The Lasting Impact of Covid-19 on Customer Expectations

The acceleration of retail digitalization in the past year has brought with it increased customer expectations for brands. Companies that asked their customers for feedback at an early stage in the pandemic now have a clear advantage.

Most customer journeys had to move to completely digital formats at the beginning of the pandemic. From one day to the next, companies had to pivot in the way they interacted with customers. In many cases, this worked out very well for customers and retailers, as detailed in our recent blog post Retail Sector Strength After the Crisis.  In some cases, however, the acceleration of digitization went hand-in-hand with (unavoidable) breakdowns.

Hours of queueing at call centers, slow websites or out-of-stock products were just a few of the many hurdles that dampened the customer experience in some areas. Call centers in particular emerged as a pain point for customers: endless waiting times were followed by customers trying to make contact by email but getting no response. Many customers vented their frustration on social media and damaged brand reputations; instead, a Voice of Customer (VoC) program could have provided a platform for complaints as well as data as to where the breakdowns were most dire.

When brands directly provide their customers with an accessible tool for feedback, this is the preferred outlet for customers rather than writing bad reviews on Facebook and Google.  A dedicated VoC tool gives customers the feeling that their experiences and opinions count for the brand. In addition, behind a VoC program there is usually an artificial intelligence engine that not only evaluates and clusters customers’ written comments, but also recognizes the sentiment and context of the feedback. If the data from a VoC program is captured on a live dashboard, retailers can react quickly to the feedback and implement effective customer solutions.

The price of lost customers

Numerous VoC programs offer the option of a “Red Alert” system. If a customer reports a particularly bad experience on a VoC survey, a designated employee is automatically alerted who will contact the customer and contain the damage. In this way, the company can win back the customer - and save money in the process. The recovery of the lost customer costs only a fifth of what it costs to win a new customer. 

But how have the requirements of customers changed as a result of the Corona crisis? According to a Salesforce Survey 68% of customers agree that COVID-19 has increased their expectations of brands’ digital capabilities. In brick-and-mortar stores, customers consider implementation and compliance with hygiene measures to be much more important. However, customers have learned that they no longer have to leave the house to purchase everyday basics. The interaction with products has expanded to effective digital formats, as it was not possible to touch products in the store for a long time.

The good news at the end: Customers who have had negative customer experiences during the crisis are ready to forgive, as they see the crisis as a force majeure and want brands to succeed going forward.  Other customers that may have had a good experience in steps of the digital customer journey can be a resource to determine what to further enhance. It is now all the more important to enter into a dialog with these customers and give them a platform for feedback--this is the only way to meet their expectations going forward and improve their experience. 

Start a high-value Voice of Customer program now!

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