2020 was a turning point for businesses around the world, requiring a reevaluation of the customer experience strategy, products, services, and more.
Many of the changes we witnessed as a result of being forced to stay at home had been brewing for some time, but the pandemic accelerated those shifts dramatically. The migration towards online shopping and multiexperience customer journeys, for example, had been ongoing for quite a while.
Yet in 2020, these trends spiked to such a degree that most companies could no longer ignore the changes happening in the marketplace.
Today, many research firms firmly believe that this digital revolution will remain a permanent part of the customer experience.
To keep up with such sweeping changes, many organizations have had to reevaluate their customer experience strategies and reimagine their customer-facing operations for the post-pandemic next normal.
Reimagining customer experience in the post-COVID era
Below, we’ll look at a few key points on which to focus when developing a customer experience strategy for the 2020s, and perhaps beyond.
1. Keep up with the escalating expectations of customers
The growth and universality of technology have been some of the driving forces behind customers’ changing expectations—and the more quickly technology changes, so will the expectations. For example, we saw increased demand for mobile-friendly websites, mobile apps, and geotargeted search results.
As a whole:
- Customers want a brand experience that remains consistent throughout their interactions with a company, regardless of which channel or device they use
- Personalization has now become an expectation and a competitive differentiator
- Speed has also become an expectation in every area of the customer experience, from product deliveries to customer service interactions to web page loading times
- Emerging technologies will likely become normal in the coming years, so it pays to understand and invest in artificial intelligence (AI), chatbots, voice recognition, and other technologies that will reshape the customer experience
When evaluating these trends and how they impact the customer journey, it is important to pay close attention to one’s own customer base and the megatrends shaping the future of the global economy.
2. Adopt data-centric and customer-centric business processes
Data-centrism and customer-centrism should become the central pillars of any customer experience strategy—if they are not already.
Building a customer experience strategy on data-driven methods will ensure that the strategy remains current and relevant to customers’ expectations, even as they evolve.
To this end, customer experience managers should:
- Collect data from every touchpoint, device, app, and interaction
- Analyze and distill that data into information that can be learned from and used to drive strategic decisions
- Apply that information continuously to improve the customer experience
For these data-driven practices to be effective, it is also necessary to adopt more agile business methods and modern digital solutions, but all of these efforts can only succeed if managers and business leaders are all on the same page.
3. Ensure business leaders are fully aligned
Creating a great customer experience requires the alignment of a number of business leaders, including marketing, sales, and product development, among others.
Here are a few tactics that can ensure business leaders stay in sync:
- A strategic statement of purpose can act as a north star that aligns business leaders and their teams around a common purpose
- A guiding coalition can take over operational aspects of a change program, manage change, and recruit supporters to the cause
- Change management communication concepts, such as creating a vision for change and a change story, can further align leaders and their teams around a common goal
Once high-level objectives have been clarified and agreed upon, the next step is transforming those goals into a tactical plan of action.
4. Develop a multiexperience customer journey map
One useful tool for developing a plan of action is the customer journey map. This tool outlines the customer journey in stages, and it can help all stakeholders understand their role in creating an experience that remains consistent across channels and technologies.
A very high-level overview of that journey would include:
- Marketing communications such as advertisements, web content, email newsletters, and more
- Sales interactions that occur either online or between sales representatives and customers
- Ongoing support, such as technical support and customer service
In short, a customer journey map will outline the path customers take both before and after making a purchase. This tool can act as a reference document and communication tool that maintains accountability, clarifies responsibilities, and improves collaboration between stakeholders.
5. Stay agile and adaptable
Since the modern economy is evolving so rapidly, it should come as no surprise that agile methods have become so widespread. The Agile methodology has been used in everything from software development to change management to the customer experience.
There are several ways to integrate agile principles into a customer experience strategy:
- Adopt digital tools that seamlessly bridge the gap between the physical and digital worlds
- Build business processes that are customer-centric to ensure that customer input and feedback remains at the heart of the customer experience strategy
- Implement adaptable and modular business processes that are agile, lean, and composable
The customer journey is evolving rapidly and becoming nonlinear, which makes sequential business models less relevant. Agile, with its focus on responsiveness, is more tolerant of uncertainty, making it a more useful approach for customer journeys that are complex, branching, and continually changing.
A forward-thinking customer experience strategy should be cognizant of both the macro trends driving change in the economy, as well as the individual sentiments and behaviors of one’s own audiences.
Yet in the modern business world, change is constant, so it is imperative to adopt business practices and tools that are built upon principles of composability, continual improvement, and agility.