Customer experience has always been a way for businesses to differentiate themselves.
- Some companies provide support “faster” than their competitors
- Some companies provide “cheaper” solutions than their competitors
- Some companies provide “smarter” software technologies than their competitors
- And so on
But after 2020, businesses around the world have realized that customer experience (CX) is arguably the most important differentiating factor between a business that survives something like a global pandemic, and businesses that struggle to adapt to customer wants and needs. For example, if you were a grocery store or chain that started providing touchless pick-up, customers in 2020 prioritized buying from you as opposed to your competitors. Or if you were a restaurant that quickly pivoted your inside space to maximize delivery efficiency and your outside space (such as a parking lot) into a makeshift dining area, you most likely survived the year. Meanwhile, other restaurants that were not able to successfully pivot to changing customer needs closed up shop.
Innovation has always pushed customer experiences forward, but 2020 was a catalyst that accelerated the changing landscape in unprecedented ways.
As a result, companies need to prioritize the following three things in order to effectively cater to customers in 2021 and beyond.
1. Businesses need to remain in-tune with changing customer needs as the global economy recovers from COVID-19.
The timeline of changes in Los Angeles alone tells the story.
In the latter six months of 2020, LA ping-ponged between different health requirements for businesses and restaurants in the greater city area. In May, LA County Department of Public Health officials issued a mandatory stay-at-home order through August, and then just two weeks later, LA County’s public health director gave restaurants the OK to re-open, so long as they followed strict health guidelines. This reopening period lasted a little over a month, before restaurants were forced to shut down again.
The unfortunate reality is that the rules for businesses are changing every day—and not just for restaurants. Many office buildings have had to remain closed. Many companies have been afraid to give their employees the OK to shift back from working remotely. And all of these issues have put an even greater emphasis on listening to the changing needs of customers.
We are still a ways out from returning to any sense of normalcy. So businesses that have survived this long need to make it a priority to continue adapting and pivoting as the state of the world continues to evolve.
2. Customers now expect nearly instantaneous communication and support.
Back in 2016, Ameyo curated a handful of studies that estimated “89% of customers will shift to companies providing better customer experience and engagement by 2020,” along with 85% of customer service interactions being automated and/or self-serviced digitally.
That turned out to be exactly right.
2020 set a whole new precedent for business communication best practices. McKinsey published an interesting piece halfway through the pandemic in May pointing out how customers now expect quick, easy, and nearly instantaneous communication with support staff, saying “Companies that make the right investments now could build an enduring advantage in serving customers.” More importantly, it’s the companies that are able to speak to their customers in supportive and meaningful ways that ultimately earn their long-term loyalty and trust.
Customers in today’s environment aren’t just looking for goods and services.
They are looking for vendors who act like partners, and put the customer’s interests ahead of their own.
3. Companies that invest in improving customer experiences will drive revenue.
At the end of the day, CX is a revenue driver.
In fact, according to 2020’s Digital Trends report by Econsultancy and Adobe, “B2B companies view customer experience (CX) as the most exciting opportunity for 2020—beating out content marketing, video marketing, and social media marketing.”
This means businesses aren’t just thinking about how to service customers during these difficult times because it’s the right thing to do. They are also thinking about how to improve the experiences they offer customers in ways that also fosters long-term retention and growth for the company—as they should. Because the reality is, the more customers feel as though they can rely on you to provide them with what they need, when they need it, the more likely they are to continue spending money with you and not one of your competitors.
The world is changing fast right now. Many businesses will fail to keep up with the demands of innovation. But one thing is certain: the companies that survive this pandemic will emerge stronger, smarter, and better than ever—simply because they made it a priority to listen to, and change, for the benefit of their customers.