How the pandemic has changed digital customer experience for good

KPIs, Customer Care, Guided CX

The pandemic has been a driving force for change in the way we live, work, and interact with one another. Customer expectations have drastically changed, and brands must step up to meet the need or risk being left behind. 

As we recalibrate to the “new normal,” customers are the ones in the driver’s seat, not brands. And now that they’ve taken the wheel, we’ve entered an era of CX digital transformation we’ve never seen before.

Here’s a look at what’s changed for good and key insights to guide us into the future.

The digital customer experience is the customer experience

The pandemic accelerated technological innovation. Companies were forced to abruptly shift to a remote working model. As brick-and-mortar stores closed, shopping was done mostly online. Online banking shifted from a nice amenity to the entire business. Telehealth became a norm. And suddenly, businesses in nearly every sector found themselves adopting a “digital first” mindset.

A recent Harvard Business Review showed that 80% of respondents expect their industry to be disrupted by digital trends. Their top digital priority? The customer experience. Specifically, to create an exceptional, highly relevant customer experience.

Customer expectations are higher, especially online

The stakes are high and the expectations are higher. We’re in a world where we expect instant gratification and personalized customer service. Two-day shipping. Curbside service. Swipe up to shop. Swipe right to date.

What does that mean for businesses? It means that friction needs to be removed at every touchpoint. Customers should feel like they are getting exactly what they need, when they need it, in a simplistic way that feels effortless. There’s a need for speed and ease.

Another shift in customer expectations that’s occurred as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic is a growing concern for health and safety. Quarantine, social distancing, sanitizing and mask-wearing has brought an awareness to safety. Embracing a digital way of working that enhances the health and safety of employees and customers has replaced traditional ways of working. Things that were once done in-person are now conducted online. And the expectation is that it’s done at the same level of quality — if not higher. That means that the right technology solutions must be in place to ensure safety without sacrificing quality.

Trust is the foundation of the customer experience, and earning it online is different from earning it in-person

Seventy percent of consumers agree that brand trust is more important today than in the past, and 53% say brand trust is second only to price. In an uncertain world, customers need assurance their information is safe with you (hello privacy concerns), that you are who you say you are, that your actions match your promises, and that you’ll always do the right thing.

A recent report identified that one key to earning that trust is personal digital engagement.

In the CX digital transformation, personalization doesn’t just mean putting {FirstName} in your emails. It means making a personal connection at every touchpoint, so that the relationship becomes an ongoing conversation rather than a string of disjointed one-offs. For example, customers expect you to know their buying history and make it easy for them to repeat their order. If a customer comes to you needing help, they don’t want to have to explain the entire backstory, they want you to know it. And if the customer interacts with you online, then offline, then online again, the transition should be seamless.

Brands must listen, respond, and take action  

The days of a simple feedback form are long gone. Customers want their voices to be heard, and they want to see that they have an impact.

You cannot meet customer expectations if you don’t know what they are. Thriving in today’s business landscape requires a deep understanding of your customers’ evolving perceptions, needs, and challenges. And that doesn’t come from feedback forms or generic customer surveys.

Many companies are turning to social media listening tools to get a pulse on customer needs. The tools can help you gather the data, but the real challenge is in putting the data to use. Brands need to react and move fast to evolve and change with their customers.

Online customer service is a key differentiator

Online competition is fierce. One bad experience is all it takes to lose a customer: 72% of customers agree with the statement: “I am loyal to certain brands, but as soon as I have a bad experience with them, I move on.”

And moving on to one of your competitors is as easy as a few clicks of the mouse.

When it comes to building brand loyalty, excellent customer service is essential. And the bar is getting higher, in part because of technological advancements in customer care, including:

  • AI-powered chatbots to offer instant and automated services
  • Automated customer data for streamlined service
  • Internal collaboration tools
  • Visual customer service and cobrowsing to eliminate clunky back-and-forth troubleshooting

The right technology can help you meet customer expectations when it comes to service, but it should be guided by human elements of empathy and care. Here are 10 guiding principles to exceed expectations in customer service.

Customers crave human connection online

The way we communicate has changed, but one thing hasn’t: people crave authentic human connection.

Unfortunately, many brands are falling flat. One study found that 64% of U.S. consumers and 59% of all consumers feel companies have lost touch with the human element of the customer experience.

We’ve accepted Zoom calls as the new way to conduct business, but have we also leveraged technologies that transform the customer experience? There’s an opportunity to adopt innovation that allows online customer service to meet customer expectations while making meaningful connections.

CX digital transformation isn’t just a job for the CX team

Meeting new customer expectations means embracing customer centricity—putting the customer at the center of every aspect of the business.

The challenge of leading the CX digital transformation doesn’t just belong to a CX team. Or a technology team. Or any single team. Being customer-centric is a mindset that must be embedded in every aspect of the business. If your business operates in silos and is disjointed, the customer journey will be disjointed.

It’s a major shift, and it’s not “the easy way out.” But it’s the only way out for those who want long-term success. Making a true digital transformation may touch every aspect of your business—from operations, to data and technology infrastructure, and every customer touchpoint, whether it’s online or in-person.

Watch our replay webinar with Dan Gingiss: Why Every Employee Is In The Customer Experience Business:

Brands must be agile to meet changing customer needs

If we’ve learned anything throughout the pandemic, it’s that change is the only constant and we can’t predict what the future holds. 

Companies that are able to be flexible and agile in their approach will find the most success. That means breaking down silos, challenging the norm, and being open to change. Formal planning and long procedures may be replaced by more nimble processes and structures that allow for quick action and reaction. Innovation doesn’t thrive in confined boxes—it needs room to grow. 

Build trust, reduce friction, and provide in-the-moment service and support

Guided CX can make a once-complicated customer journey feel intuitive. Your customers can feel supported and get the help they need, when and where they need it. The time to leverage technology to better meet customer need is now, and we’re here to help guide your way.

Develop your approach to Guided CX here →

Photo by Tina Witherspoon on Unsplash

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