The Coronanvirus crisis has been a clarion call to CX leaders like no other. As the crisis broke the five-year plan became the five-day plan. As the road ahead started to stretch out, leaders were able to recalibrate and respond with fleet-footed nimbleness, and clarity about what it would take to serve customers’ immediate and evolving needs. They were able to draw on their deep reserves as customer-centric brands to respond in a meaningful way.
Businesses without a customer focus floundered as they tried to work out what the five-week plan was. Consumers noticed. They noticed because the brands that were able to deliver food to the table, keep them stocked up on the essentials and give them easy access to digital services won their business. There was no time for second chances. This impatience with a poor experience will continue into 2021. The warnings signs have already been laid bare.
Step change in CX design
Everything has changed. New trends have emerged that require step change in CX strategies. We’re not talking here about the evolution of long-term trends that are hardy perennials on road maps like personalisation. Those brands that have been taking lessons over the past nine months know that their CX needs to be redesigned. There is no going back to the old normal. We’ve quickly arrived at the first trend that is shaping the way brands are re-imagining their customer experience.
#1 There is no return to the status quo
The change in customer behaviour, values and beliefs has been so deep that businesses still in pre-crisis CX mode will be outdated. They will fail their customers. Companies that are hedging their bets on a return to the old normal will not thrive. They may not survive. Leadership will be brave and bold to deliver the change required to build back better around a revitalised customer experience.
This will require unprecedented cross-business collaboration and agility to respond to the ever-evolving demands of customers that care about experience as much as the product or service. But leaders won’t be reckless. Changes will be guided by customer data and insights that help business make data-driven decisions about what comes next.
#2 Customers and businesses will make a stand together
Consumers want to buy from business that have a shared common purpose. They will assess businesses on what they stand for, say and do. In 2021, the brands that are making a stand on issues that they care about will earn their loyalty. Loyalty is hard won but easily lost. CX leaders will revisit their brand purpose to make sure that it aligns with their customers’ values so they can
IKEA is a pacesetter on this as it strives to be a climate positive business by 2030. The retail giant’s Buy Back initiative is reducing the amount of furniture that ends up as landfill by buying back unwanted customer furniture and reselling it in its second-hand store. The scheme, which will launch in January 2021, taps into the growing pre-loved market and consumer appetite to reduce consumption by giving a second life to products.
#3 Consumers are tired of consumerism
The big shift from material goods to experiences took an unexpected turn this year and like most things experiential campaigns became virtual or streaming events. But, in-person experiences will resume at some stage next year. After months of distancing, people are yearning for social interactions in the real world. Immersive in-person experiences will help brands connect with audiences in memorable, authentic and more meaningful ways.
Consumers are tired of meaningless connections. And as we mentioned earlier, connections built on shared values and purpose are a powerful way to build unbreakable bonds. Allowing any in-person experience to be unsafe will be a sure way to quickly break them. Customer data and feedback will be crucial as brands seek insights on the types of experiences customers want, and what they think of them.
#4 Customers have a deep-seated need to regain control
Customers have been experiencing increased levels of anxiety about almost every aspect of their lives. Part of the reason for the anxiety is the loss of control. Being in control is a deep-seated psychological need. Product innovation that taps into this need and allows consumers to exert more control will give businesses a competitive edge.
Take open banking for example. Consumer uptake has surged over the past year because open banking gives them control of their financial data and how it is shared with third-party providers (TTPs) of new apps and services. Banks have an opportunity here to improve their offerings to compete with TTPs on the personal financial management tools that consumers seek to help them save, borrow money more easily, or make payments.
#5 Brands will need to travel with customers on key digital journeys
CX leaders are retracing their steps along key digital journeys to be able to take a renewed, empathetic view of critical moments and close any gaps. They are focusing on moments of truth that have a peak impact for customers. Memories of past experiences are shaped by feelings at
the peak of an experience or at the end. These peaks are at times when emotions are heightened.
For example, when a nervous customer signs up for the first time for online banking. CX leaders in retail banks will make sure the journey is a well trodden path for them to make the experience as easy and intuitive as possible.
More customers online will also mean a more vocal customer base
Customers want to share online how products and services play out in their lives. They want to share experiences, information and expertise. It only takes seconds to do this. But it can take years to repair the damage caused by bad experiences that go viral.
Businesses will need to be listening and acting on customer feedback at every touchpoint (offline and online). Brands get this. The top three investment priorities for practitioners are customer journey mapping (26%), digital customer experience (27%) and data and analytics (28%), according to research by CX Network.
#6 CX consistency – anytime, anywhere
Wholesale remote working has moved from being a contingency to a long-term strategy. Despite vaccinations marking a turning point in the crisis, businesses like Lloyds Banking Group have been rethinking the office space they need and have decided to redeploy hundreds of staff to fulltime
homeworking customer service roles.
Businesses like Barclays are also rethinking the space they need after relative successes in remote working. In fact, three-quarters of City firms are looking at how to reduce their real estate footprint. As more customer service reps work from home, customers will expect a consistently high service – whether the rep is based in a contact centre or their kitchen.
With remote working becoming a strategic choice, businesses will need to pivot to a blended training solution – both online and in the training room – to make sure that employees are able to embrace change and fully understand what is expected of them.
But CX consistency is about more than just training employees, sustaining the learning and equipping team members with the right tools. Employees that are not feeling their best will not be able to perform at their best for customers either. And a lack of face-to-face contact means that it is difficult to pick up everyday signals that an employee is unwell – physically or mentally – or they are unhappy in their role.
Management teams will need to ensure that they are visible, accessible and actively encouraging open communication to boost engagement and make sure that team members that are struggling are not missed in a remote world. New working practices will require a different type of leadership.
Customer retention and increasing customer lifetime value will be a top priority and key measure of successful CX redesign. In a world dominated by flux, businesses will want to keep the customers they’ve already got. It’s cheaper than acquiring new ones.
Buckets will always be leaky but brands like Birds Eye are looking at how to keep customers, outside of its usual target audience, that tried its products for the first time as panic buying took hold or simply bought more. As Steve Axe from Nomad Foods, which owns Birds Eye, told WARC: “Talking to these people, nudging them to go and repeat buy is suddenly a much more attractive proposition than just trying to refill a leaky bucket”.
As businesses revamp their offering, customer and employee safety will be a major litmus test in earning customer loyalty and trust. Business will need to work hard to show that can be trusted to deliver a safe, effortless in-person and digital experience as online and offline experiences reconverge next year.
Further reading: Download The Insider’s Guide to Measuring CX to use our Measurement Framework to re-assess your measurement strategy and make investment decisions that will have maximum impact in 2021 and beyond as you rethink your customer experience.