The rise of the digital consumer isn’t a new phenomenon but the events over the last year seem to have hyper-accelerated it.
According to research by Deloitte, ‘Lasting lockdown habits: a new digital consumer?’:
“The devastating impact of COVID-19, and the resulting lockdown, has undoubtedly acted as a catalyst: speeding up consumers’ digital adoption and introducing new trends at a rate few could have predicted”.
Mobile and online usage trends initiated or accelerated during the pandemic are likely to mould consumer behaviours for years to come.
In its report, Deloitte goes on to say: “Although it might be difficult to accurately predict future behaviours, the opportunities and challenges organisations face as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic are becoming clear. A key indicator of how well they might perform post-pandemic is the degree to which they embrace digital tools as a way to run their business, as well as to interact with customers. A company’s digital assets and performance will increasingly drive consumer loyalty.”
The good, the bad and the ugly experience during the pandemic
We’ve all no doubt heard about or experienced good and bad customer experiences throughout this pandemic. The news has been littered with stories of people who couldn’t get through about their holiday refund or to sort out an insurance claim due to extremely long wait times and being put on hold.
According to recent research carried out by our partner Mitel, being placed on hold is the second most frustrating aspect of dealing with customer services right now, second to the top spot of being transferred to multiple customer representatives and having to repeat yourself over and over.
Success in the future will be all about Customer Experience in a digital world
Despite some of the bad press, the rise of the digital consumer is here to stay when it comes to contacting customer services. The Mitel research found that nearly half of respondents have been using online customer services more than usual during COVID-19 and of those who have used them more or the same amount, 73% will continue to rely on them over other options in the long term.
Having a strong relationship with your customers has never been more important and there are tangible metrics to measure to help keep your customers happy and loyal.
But, perhaps there’s a deeper layer that needs to be addressed when we consider what the digital customer wants from a good customer experience. In its report ‘Adapting customer experience in the time of coronavirus’ global management consulting firm McKinsey identified four areas to address:
- Focus on fundamentals: care and connection
Now more than ever, customers (and employees too) need extra guidance and support to help them navigate through the challenges we’re all facing. Individuals don’t want to be ‘marketed to’ they want to feel like you understand them for who they are.
The experience you provide right now will likely have a long lasting effect on how your customers feel about you in the long run.
2. Meet your customers where they are today
Our normal patterns of everyday life have dramatically altered since last year. Digital adoption as shown by Mitel’s research has grown even for those who were more resistant. Forward looking companies must now look at how they deliver this offering to the mobile customer, whether that be gyms offering fitness classes online or local food outlets expanding to offer a takeaway service. Some of these changes are likely to be here for a very long time, if not forever.
3. Re-imagine the post COVID world
Even though the COVID-19 crisis will end at some point, McKinsey expect changes in consumer preferences to outlast it. Consider, for example, how the online retail model had to change so quickly over the last year, and as a result what bricks and mortar stores could look like in months and years to come. It’s also worth considering how inevitable cost cutting does not have to come at the expense of a good customer experience. Often, the best ways to improve experience and efficiency at the same time are to increase digital self-service and to make smarter operational trade-offs, grounded in what matters most to customers.
4. Build agile capabilities for fluid times
Maintaining a strong customer experience in a crisis has required rapid research to understand changing dynamics and new pain points as well as agile innovation to address them. Customer leaders who have mastered this approach, like Amazon or Deliveroo, have created value for consumers in high-priority areas and in an environment of increased competition. Keeping a real-time pulse on changing customer preferences, for example, using social media instead of tried and tested (yet often quickly outdated) surveys is one way of keeping up with the pace. Employee feedback should continue to be collected too, after all they are often your eyes and ears for gauging how customers are feeling.