Counting the cost of Customer Experience during COVID-19

The delicate economic balance between cost and customer experience was under the spotlight even before COVID-19. Now, the spotlight has been amped up as Australia resets how businesses interact with consumers.

To navigate our new and fast-changing reality, organisations need to understand how COVID-19 has fundamentally changed their customers’ expectations and interactions, and decide which changes are temporary, and which will be forever.

At the same time, they must constantly re-examine the capital investments and operating costs needed to provide the experiences customers want throughout the pandemic.

Organisations that master the costs of customer experience will be able to optimise spend while delivering winning, empathetic experiences that show integrity and humility in view of the COVID-19 outbreak. The challenge: to strike the right balance between what consumers expect and what financially makes sense, and avoid cutting costs so much that they under-deliver for their customers.

Pull weeds, plant seedlings or prepare to harvest

Taking a long, hard look at costs and driving flexibility into business models will help organisations ride out the disruption, however long it lasts. But a recession can be an opportunity if handled correctly. That is why it is vital for organisations to know when and how to begin investing again in marketing, sales and customer experience.

Looking at previous global recessions, around 17 percent do not survive a downturn, but others are able to flourish. Nine percent of companies outperform their competitors by at least 10 percent in sales and profits growth in the three years following a recession.

The first step is to consider the financial pattern your business is facing. This will help to determine when and where to rein in spend, and how much and when to begin investing again. Ascertaining quickly where your business sits allows you to strategise rationally and budget accordingly – and to jump the curve to get ahead of the competition.

Areas to invest in

No matter what strategy an organisation is pursing, now is the time to make clear decisions about what actions to take for your customers and ensure these are driven right throughout the organisation, end to end.

Customer service should be a top priority – given that consumers are very likely to be disorientated and stressed, especially those engaging industries such as travel where movement restrictions and sweeping government measures have sown confusion. Personalisation, customer relationship training and automation should all have a role to play in an organisation’s investment strategy. For example, rolling out AI and natural language processing for website inquiries is a no risk investment It reduces outsourcing challenges while increasing customer responsiveness. Most importantly, it removes simple tasks from your staff so they can focus on real customer issues.

At the same time, it is important to continue brand positioning and smart marketing initiatives.  Brands that turn inwards with too many cost control measures will slowly lose their visibility, relevance and differentiation. Every dollar must be accounted for and allocated responsibly. Review all brand initiatives and marketing campaigns and focus on getting the most from limited resources, and try to fill in gaps with existing resources, people and technology.

The COVID-19 pandemic throws light on the need for organisations to put the consumer at the heart of the business and have a coherent, consistent intent to customer experience. Organisations that leverage their ability to adapt and be resilient, embrace technology and, above all, trust their teams to put their customers’ needs first and foremost will bear fruit long after the pandemic is over.

Read more: Balancing cost and experience to emerge resilient

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