After two years of lockdowns, social isolation, and distributed workforces, consumer habits have changed drastically. And a lot of these changes look like they’re going to be permanent. This implies a big shift for customer-facing teams.
Customer support agents, sales representatives, and anyone else who interacts with customers or manages customer service need an updated game plan that reflects the new set of post-pandemic customer expectations.
Essentially, companies need a new approach to customer relationships. It should be more customer-centric. More in-depth. And, more flexible. Companies need to empower their customer support teams with the right tools so they can deliver great customer service in a changing world.
Let’s look at what’s different and what customer-facing teams require to be successful.
- Consumer habits and expectations are always shifting, but the disruption brought on by the pandemic accelerated change.
- Post-pandemic, brands need to offer more digital, more self-service, and more health and socially conscious options to better align with customer expectations.
- To make this happen, customer-facing teams are going to need the right tools, including content for building relationships and technology that lets them meet customers on their terms.
How Consumer Habits Have Changed During the Pandemic
The core shift in consumer habits has been the move to digital. During the pandemic, people shifted away from in-person shopping and embraced digital.
They’ve also turned to self-service options, from self-service checkouts and contactless payments in-store to researching products and resolving issues with chatbots online.
As a result, a good chunk of the population has tried digital options for the first time. And others have become so accustomed to digital, self-service, and no-contact transactions that they’re not likely to return to their old habits. Here are some examples:
- In telehealth, online visits made up 4% or 5% of all doctor’s visits in 2019. During the pandemic, they rose to 40% to 50% of visits.
- For online grocery shopping, 36.8% of U.S. adults had purchased online in 2019. By 2021, nearly 60% had.
- Digital banking was already going strong before the pandemic, but it skyrocketed in 2020. In April, there was a 200% jump in new mobile banking registrations.
Another shift is conscious shopping. People are being more health-conscious, socially conscious, and cost-conscious. What bears paying attention to is how many consumers expect to maintain these new habits for the foreseeable future. Nearly half plan on being more cost-conscious, and well over half plan on making more sustainable and healthier choices post-COVID.
Business and marketing leaders need to pay attention to these changes. If they don’t, it will be harder to connect with their target buyers — and easier to lose customers to competitors who are offering the experiences they expect.
What Brands Need to Offer to Become More Customer-Centric
So what can brands do to account for multiple shifts in consumer expectations?
Be more customer-centric. Here’s how:
- Deliver superior customer service.
- Use data and analytics to better understand what the customer wants.
- Offer the channels and options customers prefer when interacting with your brand.
You also have to have the tools in place to enable customer-facing employees to respond to what customers need at the moment. And, have the foresight to prepare for what’s coming next as, chances are, the world’s not done changing yet.
What Customer-Facing Teams Need to Better Serve Customers
To adapt to the now and to prepare for what’s next, customer-facing teams need to have the right tools and resources in place. Let’s take a look at what these needs are.
The right technology should be a priority right now. If your employees aren’t able to communicate from any location and through the customer’s preferred channel, you’re behind the times.
Both customer service and sales reps need high-quality tools that allow them to create rich experiences with customers. They should be able to deliver an omnichannel experience with cloud-based communications software that unifies voice, chat, email, and video conferencing.
The experience should be seamless for the consumer, which means customer data should be integrated across all communications platforms. It should also sync with sales and CRM software so information is updated on all systems in real-time.
This technology should also be able to analyze customer interactions and generate reports that can drive better business decisions. It should be able to reveal when the customer experience changes, where problems are emerging, and whether or not customers are satisfied when they contact customer support.
Another thing customer-facing teams need is the right content. Sales and customer support agents should have easy access to content they can use to address a customer’s pain point or to clearly express the value of the brand.
For example, sales representatives should be able to point leads to informational videos, white papers, and case studies that can help guide a potential buyer further along their journey.
Customer support agents should have blog posts, eBooks, and other types of content they can send to customers who want to resolve an issue on their own or learn more about a subject related to your product or service.
This customer-facing content is critical today as consumers are accustomed to searching for answers online more than ever before. People are self-servicing their problems, whether they are looking for information on a software product for their business or comparing loan products online.
Educational webinars, online events, articles, podcasts — any type of content that can help your sales and customer service employees give customers what they need when they need it — will help your company create a more customer-centric experience.
And the last thing your customer-facing teams need is good leadership through this change. The bottom line is, this is a transitional period for anyone who interacts with customers. And, with higher expectations and shifting preferences, the work of anyone in customer support or sales can be more stressful.
To help your employees become more resilient and ready to adapt, lead with empathy — acknowledge when employees are taking on more than normal. Listen to their suggestions and ideas.
Internal Support: The Key to Being Truly Customer-Centric
To be prepared for the post-pandemic world, and what comes after, customer-facing teams need new technology and a well-organized, in-depth content library. They also need support from leadership.
With all of this, they’ll be empowered to truly be there for customers. This is what will help your company thrive in our even more customer-centric world.