If 2020 was the year that forced every business to drastically improve its digital presence, 2021 will shift the focus back to the customer in meaningful ways. As companies continue moving full speed ahead with their digital roadmaps, they will face increasing pressure to elevate the customer experience. The real trick will be determining which pandemic-fueled trends and behaviors will stick around for the long haul. This year placed outstanding pressure on the global supply chain and several organizations struggled to keep up with customer demand, while others innovated and exceeded expectations. As we move from reacting to reimagining, keep an eye on these key customer experience trends.
Dig deeper into digital
The pandemic has created a keen awareness and appreciation for the adoption of digital. The pace at which customers are now engaging digitally is forcing companies to innovate at breakneck speed. Per McKinsey, 80% of companies believe that their core business model should be digitized to remain economically viable.
As customers seek replacements for in-person experiences, they now care more than ever about well-designed, intuitive technologies. Research from Deloitte notes that more than 60% of customers will continue to use digital technologies more often, long after the pandemic subsides. The reliance on digital channels will allow companies to better meet evolving customer needs, and will make it easier to adapt to future disruptions.
An uncertain economic climate may cause business leaders to think twice about digital investments, but even small steps can turn into big wins. Organizations with tight budgets should consider targeting key areas where they can enhance their current digital channels for quick ROI. An agile approach has proven successful, whether building from the ground up or augmenting current capabilities. Also worth noting is that external teams can be deployed to tackle these initiatives and help spot new opportunities through a design-thinking approach.
Act on authenticity
It’s tempting to focus only on increased productivity during uncertain times, but putting the human factor on the back burner is a mistake. In a recent consumer survey from Deloitte, nearly four in five people were able to cite a time a brand responded positively to the pandemic, and one in five strongly agreed it led to increased brand loyalty on their part. More than 70% of respondents said they valued digital solutions that deepened their connection with other people.
This is where authenticity, transparency, and empathy really pay off. The thoughtful and consistent communication many organizations adopted in the early days of the pandemic must become the norm moving forward. Especially as companies push to ramp up sales, it’s crucial to keep voice and tone aligned with the compassion customers needed when COVID-19 first broke headlines.
However, voice and tone alone are not enough to build trust with your customers. You must also execute on every promise you make or risk damaging your brand. For example, major retailers, restaurants, and airlines have all created health safety guidelines and social distancing protocols to ease customer anxiety, but if those things aren’t effectively deployed, it can kill credibility. Several customer stories have already surfaced of some airlines ditching pandemic precautions in favor of boosting the bottom line.
Above all, your customers need to feel supported in every climate, not just when the going gets tough.
Deliver on data
More data, more problems, right? Not if you know how to use it. Companies now collect data at unprecedented rates, sitting on virtual treasure troves of invaluable information. As we move into 2021, businesses must be prepared to act on data and analytics to anticipate customer demand and create real value.
This is the time to invest further in data and the systems designed to deliver unparalleled experiences. As CIO notes, “in order to reap sustainable business benefits with bottom-line impact, companies need to address analytics as a holistic operational strategy, not just as a series of one-off projects.” Operationalizing analytics presents many challenges, but the effort is worth the payoff.
Determining how to deliver a holistic customer experience during times of chaos and ambiguity can feel like a gamble. Relying solely on historical data won’t get you there, nor will guessing what might come next. The best path forward is to continuously monitor industry trends, weigh them against your current strategies, and adapt as needed.