It is not often in life that you get the opportunity to reset things. However, as the COVID-19 vaccine rolls out, we have a chance that is, dare I say, unprecedented to reimagine Customer Experience. We have been through a shocking year of change. Now, we can decide what parts of the change we want to keep to respond to what customers want now.
We’ve been doing some work with one of our clients recently who will be doing some research. We encountered an interesting question that I shared on a recent podcast, and I thought I’d ask it here as well. We’re starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. When we can return to a pre-pandemic way of life, what happens with your Customer Experience? Do you go back to how it was pre-pandemic and effectively ignore everything that’s happened over the past year, do you carry on the way that you’re operating now, or is there a hybrid of both?
We hear the phrase ‘the new normal’ a lot. Usually, when people talk about that, it’s in the third person, meaning that someone will impose the new normal upon us. I would encourage us to put that in the first person. We need to respond as organizations to the new normal with a new normal of our own.
Don’t Be Like the Milkman.
It stands to reason that many of you might be asking what that means you should do. I have a few suggestions. The first one comes from an example of what not to do.
Around seven years ago, we still had our milk delivered by a milkman in England. Most people don’t have it delivered; they get it at the shops. I made this point to my wife back then that we should do that, too. Lorraine set me straight (as she often needs to) that she enjoyed the weekly chats with the milkman when he came round to pick up the check. So, I left it alone, and we carried on getting milk delivered. Over time, however, the milkman moved on to bigger things, and his replacement had a new way of doing things. Instead of coming round to pick up the check and chat with Lorraine, the new milkman asked her to leave a check under the mat. After a few weeks, Lorraine agreed that we should cancel service and get milk at the store like everyone else.
I tell this story to demonstrate how crucial it is to know what value you deliver to your customers. In this case, you would think the value was the milk delivered to your door, but it wasn’t. It was the chat with Kevin, the milkman. When Kevin was no longer part of the equation, the value was gone. When the new milkman eliminated the conversation, he destroyed the reason for us to subscribe, and we left.
Don’t be like the milkman. It would help if you determined what was driving value for you before you make any changes. If you fail to do so, you might unwittingly eliminate the Customer Experience’s most valuable part. I recommend you determine the value drivers for both your physical and digital experiences, both pre-and post-pandemic. If you don’t know, research to figure it out. Suppose you don’t understand what customers consider to be the differentiators between your offerings and others, then in the process of seeking efficiency or of digital transformation or anything else. In that case, you might accidentally end up destroying the value.
Let me be clear: I believe there are many things that an organization can do to digitize for efficiency. My milkman story is about being careful that you know what you can make more efficient and what you should leave alone. If you aren’t sure, why not get an outside perspective. We often do what we call a Customer Experience Health Check, where we act as if we are customers and experience your interactions as if we were one. Then, we report back to let you know what is working and what could use some help.
Our New Digital World
As I mentioned before, your customers have changed through their personal experiences. We know that the pandemic has pushed things to digital. I was listening to another podcast talking about how telemedicine is growing now by leaps and bounds. Lorraine and I have been to a few telehealth appointments ourselves, which we had never done a year ago—and it’s been fine.
The pandemic changed the way we do client work at Beyond Philosophy, too. When we work with clients at regular times, we would typically run face-to-face, onsite workshops. That doesn’t work in today’s environment, so we’ve put our workshops online. Moreover, we changed them from day-long events to three or four two-hour chunks.
So from a plus point of view, we’ve got many people involved in our workshops; ironically, because you haven’t got travel restrictions on Zoom, you can get people from around the world dialing in to take part. This situation also leads to cost savings from not having to have people travel.
Having said that, there are some advantages to having things face to face. So, while I think we’ll carry on doing a lot of those things digitally, there may be times we supplement the online part with in-person events. Or, in other words, our new digital world will not replace the old way of doing things but instead enhance it by creating a new hybrid version.
What We Recommend You Do About This
Organizations need to consider what they want to provide customers on the other side of this pandemic. Be deliberate about it. Step back and say, what do my customers need, and what can I pick and choose from among these options to maximize that value?
It’s not hard to move in the direction of new digital transformation because that’s what we’ve been forced to do over these past months and now we’re used to it. However, the goal should be to re-examine everything and think about the pandemic as giving you forced access to a lot of new tools that maybe you and your customers wouldn’t have been familiar with before. Now, you have a more extensive set of options. Here’s what we’ve been forced to do recently, what we used to do before, and the new things we can do now that we know how to do.
For me, accomplishing this means doing research, understanding your customers, embracing both sides, meaning the physical and digital experience, and putting them together. Furthermore, I would encourage people to use behavioral science tools to help with that in the actions you take.
So, what are those actions? For me, it’s the following:
- If you’re not already, start thinking about what experience you want to deliver after the pandemic ends. You have time to plan now, which allows you to be deliberate.
- Combine what use to work with what works now. It’s important to avoid extremes in most cases. For my part, what you do should be a bit from the past and a bit from the future.
- Talk to your customers about what they want. What customers want and need has changed over the last year. It’s not enough to have a real good handle on what it was pre-pandemic. You also need to know what it is post-pandemic.
- Finally, be proactive. We often find ourselves in the position of responding to things and dealing with things immediately in a one-off. It’s great to take a step back and try to be more deliberative. This pandemic is still a concern, but we can anticipate where things will be in six months, eight months, a year, and now’s the time to be strategic about that.
Customers have changed. Priorities have changed. In a recent podcast, I talked about re-realizing that family is the most important thing. Moreover, at a psychological level, some people crave face-to-face contact because that’s been missing for so long. Others like the digital way of handling things and are considering phasing out face-to-face contact.
So what do we do? Go all-in on the face-to-face or scrub all that and focus on keeping up the digital interaction? The answer for me is neither. Instead, I would aim for something in the middle, a hybrid of the two.
However, whether you agree with me or not, the fact remains organizations need to consider what they are going to do now. We’ve got some tough months coming, but that light at the end of the tunnel will be getting brighter, and it’s time to plan for what you are going to do when you emerge.
To hear more about this idea in more detail, listen to the complete podcast here.
Colin Shaw is the founder and CEO of Beyond Philosophy, one of the world’s leading Customer experience consultancy & training organizations. Colin is an international author of six bestselling books and an engaging keynote speaker.
Follow Colin Shaw on Twitter @ColinShaw_CX