Post COVID-19 Customer Experience Imperatives

COVID-19 vaccines appear to be close to helping resolve the 2020 Coronavirus Pandemic.  The pandemic exposed both good and bad customer experiences as companies reacted to the changing market and economic conditions.  As we start to emerge from the pandemic in 2021, what should customer experience practitioners focus on to begin to ramp back up?

Expectations vs Reality

In the Pega 2020 Global Customer Experience Study, Pega identified several key data points to which we should pay attention. Let’s start with expectations vs reality.

  • Expectation: 92% of the organizations claimed customer-centricity is a high priority.
  • Reality: Only 35% of companies have a C-Level sponsor for CX.  36% leave the CX lead to Directors and below.

“Without strong CX leadership to champion the company’s initiatives and set cross-departmental goals, CX efforts typically stagnate, devolve, and disintegrate. ” Pega Study

Ask yourself “What do your customers think about their experiences?” If the answer is not good, then look at leadership as the first step.

Critical Components of CX

Here are other interesting data points that Pega describes as Critical Components of CX:

  1. Enabling elegant, painless interactions (66%)
  2. Providing speedy service (66%)
  3. Ensuring that customers feel understood (65%)
  4. Making relevant information easy to find (63%)
  5. Being consistent and connected across channels (63%)

As we try to get out of our Pandemic mindsets, item 3 – Ensuring Customers Feel Understood, stands out to me.  Your customers have gone through significant personal events in 2020.  Some have struggled through lockdowns, some have lost jobs, and many will be hesitant to get back to normal.  The more we can empathize with customers and adjust our ability to satisfy their needs (even if seems impossible), the better customers will view our company.

Buried in the study results is another interesting bit of data that also relates to understanding customers. In the list above, one critical component is 5 – Being Consistent and Connected Across Channels. As mentioned above, expectations and reality don’t agree:

  • Expectations: 68% of companies say customer needs will drive their channel focus.
  • Reality:  Channel focus (investment) for these companies were #1 Email, #2 Web, #3 Digital Ads. This sounds like company needs (or habits) are driving channel focus.
  • Extra Reality: Email response rates are 1% and Digital Ads are blocked 26% of the time. So customers may want a different channel than we prioritize.
  • Extra, Extra Reality: Emerging, high potential channels include: Messaging, Mobile Push, Chatbots, and Connected Devices.  If you don’t have these channels in your plan, you may be missing out.

Final Thoughts

I think there are two major groups of customers emerging from the COVID-19 Pandemic:

  1. Customers who want to get back to “normal” or the way they behaved in 2019
  2. Customers who are expecting to forever change their behaviors

Customer experience professionals are going to be challenged to identify these customers and how to deal differently with each group.  If you are not thinking about your customer’s expectations and their reaction to exiting the pandemic, now is the time to start.

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Mark Polly

Mark Polly is Perficient's Chief Strategist for Customer Experience Platforms. He works to create great customer, partner, and employee experiences. Mark specializes in web content management, portal, search, CRM, marketing automation, customer service, collaboration, social networks, and more.

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