The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically changed the way consumers interact with brands. Over 75% of consumers have tried new brands since the start of the pandemic according to a McKinsey report, suggesting brands are facing a dip in loyalty.
In these conditions, trust becomes 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 four priorities brands can focus on to keep them in the fold.
1. 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(CX). As CX expert Shep Hyken puts it, “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, customer service, returns and more. When customers associate a brand with an experience that is predictable and always positive, they’re likely to become a repeat customer.
Related Article: Consistency Is the Key to Effective Customer Engagement
2. Show Compassion
Most people today are contending with some kind of major challenge related to the pandemic, whether it’s the stress of distance learning, being unable to see family or unemployment. Now is an opportune time for brands to empathize with their customers by providing them with useful deals, satisfaction guarantees and hassle-free returns.
The airline industry has provided some good examples of this. Using customer feedback to guide their strategy, airlines have implemented new policies to make travel easier and safer for their customers. Many have waved flight change fees (some for good), taken on stringent cleaning procedures, and reduced their booking capacity.
Simple moves like enacting new safety protocols and fee forgiveness can go a long way toward giving customers some peace of mind in this uncertain climate.
Related Article: Empathy Fuels Today’s VoC Programs
3. Keep the Lines of Communication Open
Things are still very much in flux. Between the CDC continually updating its recommendations and ever-changing state and local restrictions, each day people are being inundated with new information. Something that can greatly ease these uncertainties in regard to the customer experience is maintaining clear and frequent communication.
Aside from physical goods, many experiences, like cruises and all-inclusive vacation packages, have been cancelled or postponed as a result of the pandemic. Companies with these types of offerings need to prioritize communicating with their customers about when they can expect rebooking, what safety protocols will look like once they have the green light, and so forth.
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.
Related Article: What Does Great Customer Experience Look Like Today? Giving Customers Peace of Mind
4. Optimize Your Digital Channels
IBM found the pandemic has accelerated the move to ecommerce by five years, and projects ecommerce will grow by 20% by the end of the year. Consumers are not only turning to online retailers in greater numbers, but 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 channel of their choice and provide the same (or better) quality of experience as pre-pandemic.
By keeping the points above in mind, brands can have the best chance at keeping their customers loyal and happy, even during turbulent times.
Janelle Estes is chief insights officer at UserTesting. In that role, she is responsible for stewarding the future of Human Insight and setting the tone for the company’s thought leadership.