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Each interface and interaction with the customer is an opportunity for a business. Make sure to capitalise on it. Image Credit: Shutterstock

The COVID-19’s impact on people and economies has been profound. And it is also impacting the relationship between customers and brands as well.

Companies that are agile and responsive enough to adapt will have a competitive advantage in the future. It’s time for businesses to balance their short-term response with longer-term adaptation to better meet these shifting expectations. We recommend doing so in the following six ways for the beyond.

Reimagine customer journeys

Many brands need to, especially given that the starting point for many consumers was online during periods of strict lockdowns, and will continue to be so even as some are still worried about using offline channels. A recent Kantar study has found that, of late, close to 30 per cent of consumers shopping online are first-time online buyers. Given this trend, it is all the more essential brands create good CX (consumer experience) to migrate these buyers to online shopping as a norm.

At the same time, brands – especially those having to deliver physical goods/services - need to keep in mind that there needs to be seamless omni-channel experience. Shop online/pick-up offline instead of delivery at home, changing your preference in the middle of the delivery process, and maybe even realizing that there is a pent-up demand to go back to offline shopping.

Don’t stop listening now

Understanding people’s emotions and their reactions to new journeys is crucial. So adapt survey invitations to show empathy, and keep communications short as everybody is overwhelmed with information right now. While you need to continue measuring CX related KPIs, it is important your feedback solutions and questions reflect the new reality. And you ask questions around what the new pain points for your customers are, and if possible the potential solutions they would be interested in.

Care for those customers

Some industries like utilities have a large, yet silent, mass of consumers who haven’t been in contact with their provider for some time. Now is the time to connect with the customer and show the steps your brand has taken to help customers.

Provide additional channels like chatbots and WhatsApp to give feedback and show the whole customer base that you care. This has to go beyond just sending an email that states “We are still here for you“ - it is actions that matter now.

What consumers most expect from brands now is practical help in their everyday life.It‘s often the seemingly small things that matter most. So, depending on your customer segment and their needs, reach out with practical solutions that can be implemented and benefit your customers, be it a temporary freeze on payments, rents, helping solve liquidity and cashflow issues, and support on hygiene etc.

Monitor the actions

Companies need to understand what’s working for customers and how they’re responding to the changed environment. It means adjusting their processes and ways of communicating with customers. For many clients, this will require increasing reliance to do things digitally. Here, real-time feedback and the ability to take and monitor actions is critical, since customers are in need of a quick delivery of solutions.

Celebrate your staff

Customers are expressing high appreciation for employees who go above and beyond meeting their needs. So, use this feedback to celebrate the effort employees are putting in. While customer-centricity needs top-level support, it’s the employees who are working at making it happen.

Empower employees to decide what’s best for the customer right now. And remember that this spirit is not a one-off result from the crisis, but the start of a new normal.

In sum, behavioural science shows that the heightened emotions as a byproduct of the stress experienced during the crisis means long-lasting memories will be made. Customers will positively remember the brands that showed humanity, took care of employees, and made an effort to help society – not so much those that acted in their own self-interest and put profit before people.

- Satish Dave is Executive Director, Customer Experience at Kantar Middle East.