Digital and Empathetic Customer Experiences for the New Normal

Empathy and responsiveness to customer concerns have always set businesses apart. But, where it was once an option, these trust-building traits are now necessary. They are needed for business survival and growth as companies seek to provide customers with what they need.

In October 2020, IDC published a report entitled “Empathy During the COVID-19 Pandemic: Becoming an Empathetic Enterprise in the Next Normal”. It details how the most digitally mature organizations adapted quicker to challenges brought by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The crisis accelerated the shift of customer experience (CX) from physical to digital-first. It exacerbated existing CX challenges and enlarged the digital divide between leading and laggard organizations. Now organizations need to accelerate their digital transformation efforts (DX) and become truly customer-centric.

Empathy in the Next Normal

In that report, IDC senior research manager for digital commerce and marketing and digital transformation Lawrence Cheok is quoted as saying that “during the crisis’ peak, organizations displaying customer empathy have adapted quickly. In the next normal, the most empathetic ones will stand to thrive. Cheok noted that “organizations must remain deeply connected, understand their situations, and continue to act in ways that build trust.”

Amid the pandemic, leading organizations leveraged technology to stay connected, continue engagements, and adapt experiences to their customers’ needs. These organizations’ responses changed customer expectations for the next normal. Customers have demonstrated that empathy is what they need and are looking for from organizations. Empathy is not an option, but a requirement.

New Customer Needs and Behaviors

Besides empathy, the IDC report found that customers’ new needs include:

  • Digital engagement, e-commerce, and e-communities will become mainstream.
  • Repurposing the physical world to augment digital-first journeys.
  • Sustained CX initiatives grounded in customer empathy.
  • Listening to customer sentiments to shape enterprises’ recovery curve.

IDC’s Future of Customers and Consumers service looks at how technology plays a key role in the customer experience. Organizations should leverage technologies such as AI, connected devices, ubiquitous services. Moreover, there must be an underlying foundation of trust to understand customers’ needs and address them dynamically. This service analyzes the necessary changes required across business and IT functions. As such, actionable recommendations on how to thrive through the pandemic are provided in the recovery period that follows it.

Achieving Customer Loyalty and Advocacy

In his April 20, 2020 blog post, IDC program vice president for digital strategy and customer experience Alan Webber explained that “consumers are looking for a memorable differentiated experience. He added that those differentiated experiences drive loyalty. Furthermore, companies are seeing that a loyal customer provides a long-term competitive advantage.

At a time when social distancing and online transactions are vital to flattening the curve of the pandemic, the digital experience is a lifeline. It helps customers continue to fill their needs without face-to-face interactions. To add, it enables businesses to provide the goods and services their clientele seeks. The success of such transactions depends on the quality of experience a customer gets. Such experiences, be they bad or good, often come upon these customers’ social media posts.

“Loyal customers spend on average five times more and tell an average of nine people about a positive experience,” Webber wrote. On the other hand, a bad experience will be shared with 16 people. Moreover, it’s more expensive to find new customers than to maintain your loyal buyers.

He also wrote that “the Future of Customers and Consumers is characterized by the changing nature of the relationship between customers and brands through a prism of technology. It’s defined as an empathetic relationship between customers and brands built on what the customer wants and how they want to be treated through the technology lens of awareness, engagement, learning, and measuring.”

Four CX-Related Business Outcomes

“Because consumers are going to start to expect a more personalized experience, companies need to focus on what business choices they can make to use [email protected] to inspire the loyalty that will be key to future success,” Webber noted, adding that there are four main business outcomes driving this change that businesses need to focus on:

  • Predictable Communication. Communication is the foundation for every interaction throughout the customer journey and it must be predictable for both customer and brand. Communication leads to understanding, is multi-channel, and is inclusive.
  • Lifetime Value. The company provides a product or service in exchange for money and that value is directly tied to the experience the customer receives. Companies are employing technology to equalize that experience.
  • Applied Intelligence. Building a portfolio of intelligence about the customer, the market, and the world can be used to customize the experience for the customer. Use data to discover more about customers to provide a unique experience that is personalized appropriately and correctly.
  • Mutual Trust. Customers want to be able to trust a company with their data and companies want long-term relationships built on a trusted partnership with the customer. This can happen through different forms of measurement and business processes that inform and direct the success of their efforts.

He explained that, for “future success, companies must endeavor to be a brand that can partner with future customers on their journeys, and customers must reciprocate with a desire to engage and with loyalty to brands. CX is becoming a critical decision point, and almost 43% of companies IDC surveyed indicate that this is their top goal for the future.”