Get Back to Basics to Get Customers Back to Your Business

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We recently commissioned a research study to more than 1,000 American consumers in order to gain an understanding of how COVID-19 has affected consumer behaviors and views, and how these shifts have impacted the customer experience.

Customer experience expert and Forbes columnist, Shep Hyken, weighed in on our COVID-19 & The Future of Commerce report and offered businesses “Three Ways To Prepare For The Post-Pandemic Customer Experience.” 

Before we dive into Shep’s takeaways and continue this important conversation, let’s set the stage with some of the report’s central findings:

Customer Concerns Have Led to Permanent Shifts

78% of consumers say they are now using curbside pickup or delivery.

Unsurprisingly, health and safety concerns have dramatically altered consumer behavior. Before the pandemic, 78% of consumers reported that they visited businesses such as grocery stores, gyms, restaurants and beauty salons at least three times a week in person. As the impact of the crisis continues to loom, that number has dropped to 34%.

In-person interactions aren’t going away because of these new concerns. But they are taking place in different forms. In fact, 78% of consumers report that they are now using delivery or curbside pickup in some fashion, with 25% saying they are relying on delivery or curbside exclusively except in the case of emergencies. And while alternatives like curbside were viewed by many as a temporary solution, 87% of consumers say businesses should continue to provide these options that reduce the need for in-person interaction. 

Lastly, the report found an urgent need for businesses to double-down on real-time, contactless communication, with 79% of consumers saying that going forward they will seek out information on the type of health and safety standards and processes businesses have in place before visiting them. 

With these shifts in mind, we’ve expanded on some of Shep’s thoughts on what it will take for businesses to create and execute successful customer experiences going forward:

Understanding Customer Signals is More Important Than Ever

45% of customers say that their experience with curbside has been rocky

In his article, Shep points to “listening to your customers” as the best way to prepare for the post-pandemic customer experience. With a slew of unprecedented challenges at hand, it would be easy for brands to lose sight of things like customer feedback as they focus on doing whatever it takes to get customers back through their doors. However, this feedback is more important than ever, especially when businesses are navigating new models and processes. Despite wanting contactless alternatives to remain for the foreseeable future, the truth is that in many cases the execution of them is sub-par. In fact, 45% of customers say their experience with curbside has been rocky or poor (Download the Retailer’s Guide to Curbside Commerce to improve your operations.).

As Shep suggests, brands must “listen closely and react quickly to areas that need improvement.” 

A critical piece of this is leveraging an effective real-time communications strategy that allows businesses to capture crucial signals from their customers that they can put to action. Signals about your customer’s experience, which range from digital surveys, social media posts, and text messages to call center interactions and even video feedback, can be captured throughout the different touchpoints of the customer experience. Technology powered by artificial intelligence can make sense of this data and help organizations predict behaviors and can even empower staff to influence experiences in the moment. By capturing signals across all of these channels throughout the customer journey, businesses can identify problems faster and discover new opportunities.

Effectively managing customer communication and feedback, all while listening to the customers’ needs can be a daunting task, especially in rapidly changing times, but with the right strategy and technology it can be done by a focused team, or even a single person. By asking customers for feedback with quick in-the-moment surveys, brands can let customers know they care and also gain crucial insights into where they may be falling short. 

Building Confidence Through Communication & Consistency

82% of consumers say it would increase their likelihood of visiting a business if it were to proactively communicate its safety standards and process.

As Shep succinctly sums up in his article, focusing on the health of customers is “more important than staying open and making sales.” And when this focus is pulled through in a brand’s communication strategy in a way that meets consumers needs and concerns, it builds confidence. In fact, according to our research study, 82% of consumers say it would increase their likelihood of visiting a business if it were to proactively communicate those processes.

While real-time communication is pivotal in building confidence, especially with 29% of consumers saying they expect a response to health and safety concerns within 5 minutes and 55% within 30 minutes, Shep also points out an opportunity for brands to include their commitment to health and safety into their marketing strategies. 

For example, with many hotels reopening their doors to guests, organizations have a unique opportunity to showcase how new processes and protocols are keeping guests and employees safe. With text messaging, hotels (and restaurants) can power up to 80% of the guest experience without the need for physical interaction. Exceptional deals and amenities are great, but when a hotel’s marketing highlights the fact that everything from check-in to service needs is possible with greatly reduced physical interaction, they stand a much better chance to instill confidence and get guests on property.

The future customer experience is unfolding before our eyes. And while many facets of doing business look dramatically different, the truth is that the underpinnings of a remarkable customer experience today are the same as they have always been: listening to customers and addressing their needs and expectations. With an understanding of the impact that this crisis has had on consumers and the proper execution of strategies that accounts for this, brands can deliver experiences that allow them to get back to business faster and ensure longer-term success. 

Download the COVID-19 & the Future of Commerce report to learn more about your customer’s changing behaviors.

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