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Customer experience transformation during covid-19 pandemic. Series of: “your compass to recovery”

April 15, 2020

By Jihad M. Al Houwayek

It is devastating how things have changed in the last few weeks. The whole world around us seems to be in some sort of a strange pause. Life as we’ve always knew it, has been put on hold.

This reality, which has been completely unexpected, raises a huge threat for governments and corporates alike, yet it does in parallel also present a great opportunity once handled properly.

In this article, we list a four steps approach to guide companies’ leadership about the importance of customers relationship management as they navigate through the crisis.

For most companies, Finance department took the lead in this period of uncertainty, with tight cash flow management and projections as budget revisions became top priority.

As those financial decisions take centre stage, leaders should be mindful not to overreact to the situation caused by yesterday’s problem and focus on looking ahead towards creating a robust action plan for recovery.

One of the most crucial components of the equation is your customer, who is the most needed asset for the rebound once this whole situation is over and the company enters the recovery stage.

This reality brings the value of CRM to the forefront. Today, Customer Experience (CX) leaders have the most important role in managing the long-distance relationship with their customer. Don’t discount your customer from your plans even during crisis. Your customers are also living the same challenges and are expecting the brands they’ve always been loyal to, to comfort them and show empathy. CX leaders are requested to re-examine their complete customer journey and satisfaction metrics to become more aware of their customer’s current desires, wants and needs during these times and anticipate what could emerge in the future. Keeping a real-time pulse on changing customer preferences and rapidly innovate and redesign journeys that matter, will be key.

Particularly, during the times of crisis, customers’ interactions with a company or brand can trigger immediate effect on their sense of trust and loyalty. Therefore, we recommend the below four sets of immediate actions, that help building resilience and preparing customer-centric companies for full recovery in the post-pandemic days:

1. PRACTICE EMPATHY TOWARDS YOUR CUSTOMERS:
We know how important it is for companies and brands to show empathy towards their customers, but when was the last time this was put to action? Now more than ever connect with your customer and show that you care. Remember, that your customers and their families are also going through the crisis and have their own doubts, worries, problems and challenges. It is your role to act responsibly and create comfort. They want a resource they can trust, that can make them feel safe when everything seems uncertain, and that offers support when so much seems to be overwhelming. As you reach out to your customers, remember to remain true to your company values and purpose – do not try to sell them. Your approach should not look as a marketing attempt, it should look genuine without showing any intent for any commercial gain.

2. LEVERAGE DIGITAL CHANNELS:
your customers are trapped at their homes. Normal life activities have come to a halt. Demand patterns have shifted overnight. Customers have only access to digital channels, therefore, brands that will offer them the best digital experience will gain the most. It is also expected that digital-led experiences will continue to grow in popularity once the coronavirus is quelled, and companies that act quickly and innovate in their delivery model to help consumers navigate the pandemic safely and effectively will establish a strong advantage. In a nutshell, bring your business to your customers’ homes, do so in a touch-free model.

3. START THINKING OF YOUR RECOVERY STAGE:
Similar to any other crisis, the COVID-19 pandemic will end at some point. Yet expectations are that the changes in consumer preferences and business models will outlast the crisis period. Economic impact of the current pandemic will take longer to recover than the public-health situation. CX leaders should start thinking of what would be their customer’s next journey once the “next normal” emerges. Cost cutting is expected to continue yet CX leaders should find a way not to sacrifice on the experience. Often, the best ways to improve experience and efficiency at the same time are to increase digital and smart service channels, grounded in what matters most to customers. More and more customers will have grown comfortable with digital, remote, and low-touch options, even in rural and older populations. We expect to see the shuttering of underperforming brick-and mortar-stores. This will force retailer to find new channels to capture the lost business. It is through the use of omnichannel strategy driven by technology, data, AI, IoT and mobile that they may be able to re-imagine the role of their physical locations and the type of experience they will be offering in the future.

4. ADAPT YOUR CAPABILITIES TO COPE WITH THE NEXT NORMAL:
with the insanely rapid pace of this fast-changing environment, and in order to take real time decisions, CX leaders should adapt their skillset of research and analysis to become more agile, built on real-time pulse and capable of coping with the changes in customer preferences and behaviour dynamics. CX leaders who master that approach will create value for customers in high priority areas and in an environment of increased competition. This will also highlight the importance of capturing the feedback of the front-line employees which will prove useful in gauging how customers are feeling and how daily interactions are changing. Sadly, this source of insights often goes largely overlooked.

Finally, it is obvious that this overwhelming challenge of COVID-19 has taken customer experience to a new definition and dimension. CX leaders who practice empathy, innovate and show agility during this crisis to anticipate how customers will change their habits will build stronger relationships that will endure well in the future.

The above is a series of “your compass to recovery” by LINK Advisory:

https://www.linkedin.com/posts/linkadvisory_compass-recovery-steps-activity-6652824120289480704-NBjQ/