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The Customer is King: Five Ways to Improve the Digital Customer Experience

October 1, 2020

During this chaotic COVID-19 pandemic period, business leaders have a lot on their minds. On top of personal lives to worry about, they must also worry about their businesses.

-How will we stay afloat? 
-How do we take care of our employees? 
-How do we continue to do business in compliance with changing rules and regulations?

The priority during the reopening phase was getting employees back to work and providing them with a safe environment. As companies shift back to a new “normal,” they must also shift their focus back to the customer.

In today’s business climate, focusing on the customer experience is one of the most important investments a company can make.

The digital world has made it increasingly easy for customers to make purchases, read reviews, and ultimately demonstrate less brand loyalty. As a result, it’s critical that businesses improve the customer experience they offer in line with current customer expectations, needs, and behaviors, all of which have been dramatically impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Some New Consumer Behaviors are Here to Stay

Consumer behaviors have radically changed due to COVID-19. Some of these changes may not stick around, but understanding which ones are here for the long haul is key to boosting customer relationships. Recent research from McKinsey & Company provides insight into what consumers will continue to value as the world emerges from this crisis.

  1. Online ordering: Consumers who intend to shop online after the crisis ends represent over 35% growth in categories such as over-the-counter medicines, groceries, household supplies, and personal-care products.
  2. Brand Switching: A substantial 75% of consumers have adopted a new shopping behavior in response to economic pressures, store closings and shifting priorities. Without regard for brand loyalty, 36% of consumers are trying a new product.  Of those consumers, 73% intend to continue this pattern beyond the crisis. Shoppers identified availability, convenience, and value among the biggest reasons for switching brands.
  3. Contactless Shopping: Technologies that limit virus exposure by allowing contactless activities such as home delivery, curbside pick-up and self-checkout have become increasingly utilized. Over 50% of consumers intend to continue meal-kit deliveries, order online, use in-store pick-up services, and visit drive-thru windows. Post-pandemic, 79% intend to continue self-checkout in stores.
  4. Staying Home: Americans intend to continue eating, working out, and consuming entertainment from home more often.

Perception Isn’t Always Reality

As leaders, consider what these behavior shifts mean for their customers and decide how to best respond, it’s important to note that even the most customer-attentive organization can probably stand to improve.

When Bain & Company surveyed 362 firms, they found that 80% believed they delivered a “superior experience.” Yet, when their customers were asked for the same feedback, only 8% of them rated their experience as “superior.” This gap between company perception and customer feelings can exist regardless of industry or offering type. Identifying where your organization may fall short among your customers is a key start to the process of improving customer experience.

Consider these Key Factors to Improve the Customer Experience:

1. Pivot Products/Services: Know exactly what your customers’ issues are and pivot your products and services to address concerns differently. For example, invest more into your digital offerings to allow your customers easy access from their homes or offer new delivery options.

2. Make Customers Feel Valued: Making sure your customers feel valued by your company helps create long-term relationships, builds loyalty and trust in your company, and creates brand advocates. To foster value, you can:

  • Offer promotions and perks personalized to a certain customer group.
  • Send handwritten letters to sustain valued relationships.
  • Become a customer resource that goes beyond what your product/service can provide.

3. Gather Meaningful Customer Feedback: Your customer is the expert source when it comes to finding out how to improve the company’s customer experience. To measure this, you can:

  • Incentivize the completion of customer surveys.
  • Hold an annual stewardship discussion with your top customers.
  • Provide a feedback method that lets customers easily share their thoughts any time.

Once you have customer feedback, it’s imperative to turn that data into actionable insights that can be used to enhance and improve.

4. Send Consistent, Clear Communication: Don’t get lost among the companies sending countless texts or emails regarding their latest and greatest sales. Be in touch with your customers in a real, authentic way.

  • Let them know how much you appreciate them.
  • Hold informational webinars on a useful topic.
  • Share ways your organization is bettering the community.

Communicating in a way that successfully reaches your customers, delivers a relevant message, and allows them to easily communicate back will set your company apart.

5. Value Your Employees: A superior customer experience starts with a superior employee experience. When you hire people who fit the company and then empower them, listen to them, and treat them with honesty, respect, and care, they will be more likely to treat your customers in the same way.  People buy from people—your people.  A high employee turnover rate will hinder customer experience-driven success.

Along with all the changes that have impacted 2020, the old “cash is king” business expression could also be updated to reflect the root of all successful companies—the customer. Today, more than ever, the customer is king.

In looking at ways companies can return to growth and continue to provide excellent value to customers, it’s important to take an honest look at the current customer experience, anticipate what lasting changes your customers will experience moving forward, and take steps now to shape a positive future.

Oswald Companies is not only talking about this, we’re striving to “walk the walk.” We recognize you as our valued clients. We welcome your questions and feedback because we believe business organizations that hold themselves accountable for enriching their customers’ lives will create a positive outcome for customers, employees, and the bottom line.

For more information, please contact:

Maddie Rich
Risk Management Strategist

(Sources: McKinsey & Company, The Great Consumer Shift, Bain & Company, Closing the Delivery Gap)


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