Depending on which side of the coin you’re on, you might think that change can be a good or a bad thing. But it’s how prepared you are for change that really counts, as highlighted by the COVID-19 pandemic. While several businesses were already somewhat equipped to deal with the sudden change in how they service their customers, many had to completely shift their customer service strategy to utilise more digital solutions.
It doesn’t look like these changes are short-lived either, with many consumers preferring this new way of interacting with businesses. Customers have high expectations when it comes to doing things online, especially with the increased flexibility and convenience that digital services provide.
While many businesses would like to think things will go back to how they were pre-pandemic, it’s not looking likely. It’s important to place a focus on digital strategy and combating the customer challenges that have been born out of the current global situation.
What changes have we seen?
Aside from the shift to online interactions, there have been several other changes that have impacted the behaviours of both customers and businesses.
Greater reliance on online services
With brick-and-mortar stores closing their doors, online services came to the forefront, meaning there was a heavily increased reliance on digital services. However, the convenience this presented to the consumer has meant that digital-first solutions are now expected as standard.
Consumers do almost everything online now: from online banking and shopping to connecting with customer service teams and communicating with friends. If you’re not already investing in improved online services, you should be.
While different types of customers will have different preferences, organisations need to place a focus on their digital strategies moving forward. This doesn’t mean you should only offer customer services online. It means you need to provide multiple ways for people to interact with your business so you can ensure you offer every type of customer service.
New ways of working
The pandemic forced businesses to solely interact with customers online, which often removed the human element of these interactions. This also meant customer service representatives needed to find new ways of explaining products or solving problems in a way that could be easily communicated.
Adapting to new ways of working can be challenging for both the business and the consumer. It’s therefore important that customer service team leaders emphasize delivering a consistent customer experience across every communication channel, as well as improving the experience for employees in a post-pandemic world.
Similar to establishing new ways of working, it’s also been challenging for businesses to make connections with customers when communicating online or over the phone. This is especially true for sales reps who are used to forming customer relationships in person.
Sales reps have had to adapt their sales techniques and flex their selling approach to suit the nature of the communication. While technology has helped to ensure customer communications and service could be maintained at a basic level, businesses have also had to look for additional ways to remain authentic and provide excellent customer service.
Changing customer needs
For many businesses, online services were initially set up to deal with a specific need during the pandemic. However, customer needs have now changed because of this. Consumers have had almost instant access to everything they need for so long that they have come to expect this instant service as standard.
Businesses have adapted for the short term but addressing changing customer requirements is an ongoing process. Customers demand more now, and they have much higher expectations today than before the pandemic. For example, 43% of customers in the UK say CX is more important than a year ago (Zendesk CX Trends Report 2021).
Whether your customers are demanding better delivery options, more methods of communication, or simple online ordering, you must put plans in place to meet these needs. Providing an option for different types of customer service means you can cater to a wider audience and give your customer the best service with their communication preferences in mind.
Gone are the days when customer service was a 9-5 role. Customers have busy lives, and with access to everything they need through their smartphones, they expect solutions and services to also be accessible at any time of day.
You must consider when your customer base is online and how they access your services before implementing a feasible solution. It might not be practical or necessary for your business to have 24/7 customer support, but you could use chatbots for out-of-hours queries.
The pandemic forced people online, which meant customers had much more choice. If your product or service is in a competitive marketplace, your consumers are likely to already be shopping around for the best deals.
However, more choice doesn’t mean your customers will choose the cheapest option. Enhancing the customer experience is a great way to stand out from the competition and maintain loyal customers.
How to approach customer services
Customer service has changed significantly since the COVID-19 pandemic. It is now imperative that you provide an exceptional customer experience to ensure you remain competitive and keep delivering value.
As a minimum, your customer service team should have extensive product knowledge and be able to demonstrate the benefits that a customer can expect from your products or services. They should also be willing to go the extra mile, always looking for ways to show the customer that they’re important.
Customer service is going to keep evolving, so it’s imperative that you keep an eye on customer service trends that might impact your business.
How to make your business stand out from the competition
With many businesses now operating online, we have slightly lost touch with the human element of customer service. However, it is possible to incorporate personal touches that can show your customers an authentic ‘human’ side to your business.
Building a strong online presence is a good first step. Offering multiple touchpoints for your active customers to contact you shows that you care about their preferences. Potential customers will also look for you online, so it’s a good idea to maintain an active presence on your website and social media pages.
If you’re looking to acquire new customers, it might be time to look at your sales approach techniques to ensure they are fit for purpose in the new digital world.
Ensure your sales reps are taking a personal approach to all marketing activity instead of blasting out impersonal emails or cold calls to get people into the sales funnel. You should also take the time to understand the needs of your customer and the challenges they face so you can prepare bespoke solutions to their requirements.