We’ve almost run out of adjectives to describe the Coronavirus pandemic that has impacted every aspect of our daily lives as individuals, families, consumers and employees. And as the lockdown eases, we are all adapting to the new normal, a phrase that has become ingrained in our collective psyche. When it comes to CX, what does the new normal mean for businesses that are preparing for a post-pandemic future?
Brands have now moved beyond the react and respond stages to recovery. For customer experience, let’s add a fourth stage here. Reset – because for every business the pandemic has rewritten customer experience in indelible ink. Even those brands that hard-wired a customer focus across the business years ago are working out how to decode what the CX future now looks like.
As Marketing Week says the Coronavirus outbreak ‘pushed customers to the brink financially, physically and mentally’. Businesses had to find solutions to the immediate and evolving needs of their customers whose behaviours and beliefs changed as quickly as the crisis deepened. Those brands with a CX vision came into their own during lockdown and were able to ‘… react quickly and meaningfully to the crisis. Many will no doubt become gold-standard case studies of an agile CX response in the future’.
But let’s get back to now. The scale and scope of behavioural change means that companies will need a robust transition plan to reset their customer experience to differentiate and thrive. The marketplace has changed forever and the ‘winners’ will be those companies that have the ability and the vision to get ahead of these changes. The status quo is not the route to market leadership.
CX: changing customer behaviour and new journeys
Out of necessity, changes in customer behaviour that can take years to influence took just days or months. Dyed-in-the wool beliefs that prevented consumers from trying alternatives quickly changed too. New customer journeys were formed and digital platforms were the first port of call. Research by Marketing Week and Econsultancy found that over half of marketers (53%) said that the pandemic had caused ‘radical’ or ‘significant’ changes to journeys. The change is regardless of the size of the business.
These changes will endure
McKinsey discovered that 75% of US consumers tried a new store, brand or different way of shopping during the pandemic. One of the headline findings was more than 50% of consumers believe they will stick with new brands and new digital journeys after the crisis. Research in April by Accenture adds depth to these findings. Its study found that new habits formed during lockdown ‘will endure beyond this crisis, permanently changing what we value, howand where we shop, and how we live and work’. Changed behaviours are likely to sustain. Accenture identifies three long-term trends that have been accelerated by the crisis:
1. The ever-increasing focus on health – businesses will need to work out how they can support healthy lifestyles for consumers and employees.
2. A rise in conscious consumption – brands will need to make sustainability and conscious shopping part of their offer.
3. Growing love for local – consumers had to shop locally out of necessity during lockdown. The pandemic has accelerated the trend to buy locally to support smaller stores, local producers and growers. Businesses will need to work out how to customise their offering for local needs and connect with consumers through shared values.
Resetting CX – planning for now, planning for the future
This major change will effect your CX design, and the way you evolve, communicate and deliver the experiences your customers want and need. You’ll need to push the CX reset button.
Change like this requires people throughout the business – at all levels from leadership to the frontine – to be equipped to deliver a new and different experience to customers. The changes are so profound and the stakes are so high that businesses need to reconsider their operating models. This requires a cross-business, integrated perspective and not a siloed, function by function, response.
Here are five key steps to consider in the redesign of your CX
#1 Use behavioural science to revisit and better understand new customer beliefs and expectations
What do we mean by behavioural science?
Put simply it’s understanding why people make the decisions they do. With such a seismic shift in customer behaviour, applying behavioural science to your experience and using insights to influence and shape this behaviour is crucial to designing and delivering renewed CX in the wake of the crisis. You”ll need to understand these changing behaviours to be able to position your offering.
As McKinsey asserts, many longer term changes in consumer behaviour are still forming, so companies have an opportunity to shape the new normal. The stickiness of this behaviour change will be dependent on customers’ reaction to new experiences. This is just one factor that will influence the strength and pace of behavioural change, according to McKinsey. Country, consumer segment and values are also important factors. Habits that were accelerated will also be stickier than new habits.
Understanding new and emerging behaviour
Companies will need to get even closer to customers – and the data they have on those customers– to fully understand the factors shaping customer attitudes and behaviour. Understanding customers and giving them what they want and need will be key to growth. Those organisations with robust VOC processes and strong data analytic capabilities will have an edge.
Many of the entries on Marketing Week’s newly compiled CX50 list features projects that executives spearheaded to help customers get through the crisis. There was also another stand out commonality among these leaders. Many of the executives were also driving business integrations long before the outbreak and had an integrated approach to data and cross-silo collaboration.
What types of data can you mine and analyse?
- Social media mentions when emotions are at their rawest
- Insight from AI-powered solutions
- Customer conversations and attitude surveys
- Feedback from front line customer service employees
- Footfall, omnichannel and basket data to understand customer behaviours around visiting physical stores and online shopping and the types of products and services they are buying into
#2 Align your brand purpose to customer beliefs and values in the new normal
Once you understand your customers’ new beliefs, values and expectations you’ll need to revisit your brand purpose to make sure it aligns with customers personal values. Buying decisions stopped being made on price and product al