Deepak Chopra once said that “All great changes are preceded by chaos.”
Many of my clients ask what they need to do to engage team members and customers well-past the pandemic. While I have my hunches, I prefer to look at data on what people say they want from their employers and companies with whom they do business. In addition to self-reported preferences, I watched consumer behavior dating back to research conducted as the virus first took hold in China.
This is the first post in a series titled How to Deliver Memorable Internal and External Customer Experiences in a Pandemic and Post-Pandemic World.
I will be spotlighting that research throughout this series but first wanted to caution against a normalcy bias, which suggests consumers will revert to pre-pandemic preferences. Invariably, pent-up demand for human contact will drive people back to experiences that they enjoyed before the pandemic. That said, many technology tools and safety measures will likely remain.
The art of post-pandemic experience creation will be to select relevant technology-aids accompanied by engaging human interactions and assume that COVID-19 has forever changed experience delivery. For this short post, let’s look at two emerging customer experience trends:
1. Customer trust is more important and more precarious than ever.
In the 2020 Edelman Special Report on Brand Trust and the Coronavirus Pandemic, customers predominately reported that trust was a deciding factor in their buying decisions. Specifically, 81% said they “must be able to trust the brand to do the right thing.” Similarly, 78% indicated “businesses have a responsibility to ensure their employees are protected from the virus in the workplace and do not spread the virus into the community.” 63% reported high expectations for regular and transparent communication.
In my opinion, customers and employees will be less tolerant of brands that do not prioritize safety, communicate regularly, or seek to hide bad news.
2. Consistent with Edelman’s research on trust, Accenture found customers have come to expect heightened responsiveness and live human interactions during the pandemic.
Specifically, Accenture’s research notes: “During times of crisis, contact centers are crucial. Customers prefer live interaction when they want answers to urgent and complex issues:
- 57% of customers ranked call support as their initial channel preference for flexible communication, wanting an opportunity to ask, explain, reason, or negotiate with customer service.
- 58% more preferred to solve urgent issues by calling for support rather than using other channels.”
The pandemic heightened emotions like fear, anxiety, and aloneness. Companies that responded to those emotions by being trustworthy, providing readily accessible support professionals, and acting with urgency, have done well throughout the pandemic and are likely to do well for employees and customers who are forever changed by COVID-19.
Inspired by the Edelman and Accenture findings, here are your weekly challenge questions:
- How have you changed the way you communicate with employees and customers since before the pandemic?
- What specifically have you done to ensure safety and security while transparently sharing both good and bad news?
- In what ways have you increased accessibility to service professionals throughout the pandemic? How will you sustain that ease of access in a post-pandemic world?
For more about human experience elevation, please pick-up or gift a copy of my book Stronger Through Adversity, which provides more than 20 pandemic forged lessons from 140 plus leaders like the CEOs and Presidents of Target, Verizon, Kohl’s, Microsoft, and Marriott. To elevate the experience of those fighting COVID-19, I’m donating a portion of the book’s proceeds to the international nonprofit Direct Relief, which provides food and supplies to those on the frontline.