The coronavirus has fundamentally changed customer experience. Consumers’ attitudes, shopping habits and budgets have all been impacted severely. The only way organisations can survive this tumultuous time is to adapt fast and re-connect with their customers so that they are providing their audience with what they need most. In order to bounce back, CX leaders should consider the following.

Understanding your customers

You no longer know your customers. While this may seem like a rash statement, it is clear that what your customers wanted pre-COVID aren’t necessarily top of their wishlist currently. What are their post-pandemic hopes, fears, and attitudes? Does your brand purpose resonate as much now as it previously did and is it authentic? Do you have a good understanding of the role your products and services play in people’s lives and how will they consider, buy and consume them in the future? Answering these questions is hard and you’ll need the ability and culture to harvest data, hypothesise, test, learn and iterate as you go.

For CIOs, this a real test. Becoming truly agile, design-led and highly automated are ambitions that were already being pursued in many organisations (like BP, Scottish Water and British Gas, for example) well before the pandemic.

As markets become less certain and the focus on cost out and value up intensifies, these initiatives are becoming imperative. Speed to market and relevance are key and CIOs need to partner with parts of the business that own the customer interface (marketing, customer service, sales teams) and drive together towards a new way of delivering digital products and services into the hands of customers and those that serve them.

Mastering your data

It’s also a big test of data mastery and your Customer Data Platform arrangements. It’s critical to be able to liberate, aggregate and interpret what you know about customers so you can reach them at the right time, through the right channel, with the right offer.

You need tools to be able to execute on this insight. Technology is there to help agents decide on their next best action depending on the customer’s circumstances, to help track and intelligently manage and schedule customer contacts, to automate marketing communications based on meaningful triggers.  Such solutions need to be well chosen, integrated and adopted.

Content is king

It’s equally a test of your story. The importance of pushing great content down a variety of marketing and engagement channels to really connect with your audience can hardly be overstated.

Many businesses like Chipotle and WhatsApp, for example, have been effective in striking the right tone, targeting their audiences and strengthening affinity to their brand during the pandemic. They’ve done this through a combination of practical support, honest dialogue and helpful new services.

Maintaining this connection as we exit the pandemic will maximise the enduring value of their engagement in these difficult times.

Do you have content and digital asset management solutions in place to get your new messages out in a compelling and personal way at scale? And is your organisation geared up to leverage it?

Adapting the store experience

Adapting the in-store shopping experience to accommodate a global pandemic is tough. Keeping up sales and standards of service whilst maintaining social distance, avoiding excessive touching of products and surfaces and the handling of cash has left many retailers scratching their heads.

Contactless payment and self-service checkout are increasingly expected by consumers. Beyond this, the pursuit of a truly “Phygital” experience is receiving increased attention. AR and VR initiatives will gather pace for some businesses looking to achieve product and brand immersion without human contact, both in the store and at home.

Many will be watching leading lights, like Amazon Go and Nike Live for inspiration, but with a keen eye on working out what will work for them and make a genuine difference to customer experience and value. Those without a well-researched and considered omnichannel strategy could fail to act and lose out or be seduced by a new idea that misses the mark.

The ramp-up of ecommerce for bigger businesses has been a feature of the pandemic that will endure for many. For those not inclined to invest in enterprise commerce platforms, this means an acceleration of a trend towards “composable commerce”, modular, open architectures that give businesses flexibility as their needs evolve.

Customer service at a distance

Companies that provide customer services in the field have really wrestled with social distancing. The pandemic has shined a new light on ways of working that require pen and paper (likely to force employees and customers to be in closer proximity) or on processes that require staff to retreat to office computers as they lack the ability to capture and retrieve data on the move. Those with stronger solutions in this space are more inclined than ever to pursue AR and VR solutions to help with field service training or increasing their rates of first-time fix. These technologies also increase the potential of remote assistance, bringing field agents and contact centre staff together to provide the optimum service.

Contact centres have faced their obvious challenges, needing to either close or embrace distributed working. Continuing down the path of greater flexibility for staff may give them competitive advantage in the new world but their systems and data become increasingly critical once the safety net of co-located teams is removed.

Conclusion

Many of the strategies business are considering in this ‘new normal’ are broadly unchanged and represent modern practices that optimise the customer experience and enable business to survive and thrive. The Covid-19 pandemic simply brings this into greater focus, accelerating some of the prevailing trends in the market. This represents the perfect moment to step back and reflect on your brand’s purpose, your offer to your customers and whether you’re in a good position to fulfil that promise. In the post Covid world, it is important to recognise that failure to act could have dire consequences.

Starting small is always an option and CX initiatives have the potential not only grow the top line but also to drive out operating costs in the near term. And, of course, if a business does not fulfil its customers’ need, someone else will.

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