Yes, the COVID pandemic is still affecting business operations almost a year after the initial shutdown in the U.S. If you’re a hospital struggling to care for patients with overworked staff, patrons will understand and extend grace. But other establishments who still blame the pandemic for their customer service failures cannot expect the same.
There are businesses in every sector that quickly made smart modifications early in the pandemic, resulting in a better service experience for their customers. But these few savvy operators have made those businesses slow to make adjustments appear all the more inept.
As early as the summer of 2020, consumers were voicing their displeasure and skepticism of this excuse. Now, six months later, the stresses of dealing with both health and economic uncertainties have lowered their tolerance for ineptitude in other areas of their lives. Their old loyalties will easily shift to businesses that have put in the effort to meet their needs despite the ongoing crisis.
Customer Service Expectations Increase During Times of Stress
One might assume that people experiencing high-stress levels wouldn’t want to expend the energy necessary to research their purchasing options. According to a study published by the Association for Consumer Research, this is not true. “The higher the level of stress, the greater one’s propensity to comparison shop” was the conclusion of this 1994 study.
When we are experiencing conditions beyond our control, it is natural for the human psyche to seek control in whatever areas it can. Choosing merchants who make us feel empowered and heard is one way to exercise a measure of mastery in our lives.
Waiting longer and longer for things to “return to normal” decreases rather than increases our level of patience. “Please expect longer than normal delays in our response” is a message less welcome than it ever was. Immediate response to customer comments and inquiries, no matter the information channel, is what consumers want and expect.
The Expansion of Digital Communication
The increase in digital communication across generations cannot be denied. Many who never used a tablet or smartphone previously found it necessary to conduct doctor visits, family interaction and shopping online. Social media, for all its criticism, offers a convenience of connection that people crave.
The parents and grandparents of Gen X and Gen Y join them on communication platforms, previously ignored. New apps for social interaction and encrypted communication are launched almost daily. Some of these tools will ignite a quick adoption, but be unable to meet users’ broad demands quickly enough to maintain growth and acceptance. Eventually, a few may set themselves apart by satisfying enough users’ expectations to compete with established entities.
Your customers, now and even more as time goes on, will expect to find you wherever they choose to congregate in the digital space. They will expect you to have a presence and also expect you to interact with them. They are watching to see who is the most innovative in finding ways to improve their consumer interactions. Quick adoption of new technology is more critical than ever.
Lead the Pack or Be Left Behind in 2021
The “new normal,” as it has been coined, will be determined by those who are forward-thinking and quick to act. 2020 was focused on survival. 2021 will be a race to the front as the gates are reopened. The consumers will pass the verdicts on who takes the lead and who struggles to keep up. They will set high bars for impeccable customer service and fast, but personalized response to online interactions.
Businesses using Guest-Note as their Customer Feedback Management (CFM) system have advanced tools to meet these growing expectations. They are heading into the new year with confidence and high expectations. If you’d like to learn how our CFM system helped them keep their customer happy, reach out to us to schedule a demonstration.