Part of the “Navigating Disruption Today, Planning for Tomorrow” series
Midsize businesses are known for understanding what customers want and meeting them where they are – in good and bad times. But what happens when a major event creates a wave of significant change that upends every aspect of our social infrastructure?
Within weeks, we have evolved from a society that routinely gathers in large numbers, values physical togetherness, and has access to products and services on demand. Now, we are bound by lifestyles dictated by social distancing, supply chain bottlenecks, and operational setbacks.
As these social norms break down and the longer such an experience persists, the more people reevaluate their role as consumers of an interconnected economy. This reassessment is not happening because consumerism is failing; instead, it’s a lesson of its fragility.
For midsize businesses, this is the perfect time to reconsider the effectiveness of their services and redesign them around customer needs – no matter how they change.
A shake-up in the customer experience
Today, customers are on the verge of a new trend: the isolation economy. Now more than ever, people are forced to travel less to complete everyday activities, from going to work and sending children to school to shopping at the local grocery store.
It is well-understood that structural social changes lead to how businesses should engage and serve their customers. But this transformation will require a deep, lasting shift in business models, so companies can innovate and build products and services that resonate with their customer’s lifestyle transformation. The expectation is that the goods and services come to the customer, not the other way around.
But don’t be fooled: social connection is still a basic human need that needs to be addressed. Fortunately, we live in a time when technology allows us to remain in constant touch with family, friends, and colleagues. And perhaps more surprising is the ease of creating new social circles that span generations.
A call for flexible, creative, and empathic experiences
This pandemic won’t last forever, even though it may feel like it. However, most of the buying behaviors and preferences that people are now adopting will become deeply ingrained in their expectations for the customer experience.
At some point, customers will one day resume traveling, going to the movies, participating in sports events and concerts, and even visiting their favorite stores. However, midsize companies must remember that such activities will not happen at the same rate and intensity as before.
So besides quickly putting up e-commerce sites and using social media to engage customers, there are other ways to adjust to this “next normal” for the customer experience. It just takes a little more flexibility, creativity, and empathy to achieve it.
Take, for example, chatbots. Albeit a relatively simple technology, the digital assistant provides a human-like experience that resonates well with customers. More importantly, artificial intelligence can help midsize companies analyze changing customer behaviors as the devices learn about them by engaging in very focused dialogue.
Another approach is the ability to provide an experience that complements a growing do-it-yourself (DYI) movement. No more than ever, customers are engaging in the world of DYI to occupy time their time being sheltered-in at home. The new trend is ripe for new spaces, services, and products that support doing things for oneself – such as events, classes, and educational resources.
Customer experience today, building block for tomorrow’s
Whether facing a government shake-up, natural disaster, or war, people naturally resort to survival tactics to ensure that their basic needs are addressed. But over time, those behaviors shape their expectations for the customer experience – sometimes with such speed and intensity that most businesses find challenging to adjust.
In many ways, the recent pandemic has unquestionably become a much-needed wake-up call for the customer experience. But midsize companies shouldn’t fear it. Instead, they should embrace it with the flexibility, creativity, and empathy that customers increasingly desire.
For further exploration of how midsize companies can meet changing customer expectations, watch our mini-webinar, “Evolve Your Customer Engagement for Business Continuity and Future Growth.”
This blog is part of a series offering suggestions to help small and midsize companies weather the pandemic challenges. We invite you to join the other blogs in the series as well.