Keeping a positive customer experience (CX) in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic may require thinking outside the box a bit. Fear and worry drive many people during difficult times. No matter what type of business you own, the virus impacts you on some level. Perhaps you’ve had to cancel things, maybe you sell essential items and can’t keep up with demand, or maybe your customers aren’t sure how they will pay their bills much less order from you during this time.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recognizes that people might battle stress during the outbreak. You can offer a beacon of positivity amid of all the anxiety and uncertainty. While the world isn’t operating on a “business as usual” principle right now, you can still offer some consistency to your clients.
Improving the CX of your brand is a proactive approach at any time. During a virus epidemic, though, it’s an excellent way to offer some relief to anxious customers. Here are eight simple ways of improving your business practices now.
1. TRAIN EMPLOYEES TO BE UPBEAT
If you run an essential business, your employees may feel exhausted from keeping up with demand. In non-essential roles, workers worry if layoffs are imminent. It’s easy to let their concerns creep into dealings with the public. Customers are sometimes on edge and nasty to frontline workers as well.
However, it’s more important now than ever before that companies offer a happy, upbeat persona to target audiences. There is enough frightening news to go around. Work on adding some cheer to the day. Start by setting an example for your staff. Give them the perspective of how scared people are and how some respond to fear by snapping at others. If they understand the customer’s psychology a bit better, they’ll be less likely to react themselves negatively.
2. OFFER ALTERNATIVES
If you planned a conference or any event in the coming weeks, you wouldn’t be able to host it the way you originally planned. Instead of just canceling the occasion, try to come up with an alternate plan. For example, you might offer an online version of a conference with some exclusive perks, such as one-on-one mentoring with some of the speakers. Reach out to sponsors and exhibitors to find creative ways of showcasing them virtually.
Replace special moments, such as keynote speaker dinners, with other perks that are just as attractive. Host a virtual wine party where everyone brings their own wine. Have the keynote meet with five or six people at a time in an online chat room. Try to think outside the box.
3. REVAMP USER INTERFACE
Spend time testing the user interface (UI) for your website or app. One example of where apps sometimes fail during these peak online shopping times appear in popular grocery retailers. They can’t handle the additional traffic sent to their curbside pickup options. For some, their sites went down, error messages prevailed and appointment times are in short supply.
Anticipate increased online traffic or pickup requests and revamp how your app handles the surge. Improve any issues, so users have a seamless experience.
4. CREATE A CUSTOMER JOURNEY MAP
Lay out a map that walks through the journey a customer makes after landing on your website or making the first contact with you. There may be several entry points that all lead to the same end. Think through what the experience is at each aspect of the journey. Can you simplify things in any way? What would make that step of the trip easier on your clients?
5. IMPROVE MOBILE EXPERIENCE
According to the Pew Research Center, about 96% of Americans now own a cellphone, and about 81% own smartphones. More and more people access the internet from their mobile devices. How does your website measure up? As people stay at home and shop from their armchairs, your site may see a spike in traffic from small screens. Make sure the experience is a positive one for all your users, and your text and graphics respond to different devices.
6. SPEED UP RESPONSE TIMES
In a report from McKinsey, they discovered most people expect a response in as little as five minutes. One option is adding a live chat feature to your website and staffing it with agents who understand your products and policies. If customers call on the phone, do whatever you need to reduce wait times.
If you hold specific business hours, state that upfront. Don’t make customers go through a lengthy selection process with a computerized voice only to discover no one is there to help them. You may need to hire additional call center representatives to handle the extra volume or provide overtime to your current workers. Do whatever is necessary to improve response time and thus enhance the overall encounter.
7. PROTECT CUSTOMER DATA
New rules such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) make it more vital than ever before to protect sensitive info your customers share with you. People want to know you aren’t going to sell their email or phone number to a third party. They also want to be sure their identity details are secure from hackers. Ramp up your policies and put additional security measures in place.
You may attract a number of new customers who are home browsing the internet. Be prepared for who will handle the additional information and the security measures needed to secure everything.
8. ASK FOR FEEDBACK
People have a bit more time right now because they can’t leave their homes and go out to dinner and a movie. The current lockdown is a good time to seek feedback from your regular customers about how you might improve the experience for them. Send out a survey and ask some specific questions about your website, your order fulfillment process, the products and any other area you’d like to grow.
Include a section that allows them to share their thoughts. There may be areas where you need to improve that you didn’t think about. Giving them a blank slate where they might express their ideas provides an opportunity to advance in ways you never expected.
Think ahead to the issues your customers are most likely to have during difficult times. If you plan for problems, you’ll have a response ready and be able to avoid some of the pitfalls. Know how you’ll handle someone who is on an emotional roller coaster, or what you’ll do if a customer can’t pay on time because they are out of work. Knowing the options you can offer can take a lot of stress off you and the customer.