Lessons from the pandemic on adding personal touch to customer experience

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You must have seen it before the pandemic: unique employee email signatures, first-name email subjects, birthday notifications and well-wishes from service providers, or intro emails from CEOs/Founders. These are some ways brands have taken overtime to add a human, personalized appeal to their engagement and service to customers, particularly through digital means. For many brands, before the pandemic struck, these digital translations of the “human” in customer experience were add-ons or pairs to existing walk-in customer experience plans where environmental ambience and human reception combined to add a touch of warmth and personality to a customer’s experience. However, with the necessitated turn to digital due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it became more apparent that brands need to be intentional and innovative in migrating and ensuring that personal touch is not lost in their e-channels of meeting with customers. 

“Why the attention to personal touch in the customer journey?”

“Why the attention to personal touch in the customer journey?,” one might ask. In Forrester’s analysis of CX Index data to see which of the three dimensions of CX quality matters most to customer loyalty, emotions turned out to be the top factor across 17 of 18 industries studied. Speaking to the extent of emotional impact and its financial implications, Forester’s Customer Emotion Matrix further showed that customers’ high-intensity, positive emotional experiences advance share-of-wallet for brands. In a nutshell, these point to the common but often ignored fact that customers are human first. They crave interaction with brands that care and show it. Above all, they are loyal to brands that are willing to win their loyalty.

If the concept of “personal touch” in customer experience sounds like a refrain from a gone generation, then the lessons below will be useful, to show that even with the major shift to digital experiences, brands can still add personal touches in their offerings and relations with their customers. It only takes innovation and dynamic human appeal. 

At a go, here are three lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic on adding a “personal touch” to a brand’s customer experience strategy:

  • Create memorable experiences
  • Ensure adaptive communication
  • Add value, with insight

Create memorable experience

In Harvard Business Review, Joseph Pine, co-author of The Experience Economy, defined experiences as “memorable events that engage each customer in an inherently personal way and thereby create a memory as the hallmark of that experience.” Memorable experiences linger long after they are over. They leave a lasting impression, and draw a straight line to customer loyalty. They arise when a brand goes the extra mile to serve a customer, ensuring that the customer receives the best-fitting experience. 

It is important to note that crafting memorable experiences doesn’t entail an abandonment of convenience and simplicity, rather it calls for a smooth blend of seamlessness with delight and captivation. In the pre-pandemic world, brands could rely on physical curation and design to craft such experiences, as in the case of the hospitality industry where the flair of physical ambience could augment the feel of enchantment. Nevertheless, in today’s world, the most innovative brands are infusing thrill and allure within digital platforms, as exemplified by Ralph Lauren and Snap Inc’s collaboration to virtually offer branded, customizable wardrobes for users to dress their personal Bitmojis.

Ensure adaptive communication

Since the onset of the covid-19 pandemic, families, businesses and individuals have had to remain continuously adaptive to changing times, as lockdowns begat curfews and curfews turned back to lockdowns in different parts of the world. In times like this, it is imperative for brands to guarantee steady, adaptive communications with their customers. Digital channels make this effective and efficient, giving room for brands to adopt unique approaches to assure their commitment to the best for their customers. Ranging from announcements of physical closures, distribution of tailored content on health protocols, operational updates based on revised national/international regulations, these opportunities for brands to reinforce their attentiveness to their customers have been paramount. With brands such as National Geographic offering free educational resources for kids and DoubleTree, a Hilton-owned hotel chain releasing its famous chocolate chip cookie recipe to customers stuck at home, we have seen diverse yardsticks for adaptive communications in these times. 

Add value, with insight

Data and insight remain key to the improvement of customer experience management. Through surveys, feedback, opinion polls and reviews, customer-focused brands find ways to know their customers, understand their preferences and serve them right. However, sometimes the end goal which is the application of insights from these data to value for customers gets lost in the tracks. Due to uncertainty of the current times, brands may be tempted to adopt run-off-the-mill strategies to keep up with the moment, without ensuring that these are exactly fitting with the needs of their customers. However, these are the right times to be flexible to new trends in customer needs and expectations and to tailor product, service and experience solutions to them. Forbes reported that while pre-COVID, 27% of shoppers found curbside pickup important, during the pandemic, 53% found it important – nearly double the demand. This sheds the light on the waves of change in customer needs during this season, implying that brands ought to respond in accordance with the needs of their customers, just as swiftly and specifically. 

In all, the COVID-19 pandemic brought with it new trends and adaptations in market conditions but it didn’t eliminate the need for warmth, humanity and excellence in the path connecting demand and supply wherein customer experience lies. Just as custom backgrounds shot up to become the icing on the cake of video conferencing in this period, “personal touch” remains spice and flavour to the customer experience journey. As such, brands that stay intentional about keeping the personal touch in check this period will have their loyal customers to thank for at the end of the day.

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