealable bags with seals that don’t work. I was contacted through email the next day by the manager, who thanked me profusely, telling me that he would bring this matter to the attention of the national office and the bag producers. A short while later I received a second message saying that the concern had been brought to the attention of the bag producer and they were considering the situation. Shortly thereafter, I received a third message thanking me for helping to improve their products and would I please come down to the store to pick up a gift basket.

I was a little taken aback by their response (I just wanted them to fix their bags) but I went down to pick up the gift basket. When I got the basket, I found it filled with a variety of edible goods, each in its own bag WITH AN IMPROVED SEAL. And when I looked at their bagged sections, all of their goods were now in bags with improved seals! I will never stop shopping there.

Assessing the Quality of your Email-Based Customer Service

It still isn’t clear to me why I am experiencing so much trouble with emailed based customer service. Whatever the reason(s), it’s clear that some businesses are dropping the ball and that it is costing them dearly.

So, if you are running a business or are responsible for customer service or service design within your company, ask yourself these questions:

  1. Do you have an “info@” and is someone designated to check it?
  2. Are your employees over-burdened by work/information overload and are unable to deal with what they are expected to do?
  3. Do your employees understand the negative impact of not responding to folks who send in messages through your email? Have they received any received e-customer service training?
  4. Do you undertake regular (and meaningful) quality checks on what email has come in and how customers have been dealt with?

Attracting and retaining customers can be a challenge in a highly competitive business world. By remembering that you, too, are a customer, and taking the time to reflect on what makes you happy, can be one of the simplest and most effective ways to improve the customer service experience.


Chloe WoolgerChloe WoolgerMay 27, 2020
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8min1722

According to Kantar, the world’s leading data, insights and consulting firm, ensuring that the customer is put first by focussing on customer experience (CX) is one of many crucial factors that can determine what makes or breaks a brand.

Perhaps your customers’ expectations have now changed? If so, it’s important to understand what the experience might now look like and think about which parts of the customer journey might need to change.

It may come as no surprise that as the Coronavirus crisis intensified, consumer confidence throughout Europe dropped to record lows not seen since the financial crisis of 2009.

With the closure of all non-essential high street stores in March, convenience and necessity may explain why more people have switched to shopping online. However, recent research from Kantar’s COVID-19 Barometer research, reveals that three-quarters of British consumers agree that physical shopping in-store offers a more positive experience than purchasing goods online.

The challenge for many stores that offer online services will be how to retain these customers once social distancing measures are relaxed and people start gradually returning to the high street. And, as stores start to consider reopening over the coming weeks, how they can maintain a good experience without compromising safety.

In China, where lockdown measures have been gradually easing, we are seeing new emerging trends.

Whilst trust continues to be a high priority, there has been a move by brands looking to ‘Engage & Inspire’ consumers as they resume life adapting to the ‘new norm’.

They are looking for trusted brands to provide them with a sense of safety and security in these testing times and want to see brands deliver real value, act responsibly and do the right thing by the community, which also includes employee welfare.

As lockdown measures are tentatively eased, physical customer experiences will resume alongside digital ones. The challenge will be to continue gathering customer feedback that demonstrates brands are delivering a personalised approach. With many businesses adopting online as a primary customer feedback channel, it is important to get this right.

Here, timing, tone and target audience play a key role in formulating new, and if necessary, revisiting existing CX strategies, particularly when customers’ emotions are running higher than usual.

CX enters tribal territory

During the current pandemic, the usual ways of segmenting customers – by age, gender or relationship status, for example, have changed.  Kantar has conducted research to help identify behaviours and attitudes within different UK-based groups – meet the Covid-19 Tribes.

Each Tribe displays a different mindset and are positioned at various emotional ‘event stages’ depending on their outlook and attitude towards the current health crisis.

For example, some of these tribal groups include Ostriches that don’t really care and fail to understand what the fuss is about; Patiently Waiting believe everything will be fine and are most concerned about missing other people; and Precarious Worriers are finding things difficult with having to balance home, schooling and financial matters. The emotional stages are shock, denial, acceptance, depression, experimental, decision and engagement.

Having segmented each Tribe, it then becomes possible to blend Tribe data with other forms of customer data, ultimately to help improve digital feedback for different audiences. It also helps shape internal and external communications, evolve innovation and perhaps most importantly, advance and re-imagine CX strategy. Depending on which tribe is being targeted, a series of steps may be taken. For example, clear information may be required to minimise friction; connection and inspiration for customers might allow them to discover new experiences and offering rewards for those who are patiently waiting will help create those all-important CX ‘moments that matter’.

Having successfully identified a Covid Tribe it then becomes possible to meet the rising demands of consumers through careful communications as they seek reassurance, comfort and advice. This in turn provides opportunities for enhanced CX and serves to strengthen future brand relationships.

The following guidelines can help to ensure trust is built and maintained from digital feedback provided to customers:

  • Build a deeper sense of empathy with the customer around those issues that really matter according to your ‘Covid Tribe’
  • Ensure brand communications are not seen as profiting from the pandemic, and that customers are clearly at the forefront of concern
  • Let customers know they are supported; let them know you care and that they are your top priority – avoid just do nothing
  • CX is a shop window for delivering on brand promise so ensure consumers’ expectations are being clearly met
  • Try and be meaningful and different in your CX delivery. This will insulate your brand in both the short and long term and help drive future growth
  • Customer feedback may not be a top priority so be prepared to see a dip in response rates. Tap into other data sets to help you understand customer priorities right now
  • Often actions speak louder than words so where possible highlight any practical and helpful steps you are taking to help improve customers’ lives. Empathy and practicality are a potent combination

Step-change for CX

A CX strategy that has worked well in the past may be proving less effective now. We don’t know exactly how long social distancing measures will last, or whether they’ll be re-introduced once lifted.

What is certain however, is that during these uncertain times, we are entering a new era of CX; one that should aim to enrich customers’ lives rather than simply meeting their existing needs. We have an opportunity to redesign what needs to be done rather than doing the same thing differently to provide a seamless and frictionless CX journey.




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Customer Experience Magazine is the online magazine packed full of industry news, blogs, features, reports, case studies, video bites and international stories all focusing on customer experience.


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