Since the onset of COVID-19, our team has been committed to helping brands pivot, strategize, and innovate during a year where nothing was guaranteed. As we head towards 2021 — another year of uncertainty, no doubt — our goal hasn’t changed. We love partnering with brands to help them not only get by, but thrive and grow. To that end, we’ve recently released a number of eBooks and reports with strategic recommendations from our experts on how to best prepare for next year. Here, we’ve culled the top tips customer experience teams need to know heading into 2021. Read on to get a leg up on the competition.
Takeaway #1: The employees who are still with you want to keep the faith.
Whether they’re manning your virtual call centers, or field sales reps in the longest groundstop of their lives, or corporate remote workers zoning out from months-long Zoom life, your employees have certainly gone through their own reassessment of their lives and their work through this year.
No matter your situation, this is a time when some extra communication on your expectations will be doubly valued. When you know what tools can make a difference in your people’s satisfaction and productivity, invest in those tools. And if it’s not a tool that will make a difference, invest in your people themselves.
We’re doing a lot of Design Thinking training and even Design Sprints for sales staff right now — because this is a time when just working your existing sales model harder might not change your results. Teams need a new problem-solving toolkit — how can you impart a new way of thinking in a sales team so they see the constraints of COVID as the start of an experiment, versus another dead-end?
What to do: Check in with your people. Do they have the tools they need to make a real difference for your customers? What’s keeping them up a night and where are they bending over backwards just to get the job done?
Say it sixteen times (if you have to). It’s not possible to over communicate in a time like this, particularly if a team is caught up in the stories of their own obstacles and constraints. Make time to talk things out and make sure your front-line staff see a path to solving their own problems.
Takeaway #2: The loyalty loop will be amplified in 2021.
Intense experiences tend to either bond us deeply or sever the cords between us. Going the extra mile during a pandemic will win you fans for life. Equally, if you’re not willing to deviate from the script when customers really need you, they will remember it and be more open to being wooed away. How are you investing your effort now into the wow moments that will become the stories that cement life-long relationships?
What to do:
- #1. Substitute optimization for innovation. What got you here may not get you there… Don’t focus purely on optimizing the touchpoints in your stable that already exist — instead, start exploring new touchpoints or implementations of current touchpoints that will differentiate you in this moment. Consider unleashing your experience design and strategic foresight partners on what not just the year ahead looks like, but what five years and beyond might look like.
- #2. Develop a service voice. Most companies have a brand voice, few have a well-defined service voice. Going the extra mile for one customer is magnified when all of your employees go the extra mile in the same way with the same tone for hundreds, thousands, and hundreds of thousands of customers. What are the experience principles and service voice attributes you imbue into the DNA of every touchpoint to ensure you’re able to keep meeting your customers where they are?
Takeaway #3: Don’t go off course — refresh your customer insights.
If you’re navigating from customer insight derived solely from a pre-COVID world, you’ve got a better chance than normal of going off-course in 2021. Thinking about your own consumer life, chances are you’ve recently traded-up, -down, or -out in some categories, and the behaviors that drove your household or business in 2019 have changed.
Now’s the perfect time for a refresh. If you’re in a category where the world has shifted on its axis (like home office furniture or wealth planning), you may need to look at your foundational understanding of the drivers and experiences that matter to your customers. In other categories, a light refresh might be all you need so that you’ve got some relevant customer voices in your head to help drive even the day-to-day CX decisions ahead.
What to do:
- #1. Figure out who your customers are now. VoC (Voice of the Customer) programs are a great start, but we’re in an environment that cries out for deep listening to your customers about their emotional and social needs. Whether you’re using in-depth interviews, focus groups, or contextual inquiry, find ways to go deeper by leveraging your VoC program in new ways.
- #2. Learn from other categories. Customer expectations are being set by companies far outside of your traditional competitive set. Look at how other industries are bolstering their CX programs post-COVID to look for inspiration on what you need to do. Whether through Cultural Insights research or a Jobs-to-be-Done refresh, look outside your organization to see the road ahead for you and your customers.
Takeaway #4: American consumers have higher expectations for the brands they choose than for themselves when it comes to protecting customers from COVID-19.
Overcoming a global pandemic requires collective action and sacrifice — but consumers believe it’s brands that should be doing the heaviest lifting. According to one of our surveys, 75% of consumers wouldn’t give up TV and streaming services for a month to guarantee that every store or restaurant they visit is free of COVID-19. Meanwhile, 40% think stores should ensure that people wear masks rather than leaving it to individual responsibility — and over half (53%) think stores should be expected to provide masks to customers. Fair or not, this means your brand needs to step up.
What to do: Make customer safety expectations and sacrifices crystal clear in your communications. Even after you’ve done everything in your power to make your customers’ lives easier, there will still be certain requirements expected of them, whether that’s wearing a mask, maintaining social distancing, consenting to a temperature check, etc. Make these expectations clear in all relevant customer-facing communications so people know ahead of time what their particular responsibilities will be. Similarly, make sure you’re communicating any well liked aspects of your brand experience that must be sacrificed in the name of safety. If your brand is beloved for its face-to-face customer service, for instance, your audiences might not be happy with a pivot to a contactless approach. But if you’re open and honest about why some changes have been made, those consumers are more likely to be understanding and stay loyal to your brand.
Takeaway #5: To differentiate your CX, gain a deeper understanding of the customer journey.
Customer experience has fast become a top priority for businesses, and 2021 will be no different. Different than in past years is the need for clients to approach customer experience as a true differentiator and not just as a means to remove dissatisfaction. In addition, brands will need to amplify their efforts to build an actively engaged workforce aligned around placing the customer at the center of everything they do, and empowered to make an impact with every interaction.
Brands who want to differentiate beyond products and services will need to invest in programs and technologies that align their value prop with the needs of their customers across channels and buying preferences.
What to do: Brands should look to gain a deeper understanding of their customers’ journey (from the customers’ perspective) across every interaction point, validate through research the interaction points that are most important, innovate with cross functional teams to define the ideal experience and bust silos, align the organization around a common definition of CX — and finally educate employees to execute consistently.
Looking for more recommendations? Check out these full eBooks for more Kelton expertise: