In the short amount of time that COVID-19 has been part of our lives, it’s reshaped the way we work, play, shop and interact with our loved ones. To adapt to the changes, business owners have altered their schedules, hiring, marketing, forecasting and more. 

Perhaps most importantly, companies have had to evolve in the way they manage consumer behaviour and meet evolving customer expectations.

In this article, we outline five ways businesses can invest in the customer experience in the year ahead, to meet these evolving customer expectations and grow their business with confidence.

1. Improve Customer Experiences With Technology

Technology commonly fills the gaps when people can’t be together, which is why businesses will increasingly depend on technology to meet customer expectations in 2021. Consider how the following technologies may support your customer experience strategy:

Self-service Solutions

Whether customers are buying online, managing their account, paying bills, accessing technical support or checking order status, self-service helps them to achieve their goals quickly. Convenience drives customer satisfaction. How can you alleviate pressure on your staff while increasing customer engagement? Think self-service.

Chatbots

Powered by machine learning and artificial intelligence, chatbots can help your customers self-serve, act as brand ambassadors and respond to customer enquiries at any time of the day. For businesses who needed to downsize their workforce due to the pandemic, chatbots can offer some automated customer service support. Think about how you might use chatbots to build trust as customers move between your channels. 

Customer Journey Tracking

A customer journey is a sequence of events leading to a particular goal. When you can personalise the journey and make it frictionless, customers have a better experience, leading to greater conversion, revenue and lifetime customer value.

If you’re not already analysing your customer journey, now is the time to identify and alleviate friction or bottlenecks. Such information is invaluable in terms of customer satisfaction and revenue generation.

These and other technologies can help you to meet customer expectations in our post-COVID world.

2. Customer Relationship Management (CRM)

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) technology allows you to manage relationships and interactions with customers from the very first moment they become a contact of your business. Accurate and detailed data of this kind is invaluable to delivering a positive experience for the entire duration of the customer journey.

Most CRM tools now offer ways to manage customer relationships across the entire lifecycle of marketing, sales, digital commerce and even customer care interactions. Integrate your CRM with your marketing, support and finance platforms for a single-source-of-truth that delivers the best possible view of your customers.

3. Evolve Your Branding and Messaging

Your 2021 marketing plans may look very different than the previous year, and brand messaging from the pre-COVID era may have aged poorly or lost its relevance. For example, an insurer promoting ‘worldwide protection’ for items as you travel overseas might consider featuring a more relevant policy benefit in their marketing.

As you finalise your budget and campaigns, keep the following in mind:

  • With so many people staying home, internet usage is higher than usual. 
  • Seek innovative ways to enforce your branding and engage with consumers.
  • Virtual concerts and events are seeing higher participation rates.
  • Think “homefluencers” instead of “influencers” (instead of “location candy,” seek influencers who can wield their power from home).
  • Keep messaging simple, obvious and informative.
  • Human-centric focuses tend to perform better during difficult times.

Adjusting your branding could allow your business to better connect with your audience in 2021 with relevant, insightful and empathetic messaging.


4. Analyse Your Strategy

During the COVID-19 crisis, many businesses were forced to do the unthinkable: send most or all of their workforce home to adjust to remote employment. At the same time, the lines between customer engagement channels blurred. 

Sales and service-oriented businesses threw out the traditional rulebook and found new ways to engage with their customers. They began to think holistically about the flexibility and fluidity of their workforce and how they engage with customers.

We can now see which experiments worked well and which ones didn’t. Many organisations are still experimenting; searching for a strategy that will land them on solid ground once more. Now is the perfect time to revisit your business strategy, since market conditions and personnel issues have affected most industries. As you fine-tune your system, consider the following:

Create Forward-Thinking Engagement Models

Your customer touchpoints today may look very different than they did last year. Evaluate your touchpoints now, and consider reallocating resources to those touchpoints that make the most sense now.

You might want to build real-time channel dashboards that allow you to recalibrate channel investments and drive profitability quickly. Virtual engagements like augmented reality and contactless delivery like telemedicine will continue to see growth in 2021. 

Re-evaluate Your Workforce Mix

The right workforce mix will give you the flexibility necessary to succeed, while customer expectations are in transition or on the rise. Portions of your workforce that have moved to work at home might continue that arrangement, or perhaps you’ll need them back in the workplace to fulfil customers’ needs. Developing firm work-at-home standards will help you if you hire new employees to perform their duties remotely. You may also need to redefine performance management and measurement to make sure customers receive the best possible experience.

Be Agile with Tech and Space

Many businesses have re-evaluated their needs for physical space this year, especially with so many staff members working from home. But try to look beyond your bottom line and consider how your technology and physical spaces influence your customers’ experiences.

Shared space models might reduce your space requirements, and retail settings will have to evolve to accommodate new hygiene standards and integrated technology. Wherever possible, invest in real-time analytics to guide your decision-making. 

5. Explore Omnichannel Marketing

Now more than ever, consumers want the freedom to search the Internet for products and services wherever they are online. Omnichannel marketing uses digital and traditional marketing channels to send a timely and relevant message to a brand’s customers.

Let’s look at a few examples of omnichannel marketing employed by innovative companies:

  • A customer receives an email or text message announcing a promotion while she’s in-store shopping.
  • A customer gets an SMS about an upgrade with a mailer in his mailbox with physical coupons.
  • When a customer abandons a product in an online store, she will be retargeted with Facebook ads.

During 2020, consumers sought out and discovered new ways of acquiring goods and services. Shoppers benefit from a simplified buyers’ journey; it makes their lives easier. For businesses that use it, omnichannel marketing improves consumer engagement and increases customer loyalty.

To learn more about meeting customer expectations in 2021, or to speak about any other business concern, get in touch with us at Ulton. Whatever your concern or question, we’d love to help.

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