Over this past pandemic-ridden year, companies have been in a state of constant uncertainty as they’ve tried to deliver positive COVID-19 customer experiences. Businesses were forced to rework themselves into the digital landscape and prioritize customer safety.
According to CX Standards, our ongoing customer experience study, businesses somehow defied the odds and succeeded in providing a satisfactory customer experience despite the barriers of the pandemic. Looking for proof? It’s in the numbers!
What CX Standards Had to Say About COVID-19 Experiences
CX Standards tracks thousands of customer interactions with over 300 companies across 17 industries in the United States and found that, in 2020, most industries’ Net Promoter Score (NPS) increased in comparison to 2019, when more experiences were still in person.
The chart above summarizes our findings on how consumers ranked each industry in 2019 and 2020 according to their overall customer experience, which in turn gave us a big-picture look at how satisfied the general public is. For example, if you compare the spring and fall seasons for the technology, utilities, and professional services industries to non-pandemic periods, you can see how median customer satisfaction scores have improved.
In the spring of 2020, median satisfaction scores were 9% higher than the months leading up to the pandemic. Similarly, the scores for the fall of 2020 increased 4% from the same time in 2019.
You would think that overall customer satisfaction would have decreased drastically in 2020 because of all the obstacles that come with a virtual world, but instead, customers were generally more satisfied than when the world was “normal.” The question to ask, then, is what can we learn from how the customer experience has evolved during the pandemic?
Three Insights from COVID-19’s Impact on Customer Experience
- CX programs are essential to keeping your business afloat
- Online experiences make or break a consumer’s opinion of your brand
- CX will still hold weight in a post-pandemic world
Insight #1: CX Programs Keep Your Business Afloat
Businesses have had to respond quickly to the changes COVID-19 created: shifting from in-store to digital-only interactions, going to extreme lengths to make sure customers know that their products are sanitary and safe, and taking care of all their employees so they can do their work at home when possible. In order to survive, many brands employed new digital frameworks to continue to sell their products and services. For instance, the restaurant industry experienced one of the highest NPS increases in 2020 by integrating features like QR code menus to enhance outdoor dining experiences or partnering with third-party services for a smoother pick up/delivery.
The idea of so many businesses operating solely online seemed unimaginable just a year ago, but the pandemic forced that to become reality, teaching us that a solid CX program is the first step in successfully adapting to the digital consumer environment. People’s attention spans are shorter online, websites are just not the same as talking to a human being in a store, and customers’ problems can be hard to fix when they’re displayed on a computer screen.
The world will only transform more into a digitalized landscape, which has many advantages but also a fair share of challenges. The challenge for customer experience lies in still supplying the attentive customer service someone should receive in a store when that customer is interacting online.
Insight #2: Online experiences Make or Break a Consumer’s Opinion of Your Brand
It’s no secret that people barely take time to sift through a website—you probably don’t either. The consensus from several studies is that viewers spend less than a minute scrolling before they leave a website, which means that it takes just a few seconds for them to form an opinion. Even if a customer has never spoken to anyone in your company, your website speaks for you and it can easily communicate the wrong ideas.
One of InMoment’s customers had to face this issue when the pandemic hit. This major home goods retailer depended on in-person interactions to make sales, but with customers only being able to browse products online due to restrictions, it needed to circle back.
With consultation from InMoment customer experience experts, the retailer transformed its website to include new digital listening posts like live chat, which allowed online salespeople to inform customers which products were more suited to their needs, just as they would in store! With these adaptations, the retailer was able to guide the online experience rather than risk customers leaving after having to scroll through endless pages of products.
Another factor to take into account is how brand reputation relies heavily on your online presence, which is not solely made up of your company website. It also consists of your social media posts and advertisements. A customer’s entire opinion of your business can be swayed with just a few clicks, so it’s imperative that your online customer experience be viewed as crucially as the in-person experience.
Insight #3: In a Post-Pandemic World, Customer Expectations Will Not Go Back to Normal
Now that customers are used to the benefits of digital, they might not want to go back to the same customer experiences they had before the pandemic. It’s not so crazy to think that customers will still want kiosk ordering at a restaurant instead of having to talk to the cashier, or to order a pair of shoes online and pick them up in store. After restrictions are lifted, customers will likely prefer a more hybrid approach and expect businesses to continue a strong online presence.
If the past year has taught us anything, it’s that it’s nearly impossible to predict the future. We may not be able to guarantee the status of customer satisfaction after businesses adapt, but what’s certain is that CX programs need to refine their digital and in-person strategies so companies can thrive moving forward.
To read more about what we found out in our CX Standards study and how COVID-19 continues to impact the customer experience, check out this report!