These are uncertain times. Even as we begin the transition into a post-pandemic business landscape, the effects of the disruption that COVID-19 has wreaked on the ways we live and work are still being felt. More than ever, weathering the storm of the pandemic calls for agility and responsiveness in adapting to, meeting and exceeding customer demands. Providing excellent end-to-end customer service is therefore all the more critical.
That begins with a solid understanding of the ways in which consumer expectations have changed since the onset of the pandemic. Importantly, reports from Accenture, McKinsey, and others reflect that trust and integrity are the number one brand values that consumers look for.
People want to buy from brands they know they can rely on; those that that are both dependable and socially responsible, and that prioritise the safety and health of its customers and its people at all times.
But what are the exact implications of this for customer service in the new normal? What do businesses need to know about evolving consumer demands in a post-pandemic setting, in order to provide service excellence? Here are three key ways the pandemic has changed customer service forever.
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As a natural consequence of the overall climate of uncertainty today, people seek to have their worries assuaged through higher dependence on and expectations for service quality. According to a survey by Freshworks Inc, for instance, 72% of customer service professionals believe that more people expect better customer service now compared to before the pandemic.
It’s not just about ensuring speedier service responses and more convenient access to support, though. KPMG’s 2020 Customer Experience Excellence Report indicates that providing personalised customer service and demonstrating reliability and trust are top priorities for service excellence in Singapore’s new normal.
Upskilling and investing in front-line service agents is one way to achieve this. Companies need to ensure that every client-facing service agent is equipped with both in-depth product knowledge and excellent interpersonal skills. These will engender greater reassurance for customers, who will recognise empathy, genuine care and concern, and comprehensive technical know-how.
Care spending much more time online than before in researching product offerings, troubleshooting guides, and other elements of pre- and post-sales support.
The proof is in the pudding: a recent report on customer satisfaction by the Singapore Management University (SMU) shows that Singaporean consumers who did research online before purchasing are 13.6% more loyal to the brand and spend much more than those who didn’t do online research.
Companies therefore need to ensure a smooth and easy online research process that requires minimal consumer research with maximum results. Providing intuitive site navigation, easy access to information on product specifics and details, and employing customer service chatbots, for example, is essential.
The massive shift away from traditional brick-and-mortar retail and towards online consumption brought on by pandemic restrictions has undoubtedly expedited the process of digital transformation for good. Companies need to be able to leverage data, digital tools, and technology to streamline customer service in such a way that it increases efficiency while also deepening the human touch.
Indeed, the focus of customer service digitalisation must be on marrying high tech with heart. Utilising data analytics and digital tools like social listening to pick up and address customer preferences, grievances, and spending patterns, for example, can go a long way in providing highly personalised customer experiences.