masks on mannequins
PHOTO: Matt Milligan

The coronavirus pandemic has left no aspect of consumer life untouched. From the way we work to how we buy groceries, people are adapting their current lifestyles while also preparing for fallout for months or potentially years to come.

Meanwhile, in the face of economic uncertainty, businesses are under significant pressure to meet changing consumer preferences, making attentive and efficient customer experience (CX) more important than ever before. For many, existing CX systems and processes are no longer hitting the mark. During a crisis of this magnitude, brands must adapt their CX strategy to not only meet current demands, but also to prepare for lasting changes in customer behavior.

As a product marketing professional I’m always thinking about how companies can optimize their CX strategy for the times. As we move towards our new normal, I believe brands must be flexible and forward-thinking in order to maintain consumer trust and loyalty. Amidst unprecedented disruption, here are three key steps you can take to future-proof your CX strategy and help your business withstand the shifting tides of customer expectations.

Lead With Compassion

Customer service representatives often encounter anxious customers who are eager to have issues resolved — amid the uncertainty of a pandemic, emotions are heightened, making it more important than ever for CX professionals to prioritize compassion. Remind your CX team to always engage as a human being first, and then as a business professional.

In a crisis of this magnitude, many businesses must prioritize operations over all else to survive. But wherever possible, customer needs should remain at the heart of all business decisions. If you can, consider timely promotions — like free travel cancellation or expedited at-home delivery — as a way to let your customers know that you acknowledge the current circumstances and your business will be there for them no matter what. At the end of the day, brands are only as sustainable as their customers, and ultimately, a customer-centric approach will be most impactful in nurturing long-term prosperity.

Related Article: What Does Great Customer Experience Look Like Today? Giving Customers Peace of Mind

Build a Digital-First Framework

The unprecedented disruption of recent months caused tremendous spikes in customer questions, concerns and requests, leaving some businesses struggling to keep up with the sheer volume of inquiries. As customers come to expect efficient, on-demand service from the comfort of their couch, companies must implement a digital-first customer service platform to meet demand.

The goal of implementing CX technology is to eliminate long hold times and improve customer satisfaction and loyalty, all while allowing human agents to focus on higher-level requests. But not all CX technologies check these boxes. Consider newer, more sophisticated solutions like voice-enabled platforms, and be wary of the clunky, ineffective technologies that often deflect, rather than engage customers, like pre-programmed chatbots.

Related Article: The Future Is Multimodal: Why Voice Alone Will Never Be the Answer

Be Proactive, Not Reactive

Consumers are already facing enough uncertainty — they don’t want to play guessing games when it comes to the companies they rely on, too. Businesses should proactively communicate the steps and measures taken to meet evolving needs before customers come to them with questions or worries. A retail brand that adjusts their customer service hours to meet stay-at-home orders, for example, should advertise the new window of service hours for their customers, ensuring they’re aware of when representatives will be available.

Proactive efforts will show your brand plans to deliver business continuity despite complications, while effectively managing expectations to avoid frustration down the line. This approach will foster the trust customers need to support your brand.

As we move forward, one thing has become increasingly apparent: a customer-first strategy is more important than ever before. With compassion, thoughtful digital transformation and proactive communications, your business will be equipped to withstand disruption with speed and agility, today and down the line.

Related Article: Marketing in a Time of Crisis