The one constant 2020 brought to the world has been change. From sweeping shelter-in-place orders, to phased re-openings, followed by several re-closings and state-mandated curfews and lockdowns. Businesses have had to contend with all these factors, not to mention the everyday challenges of keeping the day-to-day operations running while navigating (some for the first time) a fully remote workforce. Pile on top of that constantly shifting customer demands and new expectations shaped by the constraints of the pandemic. Despite the chaos happening all around the world, customers still want to feel seen, heard and appreciated by the companies they interact with most. The challenge for companies has been navigating these changes while constantly rethinking their customer experience strategy – and having to do it from their homes. Size is irrelevant – large or small, businesses have been forced to reckon with how they’re prioritizing customers and setting their own remote teams up to deliver exceptional experiences.
A study by unified communications and collaboration company Intermedia revealed that 57% of small and medium-size business owners plan to offer remote work as an option for their employee’s post-pandemic. Many saw benefits they did not anticipate, including a 19% jump in employee availability and even an increase in life satisfaction by 7%. Vaccine or not, remote work is undoubtedly here to stay, but what does that mean for companies trying to develop and execute customer experience strategies?
When building a customer experience strategy for your remote team, here are a few important things to consider:
Reexamine and Adjust your Leadership Style
It’s no secret that leadership sets the tone for an entire company and can make or break positive change within the broader organization. A recent article from Deloitte on leadership styles during crisis promotes the notion of a fast reaction from leadership in the face of uncertainty. Leaders need to react quickly and reexamine the top priorities for the company and the KPIs currently being used to determine success. Is there an overwhelming focus on quantity of work vs. the quality of work that’s completed? Have the business goals changed, and do the KPIs match? Change must come quickly and from the top-down in an organization. To motivate and inspire teams when forced into a new environment, leaders must be open to adopting new mindsets. This means fully embracing the spirit of remote collaboration and having open and honest conversations with employees. Leaders shouldn’t be afraid to be vulnerable with employees. This past year, and even the months ahead, may prove to be some of the most difficult for people, and it’s essential to build a collaborative work environment that celebrates the different tools and channels available to employees. Leadership should provide employees with the tools they need to get their jobs done. Doing so will foster an alliance within an organization that becomes crucial to building successful programs and eventually hitting new KPIs.
Adopting an Omni-Channel Approach
Nailing the channel and platform are imperative when setting up your remote team, but are even more crucial when dealing with customers. Gone are the days when an organization dictates how and where customers interact with them. Customers have long been in the driver’s seat when it comes to brand interaction. The pandemic has accelerated this shift and driven the expectation that brands will provide customers with a seamless experience no matter what channel or platform they’re using. It’s an omni-channel approach, or nothing.
Now, with more time spent indoors, customers have gotten savvier. According to Adobe Analytics 2020 Holiday Forecast, 31% of consumers surveyed rarely shopped online before April 2020, while 9% of those surveyed were net new to online shopping this year alone. In the same survey, Adobe found that at the height of the pandemic (May 2020), brands saw spending from new customers increase 2x more than their most loyal customers. With larger numbers of consumers shifting where and how they’re spending – companies must think through effective strategies to reach them. Zoom, Netflix and Lyft are clear examples of companies that have staked their claim as leaders in customer-centricity. Their business models are based on providing consumers with coherent omnichannel experiences – meeting customers where and when they want. To be truly successful in nailing customer-centricity is to rise to consumers expectations and adopt more flexibility in the channels and platforms a business leverages to get in front of audiences at the right time and on the right platform.
Invest in AI for Better, Individualized Experiences
More omni-channel experiences mean increasing amounts of customer data is spread across several channels and platforms. Customer data is more siloed than ever before. To help make sense of this data and remove unnecessary silos within organizations, there needs to be a central hub where all data can be accessed, especially as more teams work remotely. AI technologies allow organizations to utilize the wealth of customer data and intelligently develop customer experiences at scale. Unlike humans, AI technology can read, organize, and utilize a central hub of data at scale. This enables whole teams to identify quickly and accurately, map and track customer data down to a specific customer in real-time. Organizations can then create a personalized journey for individuals based on their unique preferences. According to a recent PwC report on the global impact of AI, by 2030, economic gains from AI in the United States will reach a 14.5% increase, 45% worldwide – all coming from greater consumer demand for personalization.
Another study by Nemertes Research revealed that 32.7% of organizations are already planning their customer experience transformation initiatives for 2021. What’s clear is that AI technology needs to be part of that transformation if it’s not already.
Getting Transparent with Data
Once an organization deploys an omni-channel strategy rooted in data analysis, remaining transparent with customers as to how they’re using that data will make or break an organization. As we know, consumers are savvier than ever before, and thanks to the pandemic, new numbers of consumers are turning to digital interactions. Whether new to digital experiences or not, a common theme among consumers is the expectation of transparency around how organizations are collecting and using their data. Thanks to a heightened awareness around security breaches, customers are increasingly wary of giving away their information to just anyone. From Equifax to Target – large corporations are ripe for distrust, but it doesn’t have to be this way.
A 2019 study from USC revealed that more than half of U.S. smartphone users were willing to share their location if they understood how a brand was planning to use that information. At Hotwire we practice “radical candor,” the notion that creating a culture of feedback helps build a cohesive team and in turn, helps an organization achieve great results. The same philosophy of “radical candor” should be applied to data collection. Ask customers for permissions, provide them with important updates on how their personal information is being used and take it a step further to explain why the data is being used in a particular way. If trying to use data nefariously, not only will the customer find out but it’s guaranteed the government will as well. Keep an open line with customers – be honest and transparent when it comes to collecting data. There is no downside in being clear with intentions, in fact, it will earn greater loyalty and retention which only serves to grow business.
Customer experience will only continue to morph. It is up to an organization to keep up with the pace of change and make the appropriate investments to ensure no customer is left in the dust.
Looking for more remote work insights and tips? Check out The Remote Evolution.