by Kurt Schroeder and John Seeds
COVID-19 completely changed the course of Customer Experience, and with it, the expectations customers have for the brands they do business with. Organizations adapted quickly to sustain their businesses and the relationships they had with their customers, who took note of which brands made an effort during this time.
As brands continue to evolve in order to limit the pandemic's lasting effects, many are shifting their focus towards examining the most impactful business adaptations they made and making them permanent fixtures after COVID-19. We examined some of the changes that businesses are making integral to their services in a post COVID world.
Adjusted In-Person Store Hours
During the pandemic, many stores have adjusted their operating hours to be open for shorter amounts of time or offer specific hours for vulnerable customers, such as the elderly or immunocompromised. These adjusted hours have provided more time for employees to keep stores clean without crowding the space now required to keep customers safe.
Shortened hours allow stores to balance employee and customer experience. Providing a safe and clean store with space for customers to shop provides them with a comfortable experience while shopping. In that same vein, having adjusted store hours takes the pressure off employees to complete vital cleaning tasks outside of their standard shifts.
New Pickup and Delivery Services
During COVID-19, many stores have provided pickup and delivery options to their customers. Many customers adjusted to these options and have come to expect their availability. Stores that have implemented these services have offered a critical shopping experience that will likely help to build lasting relationships with their customers.
As we transition past COVID-19, these pickup and delivery services will likely become a standard as customers have become accustomed to a new normal. Customer expectations have now shifted from grocery shopping being a physical activity to something they can do from their phone or computer. In order to keep up with that shift, stores will likely make the decision to provide these services permanently.
Specific Product Stock Needs
Stores no longer have unlimited stock of most items and are even more careful about preserving their stock of popular products like cleaning supplies. This shift has provided an opportunity for stores to have greater in-store customization options and meet changing customer expectations. Stores can offer a safe and clean space for their customers with a consistent flow of products.
As we transition past COVID-19, stores will continue to engage new opportunities for the in-store experience. Now that customers no longer anticipate finding exactly what they need, stores can present them with different options and new experiences. This allows the in-store experience to evolve and begin to match the digital options that have been presented.
Restaurant Seating and Capacity
Outdoor seating has become increasingly popular for restaurants that need more space to serve their customers. Many city alleys and side streets have been turned into serving areas because indoor spaces are no longer a comfortable or safe dining experience.
The adjustments these restaurants have made directly impacts the experience they are providing their customers. The dining experience is now more personal, and customers are offered a safer environment in which to enjoy their meal. The shift to outdoor dining has helped reduce any moments of tension or insecurity customers may have felt being asked to dine indoors.
Post COVID-19, restaurants will likely continue to adjust their dining experiences as they attempt to stand out in the crowd and attract new customers. Restaurants now can build creative experiences that are no longer about filling locations at capacity but instead focus on enticing diners with a memorable experience worth dining out for.
Digital Healthcare Options
Digital healthcare has become critical as patients and doctors must decide what calls for an in-person appointment and what can be discussed with their care provider remotely. With Telemedicine fully operational, some patients now prefer it, and this means that technology is likely to continue to be a significant factor as the healthcare industry strives to provide the best and safest patient experience possible.
After COVID-19, the healthcare industry will likely be a totally transformed landscape. Many healthcare providers will continue providing this option for patients who are medically compromised or for patients that don’t require a full exam. This helps to control the flow of patients and provide the safest experience for all stakeholders.
Evaluate What Should Stick for Your Business
If your business has adapted your processes to better provide for your customers, you must consider which of these should become a permanent fixture in your business. In order to do that, you must evaluate their benefit to your business and the experience you provide. Some aspects to consider are:
- Customer effort: To provide the best experience for your customer, the processes they encounter with your business must be frictionless. The more effort they have to exert to accomplish their needs the larger an impact it has on their experience. Any change made during COVID-19 that reduces customer effort may be worth implementing permanently.
- Business efficiency: Examine each change you’ve made to identify those that have positively impacted business efficiency. If any of your current adaptations positively impact your ability to efficiently and effectively serve your customers, they may be worth keeping.
- Process sustainability: For a process to become a permanent fixture, your business must be able to sustain it long enough for it to have an impact. Review each change you have made to determine if the process is sustainable and worthy of any investment of effort and funding.