Customer experience in the post-Covid era will never be the same – The Economic Times

Clipped from: https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/small-biz/marketing-branding/marketing/customer-experience-in-the-post-covid-era-will-never-be-the-same/articleshow/83453944.cmsSynopsis

The Black Death, the Spanish Flu, WWII, 9/11 and now COVID-19. Black swan events will always cause a shift in consumer behaviour.

Covid-19 has indeed changed the customer experience in far more ways than one could imagine. It has disrupted in-person experience to a level that it resulted in a digital space that’s louder and way too harder to cut than ever before.

While it has already re-shaped the business landscape; the pioneers of customer experience are deploying strategies not just for the present, but to prepare for the future too. After months of chaos and uncertainty, government policies and rules relating to the pandemic continue to change regularly – it is, therefore, important that organizations also keep a very flexible mind-set and quickly adapt to the new environment.

As this pandemic doesn’t seem to end and keeps hitting us waves after waves; we must look at the changing consumer behaviour and the impact this pandemic has had on the way brands meet and manage customers’ expectations.

Understanding changing consumer behaviour
As we continue to live in this unprecedented time and see the radical impact this has had on our lives; the effect it had on the consumer psyche and business as well is very apparent.

Consumers stockpiled essential goods such as groceries, dry foods and other household products in the wake of this impending crisis. This sudden amplified demand for essentials disrupted the supply chain for most of the FMCGs. On the other hand, non-essential good-to-have product companies witnessed a sharp decline, be it apparel and luxury brands, services industry like travel/hospitality etc.

The impact on financial services was not untouched too. The physical touchpoints were to be re-looked on high priority. Some of these changes in customer behaviour seem to be an irreversible trend, forcing companies, more than others and more than ever before, to re-align themselves to the ‘new normal’.

They had to look at gaining competitive advantages by embracing this new reality and adopting emerging trends that would help businesses thrive in the new normal.

The customer journey facing the greatest disruption
Most of the CX leaders are seeing disruption across all six core customer journeys that include

  • The research and need identification journey
  • The marketing and sales journey
  • The on boarding journey
  • The product or service usage journey
  • The issue resolution journey
  • The re-ordering, renewal or collection/recovery or claim journey

With many staff still working remotely, the volume of in-person interaction that companies can handle is strictly limited – customers can’t interact with brands in the ways they’re used to or would still like to.

In light of this, it is extremely important to build the ability to tolerate uncertainty and being prepared to pivot quickly that may include the following in my opinion:

1. Drive customer behaviour change
CX leaders must put a lot of focus on helping those who are not digital and educate them to adopt digital. They must re-imagine parts of key customer experiences or implement solutions that improve or replace affected touch-points.

CX leaders must focus on letting their customers know what their options are and what resources are out there to help them, depending on their situations and their current or future needs. It may sound like a long-drawn thing, but the start has to be in that direction – the sooner the better.

When there’s a government announcement or policy rollout, we must reach out to our customers and educate them on how they can be benefited and how we as a company can help them achieve that.

In a nutshell, we have to start driving the paradigm shift in moving our customers to adopt digital and make them future-ready.

2. Accessing customer needs
With no end to the pandemic insight, companies need to understand what their customers need now, at the moment. Only once CX leaders have used all the tools at their disposal to assess the situation will they be able to judge how best to amend their strategies for the months and years ahead

They may (or must) use all possible tools like ‘digital customer analytics’, ‘social media listening’, ‘focus group’, ‘customer journey re-mapping ‘customer feedback’ along ‘employee feedback’. This shall help them re-align their entire customer journey mapping to the need of the hour, the current crisis.

3. Replace in-person touchpoints with digital
We’re seeing a lot of digital adoption and our digital channel transactions have gone up but this is just a small part of the job done.

We’ve had a huge amount of work to be carried out to get all our call centres mobilised in terms of working-from-home and getting the all necessary equipment to staff.

Customer on-boarding journeys have been the hardest hit by Covid-19. In financial services such as lending businesses; we have had a huge dependency on in-person interactions similar to banking or insurance. We had to quickly turn out on a digital boarding journey and had to make them a touchless process. While that helped in business continuity but as iterated earlier, it’s a long-drawn thing and customers may take time to adapt to this – we still see a very positive trajectory building up. This may well work to our advantage as we reduce the cost of acquisition substantially.

4. Invest in technology:
As said above, setting up the contact centre for remote working was just one part of addressing the impact this pandemic has had post-Covid-19. This was perhaps the simplest of the tasks as we now realise. This shall now be less of a priority for CX leaders as we move ahead.

The bigger thing would be to invest further in technology. Some of the things that we did in our organisations and a few are work-in-progress which I strongly recommend to all CX leaders:

  • Invest in data, integration, integrity or enrichment of technology
  • Invest in multi-channel customer experience platforms. Give all possible online options to customers to reach out and interact with you.
  • Install chatbots with ‘live takeovers’ capabilities
  • Voice bots that use NLP (Natural language processing)
  • Invest in digital self-serve space. Customers are now more open to having their issues resolved themselves instead of queuing up on a toll-free number to interact with a customer service agent.
  • Deploy interactive personalised video content both for educational purposes and transactional services.

5. Addressing barriers to CX success in ‘New Normal’
It is now apparent that the best practices for engaging with customers will now be different in a post-pandemic world.

While customers will continue to expect the same level of service levels albeit more through digital channels; we must continue to provide an Omnichannel experience and keep in-person touchpoints available too in some cases.

We, as CX leaders, must therefore channelize the organisations to mobilise the resources into investing significantly in this direction and address the barriers as early as possible:

We must prioritise our investments. We cannot continue to play old-school and imagine a different (favourable) result in this new normal. Our investments have to be towards technology and digital avenues. We must start securing organisation-wide support to this effect and re-imagine customer journeys, enrich business processes and re-align them quickly and continue to measure the impact of such changes to gauge customer experience. It is cyclic in nature that helps in continued advancements to business.

Conclusion
The differentiator in this new world isn’t going to be based on ‘product’ and ‘prices’ anymore; instead, it is going to be ‘customer experience’. Those who embrace this new normal and deliver a seamless digital experience will only succeed and leave the competition behind.

The writer is Head of Operations, Compliance & CS, Clix Capital.

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