The Covid-19 pandemic ushered a new normal. In this video, I will explore what this means for businesses and share examples of how businesses have adapted and coped with it.
What is the customer experience?
In a previous video, I explain at length what the customer experience entails and how to design one for your customers. Put simply; the customer experience is how your customers experience your brand. It is all about engaging people a certain way. It is all about making people feel a certain way. The customer experience is important because people will often forget (sometimes very conveniently) what you did for them, but they are more likely to remember how you made them feel.
The new normal has changed the way people live their lives. With changing lifestyles, consumers have changed the way they purchase and consume. Some changes are easier to bear with than others—and most people don’t like the idea of change. It’s not always comfortable. Not only that, some people face more challenges than others. A new lifestyle and new challenges mean that customers face new needs and new wants.
In the new normal, all sorts of new pain points arise. When you’re in business, addressing these new pain points becomes your responsibility—and they also become a source of opportunity for you.
More importantly, customers appreciate when they feel that businesses care about them in the age of so much uncertainty and worry. It matters how businesses make them feel. During a health crisis, how would you want to make your customers feel? How would you want to address their changing needs?
How do you meet their changing needs and expectations?
- Be empathetic …
The crisis didn’t come with a manual, and so of us are trying to do the best that they can, given what they have. Be kind. Be compassionate. Be understanding of their plight.
How are brands responding to the crisis? In the early stages of the pandemic, some brands chose to redirect their marketing budget to respond to the pandemic. For example, Coca-Cola Philippines decided to re-invest about AUD3 million in marketing spending into a Covid-19 relief, as “provision of protective equipment and beverages for health workers, delivery of food packs to the most vulnerable families, and support for affected small retailers.”
How did the Coca-Cola experience change? Coca-Cola has been known for their fun engagement online, but the shift in marketing spending created purposeful engagement. It especially assured their fans and customers that the brand is present at a crucial time, just as the brand was present during the fun times.
- … but keep it real, too.
It’s great to be empathetic, but keep it real and be honest, too. If Covid-19 has impacted you, be honest about your own plight and about your own challenges. Be explicit about what things have changed and will be changing as a result of the new normal. You might be surprised how people have become more compassionate and understanding when you become more honest about your challenges.
While the pandemic should not be used as an excuse to lower operations standards, you need to learn how to manage customer expectations. Communicate with your customers and be as transparent as possible. This will help your staff, too—most especially your customer-facing staff. People are under a huge amount of pressure, but it helps if they are made to understand the situation and if you explain what you are doing about it.
It also helps if you give them alternatives. Maybe a different way of purchasing from you or another way of communicating with you. Doing this changes the experience, but this creates the impression that you are doing your best given extraordinary circumstances.
For example, Disney closed its parks to keep everyone safe. While some have reopened in certain locations, many have had to shut operations again because of a second wave of Covid-19 infections. They have had to cancel Disney branded tours and cruises.
In the very early stages of the pandemic, Disney offered a safer alternative: Disney at Home. This is a DIY travel adventure that allows families to “experience” travelling at home while placing many of Disney’s other assets front and centre. Disney created a DIY adventure pack for families that puts together shows on National Geographic and Disney+ with snack recipes and treats that would remind customers of the Disney experience in parks and cruises.
How did the Disney experience change? The location has changed certainly, but it has affirmed that the Disney brand represents powerful storytelling that you can bring anywhere you are.
People are looking for a connection these days. If anything, they’re trying to find some sense of normalcy. So keep your lines open and take advantage of technology to find ways to connect with your fans and customers in the new normal.
A great example of a brand connecting with their fans and customers through the innovative use of technology is Reese’s Trick-or-Treat Door. This fun and pandemic-friendly alternative to the traditional Halloween tradition is a robotic door that dispenses candy for kids to safely “trick or treat” just outside their front door during the pandemic.
How does the experience change? It’s certainly a different way of experiencing Halloween, but the brand makes a huge impact on how the children will remember their pandemic Halloween. It brings fun and laughter to kids who are forced to stay home. If anything, it brings some “normal” to an otherwise extraordinary and scary set of circumstances.
- Find other ways to delight.
What else can you provide your customers at their convenience? Are there ways for you to support the causes that they value? How else can you cater to their needs and wants that align with their values?
In this heartwarming example of a simple 3-minute short film, Disney again delivers a nostalgic and uplifting holiday ad that highlights the value of family at a time when many might feel isolated or are apart because of the pandemic. It’s yet another reminder of how powerful storytelling contributes to the overall experience.
- Take care of yourself, too.
You need to take care of yourself, too. You, as the leader or head of your business, is the lead designer of your customer experience. You play an important part. And with important assets, you need to take care of yourself. It’s difficult to be creative, innovative, delightful, and engaging if you’re tired and exhausted. You cannot pour from an empty cup.