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.