Businesses are opening back up, but that doesn’t mean we’re back to business as usual. At least for the near future, we will not be returning to the way “we always did it.” Businesses such as restaurants, gyms, hair salons—and just about every type of business that has walk-in traffic—will have to make adjustments to meet the new expectations of their customers.
Lately, I’ve been asked to comment on how business is going to change post-COVID-19. This is especially important to B2C (Business to Consumer) businesses that have seen their customers’ buying habits change almost overnight. As we emerge from the pandemic and businesses start to reopen, they will have to adjust to a new experience in which health and safety is a major concern.
New data from Medallia Zingle in its COVID-19 & the Future of Commerce Report reveals some interesting facts that will compel any type of business (including B2B, or Business to Business) to consider how it will manage the post-pandemic customer experience. Consider this:
● Consumers haven’t stopped shopping at and doing business with the companies they’ve always done business with. They have just changed the way they go about it. Before the pandemic, consumers would visit certain types of businesses on an almost daily basis. Those included grocery stores, gyms, restaurants, beauty salons and more. In fact, 78% of consumers said that before the pandemic they visited these types of businesses at least three times a week in person. After COVID-19 occurred, that number dropped to less than half at 34%.
● Curbside pickup and delivery have been around for years, yet it took a pandemic to make it a mainstream way of doing business. Today, 75% of consumers report they use this option on a regular basis. Twenty-five percent say that this is the only way they will buy unless it’s an emergency.
With those stats and facts in mind, here are three ideas to help any business prepare to deliver a better customer experience, one that is safe and alleviates customers’ fears and concerns.
1. Create confidence.
According to the report, 79% of consumers say they will seek out information on a business’s health and safety standards before visiting. Customers want to know they are walking into a safe place. Publicly showcase your health and safety guidelines and policies. Doing this shows your business cares about its customers and employees. Apple did exactly that. In mid-March, Apple computer was one of the first major retailers to announce it was closing all its retail stores. The message was clear. They were focused on the health of customers and employees. That was more important than staying open and making sales. Even as businesses are starting to reopen as we exit the pandemic, Apple recently announced the closing of 11 stores in four states that have experienced a spike in COVID-19 cases. Its goal is to protect both customers and employees. Apple is demonstrating just how far it will go to create a safe environment. Short of shutting down operations, customer-facing businesses are posting new guidelines that include masks, social distancing, cleaning/sterilizing processes, how they accept payment and more.
2. Make your health and safety policies part of your marketing strategy.
Related to the strategy of creating confidence, take it a step further and be strategic about how you promote health and safety. For example, in the past few months, I’ve received numerous emails with links to videos about how companies are stepping up their focus on health and safety for their customers and employees. Airlines demonstrated how they cleaned the seats and cabin after every flight, how the air filtration system worked, how the cabin crew would wear masks and more. Hotels showcased their plans to create safe environments for their guests. If you publicly communicate your policies and processes, it is imperative to be strict and diligent about them. Don’t make commitments you can’t live up to. A recent video of airline employees not wearing masks and not social distancing was seen on social media. This was the exact opposite of the experience the airline promised its customers. To create trust and confidence, you cannot violate your own protocols and promises.
3. Listen to your customers.
Your customers will tell you if you’re doing a good job. They will share their concerns. All you have to do is ask them. For example, 55% of customers say their curbside pickup experience has been “fast and easy,” but 45% say the experience has been “a little rocky” or “poor.” Find out if your process is working. Ask your customers for feedback. Listen closely and then react quickly to areas that need improvement. Even if you create confidence in your health and safety standards, a bad customer experience could still mean your customer doesn’t come back.