The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically changed the way consumers interact with brands, and its impact may last far beyond the pandemic. A McKinsey report found that more than 75% of consumers have tried new brands since the start of the pandemic, indicating that brands are facing a dip in loyalty.
To reverse this, trust must become the paramount value proposition for brands that want to succeed in today’s volatile market. Companies need to prioritize building confidence, reliability and consistency into the customer experience to remain competitive and retain their customers.
With consumer loyalty up for grabs now more than ever, here are five priorities brands can focus on to retain customers during challenging times and beyond.
1. It begins with your employees. The connection with customers has never been more important. But who is delivering those customer connections? Your employees. Before you can create exceptional experiences for your customers, you should be doing the same for your employees.
The creativity and innovation that can make your brand great come from your employees and that’s where it starts. The employee experience plays an important role in your company’s ability to survive and thrive during challenging times, particularly during periods of uncertainty. The employee experience isn’t just about pay, perks or promotions. Your employees are looking for a personalized, flexible and meaningful work environment.
By creating these employee opportunities, you are building an inclusive, transparent and supportive environment that will allow them to succeed and thrive. Be passionate about creating a world-class employee experience and it will help you create a world-class customer experience.
2. Consistency is key. During a time of so much uncertainty, the one thing consumers should be able to rely on is a consistent customer experience. As CX expert Shep Hyken said, “I want to predict the experience I’m going to have with the people and places I do business with.”
This type of “good monotony,” as Hyken calls it, should extend to every part of the brand experience, including browsing online or in-person, making purchases, providing great customer service and easy returns and more. When customers associate a brand with an experience that is predictable and always positive, they’re likely to become repeat customers.
3. Show compassion. Most people today are still contending with some kind of challenge related to the pandemic. Brands must continue to empathize with their customers by providing them with useful deals, satisfaction guarantees and hassle-free returns.
The airline industry has been a great example of this. Using customer feedback to guide their strategy, airlines have implemented new policies to make travel easier and safer. Many waved their flight change fees , implementented stringent cleaning procedures and reduced their booking capacity.
Simple moves like these have gone a long way toward giving customers some peace of mind in this uncertain climate.
4. Keep the lines of communication open. Due to the impact of COVID-19, things are constantly in flux. Something that can greatly ease these uncertainties in regard to the customer experience is maintaining clear and frequent communication.
In addition to proactive communication, it’s critical that companies are responsive and available when customers come to them with questions. Customers need to be able to get timely answers and up-to-date information quickly in order to build trust with brands.
5. Optimize your digital channels. Consumers are not only turning to online retailers in greater numbers, but are also making more purchases at a greater frequency. Given this shift, businesses should ensure their digital channels are equipped to handle it.
There’s no easier way to lose a customer than hard-to-navigate web pages, bugs during checkout or a shopping experience that isn’t optimized across all devices. With face-to-face interaction now much less frequent, it’s important to meet customers on the channels of their choice and provide the same (or better) quality of experience as pre-pandemic. The 2020 EY Future Consumer Index found that globally, 37% of consumers believe the way they shop will change over the long-term and 39% say they will shop more online for things they used to buy in stores.
By keeping the points above in mind, brands can have the best chance at keeping their customers loyal and happy, even during turbulent times.