It is hard to argue that 2020 was the most disruptive year to business that any of us have ever known. It was a year when many business plans were scrapped and the ability to pivot and be agile was challenged, due to the COVID pandemic.
As with any business disruption, customers were also severely impacted. Many are the stories of customers having to wait in a queue longer than expected due to contact centres having to be run from our homes. Orders were backlogged due to delays in the shipping supply chain and order fulfilment was impacted due to a manufacturing backlog.
While many of these inconveniences were unavoidable and unexpected, the majority of customers were understanding as we truly were all in this together. However, as we pass the anniversary of this impact, customers have shifted their mindset and have less patience with COVID being used as an excuse for a poor customer experience.
If 2020 was the year that customer experience (CX) was to supplant price and product as the number one brand differentiator, let 2021 be the year where organisations regain their customer experience edge. Here are a few suggestions on how that can be done.
Develop a strategy
Customer experience is not a new trend that just popped on the scene this year. CX has been at the forefront of business thinking for some time, yet despite this mainstay, almost half of companies have yet to have a defined CX strategy according to Gartner.
You cannot just expect CX to happen, as hope is not a strategy. If organisations truly desire to delight their customers with an incredible experience, they must define, document, and implement the strategy. Doing anything less is simply wishful thinking.
The most admired brands in the world are those that are authentic. If there was ever a time for authenticity, it is now.
Brands that have been limited in their ability to provide an excellent experience for their customers should let their customers know they are aware of it. Simply ignoring it, acting as if all is business as usual, and hoping it goes away is not addressing the problem…and we all know how poorly that can turn out.
Be proactive and communicate with your customers. Let them know that you appreciate their patience and support through these trying times and provide details on what you will be doing to address any issues that have arisen from the disruption.
This is not a one-time communication, but should be consistent as letting your customers know of the progress you are making to remediate issues is essential.
Both you and your customers know if their experience has been lacking. Owning it and letting your customers know you are aware can go along way to building trust in your brand.
I was on the phone with a customer service representative not long ago and unfortunately was not getting the help that I needed. After expressing a bit of my frustration with the agent, I was told “sir, I need you to be patient as the pandemic has impacted us greatly!”.
What the agent displayed for me in very clear language was he was more concerned about his job, his company and the impact the pandemic has had on them than he was in how it impacted me, the paying customer.
Brands need to understand the impact that empathy makes in the delivery of service and experience, and that exhibiting empathy can be one of the most powerful tools they have. Simply listening, affirming, and then helping can be the difference between a great and a poor experience.
As we head into 2021 we have learned that truly anything can be expected and that includes the expectations of your customers on receiving a world-class experience.
Originally published Mar 26, 2021, updated Jul 22, 2021