Overcoming the customer experience crisis post-COVID

The pandemic has caused a huge drive in online shopping. Capgemini data shows online sales grew by 74% from 2020 to 2021. Reviews have played a valuable role in driving these purchases which means that customers have become more vocal than ever before. We recently found that customers are 29% more likely to leave feedback than before the pandemic.

Whilst it’s fantastic that customers are engaging more with brands, the sheer volume of inbound communications has made it incredibly difficult to respond constructively, or analyse the trends emerging from the disruption to our normal routines. This has led to customer experience ratings falling across all sectors, sometimes by as much as 18.5%. Indeed, in January 2021, the UK Satisfaction index measured satisfaction levels at 76.8 out of 100, which is the lowest score since July 2015, when it stood at 76.2.

We’re living through a watershed moment for customer experience. Most restrictions on our behaviours have just lifted and customer expectations are sky high for brands.

Customers now need, and expect, more communication and more of a connection than ever before. And that’s before you even get to an exceptional purchase experience. Getting ahead of this paradigm shift is essential to positioning your brand for future success. Amongst our partners, we have seen some businesses going above and beyond to retain and win customers in very challenging circumstances.

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Know your customer better than they know themselves

Our natural rhythms have been so disrupted during the past year, customers are more than ever basing their decisions on complicated, sometimes even subconscious, factors shaped by a myriad of emotions, values and beliefs.

By taking the time to understand these underlying opinions, you ensure you can anticipate and act on changing behaviours even before your customers voice their concerns. Tools which enable a view of overarching customer sentiment via AI, the discovery of themes in customer review data and targeted, persona specific surveys are invaluable here.

Understanding changing sentiment and, crucially, gleaning actionable insights from analysis puts you in a much stronger position to craft a compelling user experience fit for purpose in this post-pandemic world.

Instant gratification

The demand for instant and constant communication has only intensified during the last year, and customer experience teams must rise to the challenge. When we asked our merchants, they revealed that 29% of their customers specified slow response times as a key brand turn off.

Putting in place an internal process to ensure that the most important queries are dealt with soonest helps to instil trust; in our experience customers are not looking for an instant solution, they just don’t want to be ignored. The cumulative effect is to show your company to be trustworthy to new customers, whilst building trust and loyalty with existing, and hopefully repeat, customers.

By being proactive and sensitive in responding to customers, when many are used to companies struggling to respond in a timely manner, you set yourself apart from the market.

For example, one of our merchants, digital pet insurer Bought by Many, has introduced a 24/7 digital vet service for nervous pet owners unwilling to endure anxious waits.

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Creating experiences that delight

With so much of our lives now spent online and thousands of digital businesses created during the past year, more and more brands are clamouring for our attention. To stand out, brands must deliver digital experiences which not only satisfy, but delight.

Leading nursery brand Mamas & Papas introduced a digital personal shopper to show prospective purchasers exactly how a pushchair might work. The service scored 4.8/5 for customer satisfaction on the same day it was introduced.

Moving with the times

With external factors changing so rapidly, customer experience teams increasingly have a vital role to play in connecting with customers and feeding back to C-suite on their evolving needs to help adapt services accordingly.

A great example of this comes from Bought By Many. In response to dog thefts doubling in 2021 and many customers struggling financially, the insurer introduced support from the Blue Cross bereavement helplines for those whose pets had been stolen and payments plans for those no longer able to keep up with their instalments.

Getting ahead of this paradigm means not having to play catch up a few months down the line. The federation of small businesses estimated that 407,150 new businesses were created in the UK in 2020, many in online retail. At a time when increased competition and rising customer expectations are creating a cut-throat market, shaping your processes in line with the evolving popular zeitgeist has never been more important.

Written by Keith Povey, director of marketing at Feefo

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