We are living in uncertain times and they have brought about a catharsis of sorts. The pandemic has changed the way we think, the way we live, the way we interact and the way we consume. In this moment, customers are increasingly expecting brands to rise above transactional relationships, to create long lasting emotional ones. This is the crux of CX in a post-pandemic world, and brands that move with hastened agility towards achieving these goals are the ones that will see a rise in customer loyalty, retention and spend.
1. The move to digital
At a time when even the most basic tasks have become a challenge, it is no surprise that convenience is king. Customers are not only expecting businesses to provide hassle-free experiences but also to predict their needs. A truly digital experience is about integrating the entire customer journey into a digital space. For example, in recent years Starbucks has been working on an AI technology called Deep Brew, meant to enhance the customer experience for over 16 million Starbucks loyalty members. Deep Brew AI personalises orders/ experiences for customers, based on preferences, order history, location, weather, and time of day. It also helps baristas organise their time based on the order’s location, so orders are ready when customers arrive in-store.
2. Trust, trust and more trust
Uncertainty causes mistrust and we are surrounded by it; research shows that the consumer trust index is at its all-time low. Companies and products that harness their customers’ trust are gaining popularity, as clients are willing to pay more for authenticity. Take Opower, a US based energy information software company, which partners with utilities providers to give customers customised home energy reports along with their bills. It uses a comparison module that shows you your electricity bill for the month on a graph, as compared to your energy saving neighbours’. By doing so it may be helping you identify that you need to alter your consumption patterns to save money. As a result customers trust and choose electric companies that use the Opower billing system!
Additionally, now more than ever, safety is the new security. Brands must create confidence and that includes making their health and safety policies a part of their marketing strategy. Large and small hospitality brands in India, like Taj Hotels and Vista Rooms, have already started doing this.
3. Merging brand journeys and life journeys
Products are rising above their “basic” uses and integrating themselves with the customer’s life journey. From curated, solution-oriented content on similar interests, to helpful peripheral tasks, empathy from brands is of prime important to customers. Think about it — an Apple watch tells you the time, it receives texts, emails and calls, it monitors your heart rate, it celebrates when you reach your step goals, it encourages you to stand up if you’ve been sitting too long and now even monitors how you sleep. It is a fantastic example of a product that is integrating into its customer’s life journey and customers are willing to pay the high price tag that goes with that.
4. The end of customer tradeoff
Customers no longer want to choose between what’s good for their pocket and what’s good for their lifestyle. People are leaning towards choosing brands that provide both. Sustainable makeup, fairtrade chocolate, zero-waste clothing and recycled furniture are all great examples of categories created by conscious brands. Consumers like to identify with brand ideologies and buy products from brands whose messaging they believe in; but what’s more is that brands are competing harder than ever to provide all of this at no increase in prices.
5. The human touch
With all this rush to digital and with AI filters smarter than ever, let’s not forget the basics.
Now more than humans need comfort, extra information, guidance, and support to navigate a new set of challenges. Now more than ever, they need a sense of community and trust their peers to validate their buying decisions. Brands that over automise must do so with caution, to maintain a fine balance, to ensure they don’t alienate their customers.
At the end, it is important to say that customer experience (CX) lies at the heart of what will decide successful brand strategies for the future. A brand, no matter how large or small, must analyse their customer journey map and invest early on in a CX strategy that percolates all the way through an organisation, at every level.