The spotlight on customer experience (CX) has never been brighter, and a positive or negative experience can highly impact a retailer’s bottom line and overall image. The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic caused a serious disruption to the retail industry and customer expectations.
Forrester research shows that consumers do not trust brands to make wise choices about keeping them safe during the pandemic, with only 13% of consumers trusting retailers to do a good job at sanitization and social distancing. Rebuilding customer trust will continue to be a challenge for brands.
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, tracking and trending customer needs, concerns, and pressures will be essential to meet consumers’ new expectations and build a trustworthy relationship. Here are four ways analyzing the voice of the customer (VoC) can help brands measure and trend customer confidence during this time:
1. Understanding Customer Behavior
COVID-19 has significantly impacted customer behavior, confidence, and sentiment. Some customers may not feel safe returning to brick-and-mortar locations. According to a survey by McKinsey, consumers are planning to shop at different retailers than last year, citing a concern for safety as the most important reason driving this change. That same survey also found that “four out of five Americans have yet to return to pre-COVID-19 levels of comfort with ‘normal’ out-of-home activities.”
VoC enables businesses to engage with customers for feedback at key moments of their customer journey to collect individual data. These insights help brands better understand expectations, preferences, needs and perceptions, which is key in recognizing customer behavior and how it will continue to change. Using VoC tools to facilitate customer feedback helps organizations measure and trend customer confidence with their brand, which is important to drive critical operation decisions.
2. Addressing the Concerns
Without proactively receiving feedback from customers to address concerns, it’s nearly impossible to gauge their comfort level. According to Harvard Business Review, acquiring a new customer is anywhere from five to 25 times more expensive than retaining an existing one. With many organizations experiencing a loss in revenue from shutdowns, it’s even more important for businesses to take the steps to retain their current customer base.
As a reminder, customers are planning to shop at different retailers if their safety concerns have not been addressed. Collecting VoC allows organizations to understand customers’ sentiment and concerns. Brands can use these insights to determine the necessary resources to deliver positive experiences and continue to build customer trust.
3. Planning Resources
Pre-pandemic, it was much easier to predict resource requirements. These unique times make it difficult to understand the number of customers that will frequent a location, which makes it nearly impossible to ensure the right resources when the foot traffic is inconsistent.
For example, when restrictions were lifted, outdoor shopping centers began to see more foot traffic and remained closer to their normal 2019 levels compared to indoor shopping centers. Shoppers’ concerns about COVID-19, limitations and other factors gave outdoor shopping centers an advantage during the COVID-19 recovery stages.
Collecting VoC data enables key decision makers to better understand when customers plan to return to a location, identify new consumer behaviors developed during the pandemic and can offer insights to organizations that are looking to diversify their reach and approach to drive visits and revenue.
This information gives businesses the necessary feedback to better develop a strategy that will deliver a positive experience. This means allocating resources including staff; stock, such as food in the case of restaurants; cleanliness; and enforcing safety and social distancing measures in accordance with state and federal regulations.
4. Identifying Trends
Behaviors, preferences, and confidence will continue to change well after the pandemic ceases. Collecting insights from customers gives businesses the data to understand and identify trends. However, it’s important to continue listening to customers and monitor how their concerns and sentiments change over time to stay prepared.
For example, 73% of consumers reported they would not be ready to resume regular outside activities. Fifty-seven percent of those surveyed said they would not be ready to resume regular outside activities until government restrictions were lifted along with other requirements, with 19% of them stating that stores, restaurants and other indoor places would have to be implementing safety measure as well.
Keeping an open dialogue where customers provide feedback can help instill trust in an organization because it shows that you value their opinions and are genuinely trying to provide a safe and welcoming environment. The best way for customers to understand the safety measures and other changes implemented is to experience it in person. Collecting customer feedback post-experience is essential to gaining insights on if the brand is meeting, exceeding, or missing expectations.
Call on the Right Solution
In order to obtain valuable insights, organizations need to implement VoC solutions that can easily engage customers for their feedback; segment and compare customer sentiment and feedback by region and in aggregate; and quickly get the right insights into the right hands at the right time. Organizations can do so by using customer confidence surveys.
Proactively engaging customers for their feedback through direct surveys is key to understanding how their needs and concerns will continue to evolve. It also more accurately gauges general customer sentiment and confidence in each of the organization’s regions and determines how brands can alleviate these concerns.
Listening to your customers has never been more important. VoC data offers a peek inside the customer’s mind, including their needs, expectations, concerns, and preferences. Businesses can use this insight to optimize day-to-day operations and procedures, and identify opportunities to increase consumer confidence by improving the in-person experience. Collecting VoC data will help businesses close the loop, act on feedback, and deliver a great customer experience.
Shellie Vornhagen is chief customer experience officer at Astute.