We can only imagine the massive pressure consumers felt during the past year. Our lives changed dramatically with enforced remote work, homeschooling, job losses, and the social (and psychological) impact of lockdown. Things were even worse for those on the front lines – key workers who struggled to do their jobs while COVID-19 challenges continued to rise and worsen over time.

Shortly after the pandemic hit, it became apparent that consumers react differently to the financial and healthcare pressures. To better understand the issue and the entire situation, Forrester developed a simple customer segmentation that contrasted users reaction to the healthcare and financial risks they faced.

The diagram below demonstrates Forrester Research customer segmentation. It’s meant to help brands better understand the customers and the need to prioritize consumer well-being strategies for increased brand loyalty. Let’s take a closer look at what it means to have Strained and Cocooned users.

The diagram demonstrates  the four types of the customers and how to understand them better, so brands can prioritize consumer well-being.

Looking through the lens of consumer well-being

Our research shows 37% of consumers in the UK are “Strained”. These people are fearful about protecting their physical and financial wellbeing and have little to no desire to risk things with resuming their pre-pandemic behaviour.

Clearly, each customer type has unique sentimental characteristics. If we look closely, these can tell us a lot about our buyers’ possible behaviours and attitudes. We can even go as far as to predict future actions. Nevertheless, one should not be quick to judge on their level of vulnerability when it comes to facing sudden challenges or psychological pressure. It is easy to fall into the trap of assuming Strained and Cocooned customers are the most likely to be vulnerable to pressure. However, things are not that simple, as you’ll see in our explanation below.

  • Strained consumers feel the pressure of doing things. Our research shows 37% of consumers in the UK are “Strained”. These people are fearful about protecting their physical and financial wellbeing and have little to no desire to risk things with resuming their pre-pandemic behaviours. In fact, Strained consumers are worried that businesses are failing to conduct the necessary precautions in protecting the employees and stay closed for safety reasons.
  • Poised customers feel the frustration of not doing things. Contrary to the previous type, Poised consumers don’t feel threatened and are ready to indulge in their favourite experiences again. For these eager consumers, strongly optimistic about an economic and cultural rebound, it takes too long to reopen businesses. This type of customer is more likely to get frustrated with the extended lockdown and social distancing that prevents previously “normal” experiences such as office time or pub gatherings.

Ways for CX leaders to support consumer’s well-being

As we move into this next phase of the pandemic, which will hopefully bring economic recovery and a familiar way of living, businesses need to set up priorities. The Forrester Research, as well as dozens of other studies, showed how important it is to have customer-experience leaders focused on providing safety to the employees and customers.

There are three essential ways CX leaders can follow to achieve both business excellence and prioritize customer well-being. To secure long-lasting benefits, the three segments below need to be well aligned and implemented strategically.

  • Mapping emotions along the customer’s journey. It is time for brands to start designing from the customer’s point of view. This means understanding users’ emotions and shaping products and services around the current needs. This approach might bring agility and necessary adaptability to companies. We need to go beyond equating emotion with need if we want to prioritize consumer well-being. Businesses should aim to understand the entire lifecycle of the customer, so they can catch the true moments that matter and act on them.
  • Acting with empathy. When firms act from a place of empathy, they cultivate trust and loyalty by showing genuine care for customers and employees. For instance, Sainsbury’s has refitted stores with Perspex safety screens and is promoting in-store contactless, self-checkout services. Admiral focused its pandemic email communications on informing millions of customers that they would receive a £25 “stay at home” car insurance refund. 
  • Optimizing customer journeys. Journeys are your customers’ lived realities, which is why brands should be consistent in delivering promises for trust-building. You can do this in several ways for your Cocooned and Poised customers. Cocooned consumers want to feel safe, and brands should ensure the delivery staff is informed and trained the provide the best possible experience. On the other hand, Poised customers are excited to get back to normal. Brands should try to include them in engaging activities while still following basic safety protocols.

In essence, journey maps should include the emotional arc of both customers and employees. Brands should prioritize consumer well-being as well as support their employees if they want to build and maintain trust in these challenging times.

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