Tuesday, Jun 28

Managing Post-Pandemic Customer Experience

Managing Post-Pandemic Customer Experience

Customer experience for any prospective customer or existing one is the currency for future transactions and recommendations of the involved organizations. The fallout from the pandemic, has been one of the most challenging years for businesses affected by consumer behaviour and buying habits. Businesses have started opening up, although it rarely does mean ‘business as usual’ because business life has been disrupted by a pandemic determined to cause havoc. That notwithstanding, the resilience, innovation and grits of humans once again come to play as we have strategically placed ourselves in an advantageous position to win by all means. For the foreseeable future, we will not be returning to the way “we always did it” because businesses such as restaurants, gyms, hair salons among others globally which have walk-in traffic will have to make adjustments to meet the new expectations of their customers.
Incisively, there is going to be an evidential change on how businesses are going to change post-COVID-19 and this is particularly vital to Business-to-Consumer businesses that have seen their customers’ buying habits change almost overnight. Undoubtedly, as we emerge from the pandemic and businesses fully reopen, they will have to adjust to a new experience in which health and safety is a major concern. This, however, only charts the path for business owners to consider how they will manage the post-pandemic customer experience because the truth is that consumers will ‘eternally’ not stop shopping at and doing business with the companies they’ve always done business with. What they have done, is to reimagine their customer experience and expectation with their go-to shops and businesses.

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RE-IMAGINING THE CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE

According to Forbes, prior to the entrance of the virus, consumers would visit certain types of businesses on an almost daily basis. “Those included grocery stores, gyms, restaurants, beauty salons and more. In fact, 78% of consumers said that before the pandemic they visited these types of businesses at least three times a week in person. After COVID-19 occurred, that number dropped to less than half at 34%”. Surprisingly, however, “curbside pickup and delivery have been around for years, yet it took a pandemic to make it a mainstream way of doing business. Today, 75% of consumers report they use this option on a regular basis. Twenty-five percent say that this is the only way they will buy unless it’s an emergency.

Also, it maintains that, eighty-seven percent of consumers say businesses should continue to provide delivery and curbside pickup to reduce the need for in-person transactions. What came along with the pandemic into the world is also the development of a “health consciousness”, which hitherto was non-existent to some level. Consumers in their bid to maximize their purchase experience have taken the pain to seek out information on a business’s health and safety standards before visiting. They have become quite the health practitioners as they investigate to know whether they are walking into a safe place. As a result of the current stance of consumers, businesses have been advised to publicly showcase their health and safety guidelines and policies. Doing this shows your business cares about its customers and employees, and that was Apple’s mode of work. In mid-March of 2020, Apple computer was one of the first major retailers to announce it was closing all its retail stores. The message was clear. They were focused on the health of customers and employees. That was more important than staying open and making sales. “Even as businesses are starting to reopen as we exit the pandemic, Apple recently announced the closing of 11 stores in four states that have experienced a spike in COVID-19 cases. Its goal is to protect both customers and employees. Apple is demonstrating just how far it will go to create a safe environment”.

‘HEALTHY’ MARKETING STRATEGY

Invariably, consumers swiftly align to businesses they can trust and when it comes to matters of their health when these entities are involved, it becomes even more salient for them. Creating confidence post-pandemic, businesses must still factor in strategic steps in promoting health and safety. Companies across the global expanse have seen the significance in being transparent in creating the perfect healthy haven for their revered consumers who ensure their figures make sense and their dreams stay alive. Indeed, companies are stepping up their focus on health and safety for their customers and employees. Airlines have taken off with the health strategy by explicitly creating a pictorial view on how they cleaned the seats and cabin after every flight, how the air filtration system worked, how the cabin crew would wear masks and more. Similarly, hotels showcased their plans to create safe environments for their guests. If you publicly communicate your policies and processes, it is imperative to be strict and diligent about them. Don’t make commitments you can’t live up to. Undoubtedly, the unpredictable nature of the pandemic, particularly with its entrance caught everyone off-guard and if there’s anything it has taught us, it is to be predictive and not reactive when it comes to customer experience. Hitherto, companies were more reactionary in nature. For instance, when a customer encounters a rude sales person at a shop, management quickly implement a change to offset any future confrontation. Today, however, customer preferences, buying habits and loyalties change overnight, making it critical for businesses to not just react to customer sentiment but also predict what’s next. This could include the use of social channels, buying patterns or even changes that need to be made to the website. The data is there; businesses just need to think differently and be willing to disrupt themselves.

DEFINING A NEW ERA OF CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE

Over the years, customer experience has gradually outpaced variables such as price, product quality, which prior to this were quite the priority in most organisations. The pandemic has made this thought even more real, and its seriousness of purpose more profound. For all intents and purposes, businesses that offer a superior opportunity when it comes to customer experience will become and sustain market leadership. Contrarily, those who do not prioritize customer service will struggle to compete effectively in this experienced economy. In 2020, ZK Research found that, two-thirds of millennials admitted changing loyalties to a brand becomes a single bad experience.

Moving forward, business success will ultimately require comprehensive understanding of what the experience consumer desire looks like in the post-pandemic era. Online and mobile experience have become the buzzword in this new phase of interaction. So, it is imperative for businesses and organizations to exploit the mobile experience. Candidly speaking, the move to mobile is the biggest change many organizations would have gone through since the pandemic began. Pre-pandemic, it was just another alternative method of interacting with customers. Presently, the social-distancing rule of engagement has shaken things up a bit and it’s the only way we can interact with some organizations. Futuristically, it may stay that way indefinitely. The convenience of mobile with its ability to tap into location services, push notifications make it a simplified experience for users. The reality is most organizations have barely tapped into harnessing mobile data. Moving forward, companies must endeavour to also improve part of its company culture. Making it part of the company’s mission ensures everyone in the company has a focus on customer experience.

The pandemic has altered ways businesses deal with customers, and these changes are here for good. Therefore, businesses trying to make a major impact on their industry, must essentially understand their core audience, budgets, shopping habits, goals, the most appealing options available to them, etc. before they can start to really engage them. A successful company focusing on customer engagement will use this data to anticipate buyer needs and position itself as the ideal solution in light of this information. Mainly, company leaders and business owners from all discipline have to put customer experience at the top of their priority list. This is because, the pandemic has changed more than the way we work; it has changed everything, from the way we shop, exercise, travel, entertain and almost everything else in our lives.

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