We’re getting closer to the end of the initial wave. But the end of what? Hopefully, the end of dire reports about the surge in COVID-19 cases dominating the headlines day-to-day. From a business perspective, however, this end is in fact the beginning of something new.
Some businesses might feel a sigh of relief when reading the headlines about eased restrictions, but the real challenge is still ahead of them. As John D. Macomber, Senior Lecturer at Harvard Business School says, companies now will have to “compete based on who can deliver the safest perceived service environment.”
The world has begun reopening, and customers are slowly trying to return to their pre-pandemic life. Keyword: Trying.
The more time passes, the more obvious that people might not be able to go back to all aspects of normal life and will most likely have to adjust to what we call the new normal. BARE’s global evaluator survey well illustrates this change: health concerns strongly impacted spending behaviour and individual brand considerations in these past months.
COVID-interruption in Consumer Behaviours and Habits
54.6% of respondents expect these changes to have a long-term effect. 37.3% of respondents reported that they discovered new brands during the lockdown, and the majority of those said that they would stick with these new brands.
So how can you provide great customer service to your community while adhering to new safety regulations, and still keeping up with competitive advantages that are redefined at a higher speed than ever?
The most important realization is that, during COVID, habitual activities had turned into sources of danger: stopping to get a coffee before work, lining up in the grocery store, or simply scratching your nose. Months of agitation due to the virus can’t be forgotten in a couple of days. These experiences will stay with your customers and will strongly influence their brand considerations and purchase decisions in the near future.
Even so, delivering exceptional customer experience isn’t as hard as you would expect.
The New Brand-to- Consumer Relationship Dynamic
Keep in mind Susan Fournier’s ground-breaking theory arguing that brands are part of a one-on-one reciprocal human relationship. They are friends, spouses, suitors, and many more. You are more than just your product, its benefits and attributes.
And it’s your loyalty in the relationship that is under scrutiny at the moment.
How can you be the brand who is perceived as the attentive, compassionate partner which customers can rely on in hardship? It’s simple. Step in your customer’s shoes.
And that will not be hard since you yourself might have experienced the same anxiety in the past couple of months as your customers. What would you expect from a best friend in distressing times?
Defining your customer journey is a good start and an important step toward creating excellent customer experience in this new era. Dig deeper and specify each possible touchpoints people can have with your brand, but more importantly identify spots where you expect your customers feel uncomfortable or anxious to interact.
Think about simple actions such as taking a seat at the bar, picking up a grocery basket, or touching a tablet while giving a tip during the check-out process. BARE Health Suite measures how your business follows safety standards and can identify areas to improve combining your guidelines with trained shoppers’ hands-on experience.
Regardless of industry or reopening phase you’re in, your primary task now is to find solutions to reduce anxiety caused by simple everyday interactions.
One way to do this is by following a bottom-up approach. In other words, involve your own customers in the process and let them tell you what would make them feel safe. This way you can be confident that your actions are need-driven.
If you have your customers on your mind, your business will be on theirs.
CX Through Digital Adoption
You don’t necessarily need a face to face interaction to explore consumer preferences either. You can easily get access to real time feedback from the comfort of your home office through social media monitoring, especially now that due to the lockdown there was a surge in internet usage on the global level.
It has also been found that connecting with your customers on social media can create more trust and a more personal relationship with them. And trust will deliver you more honest feedback. Our Online Reputation can help you monitor more than 75 social media and review platforms, identify trends and patterns in your consumers’ expectations, and enables you to communicate with your own personal voice through customizing automated answers.
The race for customers’ retention and acquisition has started already. It is not the right time to cut corners on customer services. In order to ride out the crisis and keep your business afloat, your one and only goal should be nurturing your customer relationship based on the core values of compassion and transparency.
Lili Kunfalvi, Project Manager, Europe – BARE International
For more information on how we can help you set up a mystery shopping program, send us a note here. We, at BARE, believe in the ‘why’ behind the reasons, and we will provide actionable insights to help you provide the best experience for your customers.