Even if your business flourished throughout the COVID-19 pandemic (think grocery stores, online retail, automotive, and so on), most of us are happy to put 2020 in the rearview mirror. As we’ve crept into 2021, we continue to be in the thick of the pandemic, but there is light at the end of the tunnel. We have also learned to adapt to the world’s current situation. As we adapt, we must understand our customers’ mindsets.
Our friends at Stella Connect by Medallia have released a report that gives us some insights into what customers are thinking today and how their expectations are changing amidst COVID-19.
What Research is Saying About Customers’ Changing Demands
There was a major jump in customer inquiries, complaints, and support calls during the pandemic. Companies adapted with digital support—some better than others. At first, customers were a bit more understanding about long wait or response times, but quickly lost patience as they realized the companies and brands weren’t making an effort to adapt to their changing needs, which were based on the rapidly changing times.
Stella Connect’s survey of more than 1,100 consumers found that 50% have prioritized customer service as a deciding factor about whether or not to do business with a brand. If you’re a company that focuses on customer service and customer experience, you could have a competitive advantage.
One-third (33%) of the consumers surveyed claimed they had switched brands due to poor customer service since the beginning of COVID-19. If you break the numbers down by generation, 42% of Millennials are significantly more likely than other generations to make the move. How bad does it have to get? Sixty-four percent would switch after just two or three bad interactions. Furthermore, 67% report having the same or less patience for bad service since COVID-19 began.
Companies Should Prioritize the Customer Experience More Than Ever Before
The point is that your organization must prioritize customer service and experience. How to go about it?
First, you have to know where you are. If you haven’t surveyed your customers in the past, you won’t have a baseline to work from, but there is no time like the present to start. You have to start gathering customers’ insights to not only understand what they are looking for and how their demands have changed, but also to learn how they are feeling during these unprecedented times. Net Promoter Score (NPS) can give you an idea of the overall customer sentiment, but you have to get specific. Stella Connect recommends looking at metrics like First Contact Resolution or Customer Effort Score.
Resolving an issue or answering a problem on the first call makes sense. Nobody wants to keep calling back regarding the same issue a second or third (or fourth or fifth) time. Nobody wants to wait on hold wondering when they are going to get to someone who can help them. That’s an example of customer effort.
The Stella Connect report came back with some insights related to how consumers prefer to get help and support. Self-service digital channels are still relevant, but more and more customers are leaning toward wanting to connect with a person. The breakdown of “human options” is that 43% prefer the phone, 28% prefer email, and 23% prefer live chat.
And there is some good news about properly managing customer service, especially regarding human options. Eighty percent of customers say that when their problems and complaints are managed well, they feel more emotionally connected to the company. Note: You can’t have customer loyalty without building an emotional connection within your customers towards your brand.
Why You are Losing Customers
Even more important than price or product quality, you are losing customers when you offer them a bad customer service experience.
When you make your customers work hard to get to someone who can help them, it’ll be likely that they’ll become frustrated with your brand. If you are wasting clients’ time with long hold times and not giving them an option to have a callback, you’ll be losing customers. Instead, you should make it easy for customers to connect with people who have been properly trained and have the knowledge and experience to properly and thoroughly answer any question or complaint.
If you’re guilty of any of these (or other related customer service blunders), it’s time to set a new course. In these times of heightened customer expectations and changing demands, you have to be good enough for your customers to say, “Even when there is a problem, I can count on them. I’ll be back.” Otherwise, you’ll just keep on losing customers – harming your business’ financial sustainability.
This article has been reprinted with permission from Shep Hyken’s Forbes’ article.
Shep Hyken is the Chief Amazement Officer at Shepard Presentations. As a customer service and experience expert, Hyken helps organizations create amazing customer and employee experiences. His books have appeared on bestseller lists including the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and others.