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Blog: Is a focus on customer experience only viable in a strong economic landscape?

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Blog: Is a focus on customer experience only viable in a strong economic landscape?

Customer experience has long been recognised as the key battleground for organisations looking to compete more effectively. More important than price or quality alone, the customer experience encompasses every aspect of the customer’s interaction with the company. This includes every step in the buyer’s journey from the initial research to the actual purchase, through to using the product or service.

COVID-19 has changed consumers’ behaviours in innumerable ways. The most obvious of these changes is consumers’ increased appetite for online options and an expectation that the online experience will match the in-person experience. Some organisations have changed the product and service set to match changing customer expectations.

The reality is that these changes are likely to be permanent. Therefore, businesses will have to evolve their products and offerings to meet the changed needs and behaviours of customers.

In the current landscape, customer experience is sometimes sacrificed in favour of COVID-safe practices such as requiring customers to wear masks or not being able to provide certain services due to restrictions. While this may cause angst for some customers, it’s an unavoidable reality in the face of such a challenging virus.

This raises the question: is a laser focus on customer experience only viable in a strong, stable economic landscape? Do companies need to hunker down into a war footing right now to maintain business viability in the face of economic uncertainty?

Undoubtedly, the answer is no. Companies should, if anything, place even more emphasis on the customer experience right now.

Companies need to forge stronger ties with customers in the post-COVID-19 era. Australian consumers in particular have suffered through drought, bushfires, and floods before the COVID-19 pandemic took over as the chief concern for most of the country. This has created a mentality in many consumers that disasters are more likely to happen than not, and the resulting caution will probably affect their willingness to spend. An exceptional experience will make customers more likely to display loyalty to your brand.

Four key steps to deliver exceptional customer experiences in the current landscape

There are four steps that companies can take immediately to offset the disruption caused by
COVID-19:

1. Provide empathy and understanding to consumers

This means actively seeking feedback and testing hypotheses around changed buying and engagement behaviours. Then, be specific in your offers and be prepared to be flexible. Share information with your customers regarding what you’re observing with other customers like them.

2. Develop a values-based experience framework

Moving to digital seemed like the best option when face-to-face experiences were hamstrung by COVID-19. But digital doesn’t work for everyone. Therefore, it’s essential to be aware of the values held by your target audience and ensure your brand reinforces those values. This creates a stronger feeling of loyalty from customers who believe what you believe.

3. Commence a plan for post COVID-19 that expresses a new or augmented customer vision and values

In a post-COVID-19 world, there is unlikely to be a return to normal. There will be a new set of requirements and the organisations that can match their offerings to customers’ changed needs will thrive. In some cases, this will mean offboarding some customers while capturing new ones.  

4. Create agility and resilience in your operations by abstracting customer operations to be more channel independent

Industry has a long history of implementing technology to solve issues without considering the full extent of the impact on the customer experience. Initiatives that can show high and fast payback, or save lives, should be prioritised. Organisations must be able to deliver the same (or better) customer experience using various channels instead of being locked into physical interactions or online-only offerings. Replace the concept of physical access with the idea of psychological access to create a frictionless experience for customers.

The world has been changed by COVID-19 and there is no such thing as normal anymore. Customer experience will arguably remain the most important competitive lever that companies can pull to ensure ongoing viability even in an unstable economic landscape.

To find out how Empired can help you deliver an exceptional customer experience in a changed environment, contact us today.

1.      Create agility and resilience in your operations by abstracting customer operations to be more channel independent

Posted by: Daragh Henchy , Solution Specialist, Digital, Data & AI | 04 September 2020

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