Mandatory closures and social distancing guidelines are relaxing throughout much of the country, which means many companies are getting back to business while adjusting to new rules and rapidly changing consumer behavior. But in other parts of the country, social distancing recommendations are returning as concerns over the pandemic increase. Recovery and reopening phases are happening differently across the country and there is no clear playbook for how businesses should respond.
The key to thriving in this rapidly changing landscape is putting customers at the center of your business and listening to what they are telling you through direct feedback, market research and capturing rich experience signals. With the signals available today — like messaging, video and voice — you can respond in the moment and act quickly and confidently using the insights at your fingertips.
Many consumers are thinking carefully about which companies they patronize and how they interact with others. People who belong to a high-risk demographic group, such as older adults or individuals with chronic conditions, need to remain especially cautious when entering a restaurant or retail business. Consumers at large still have concerns about in-person activity and a new consumer research study shows that 77 percent report that the amount of face-to-face interaction they have will influence their decision to visit a business.
Many companies have responded to these concerns and evolving safety regulations by increasing health and sanitization practices and utilizing more digital — and contactless — tools to communicate with and serve customers. The same research study indicates a quarter of surveyed consumers have shifted to rely solely on curbside pickup and delivery since the start of the pandemic and 87 percent say they want businesses to continue offering services like this that minimize physical interaction.
But for many businesses, like hotels, retail stores, automotive dealers and more, that may not be entirely possible. If your business relies heavily on in-person interactions with customers, it’s essential to put customers at the center of your business by understanding and responding to their concerns, and incorporating solutions for them in your reopening strategy. If you’ve already reopened, tap into the experiences your customers are having and see how you can better improve the customer experience and quickly adapt.
Businesses with access to customer contact information should consider involving customers in the development of their strategy by asking about expectations and requirements and then openly communicating policies and procedures. Open a dialogue with your customers about what you’re doing to respond to the COVID-19 crisis and get their feedback. Offer them a digital channel to express their opinions about how your business is adapting its practices. If you’re already open, embed post-visit surveys in digital delivery receipts to tap into evolving customer expectations.
While businesses have been thrust into ensuring they have digital options for customers, there are still many consumers who enjoy and want to return to face-to-face experiences and support. Understanding how in-store expectations may have changed as a result of COVID is crucial. Putting customers at the center of your business by asking them if they expect better digital experiences, safer physical interactions and what you can do to reassure them and provide the types of experiences that keep them coming back. For example, a customer may miss going to their wireless provider’s storefront for small fixes they were forced to handle on their own during shelter in place, but they may have found they prefer buying new devices online.
Tapping into evolving customer expectations will help you implement rapid changes to overcome consumer anxiety and meet changing demand. If your customers tell you they want less in-person interaction and curbside service is appropriate for your business, consider adopting it. If customers tell you they want more information on what safety precautions you’re taking, start proactively communicating more frequently to reassure them.
And don’t forget, in this fast-changing environment, it’s more critical than ever to take advantage of non-survey signals from existing open-text, speech, or video interactions to help uncover customer sentiments around safety and comfort at scale. These signals can act as early warnings even before issues are discovered through traditional surveys. And when combined with survey feedback, they paint a more holistic picture of the entire customer experience.
By communicating with consumers digitally and in person, by gaining feedback through surveys and capturing non-survey experience signals, and by involving customers in your strategies, businesses can adapt quickly and stay ahead of evolving customer expectations.
Download our latest ebook — 5 Essential Ways to Use Voice of Customer in Your Reopening Gameplan — to learn more about putting customers at the center of your business and thriving during times of great change.