As companies open back up post-lockdown, instilling a customer-first culture that enhances experience while adhering to Covid-19 measures will help ensure that customers return. Our CEO, Andreas Knürr, speaks to Business Changer Magazine about the role of digital tools.
The importance of building a customer-first culture at organisations is well-known. Ensuring that the experience is enjoyable enough for a customer so that they come back and / or share their experience with other potential patrons is of paramount importance; particularly to startups and smaller firms that are typically reliant on customer goodwill and word-of-mouth reviews. Larger firms on the other hand, have the luxury of an established brand reputation and the resources to overcome a bit of negative feedback.
But now that Covid-19 has happened, what does this mean for the customer experience? In lockdown, pubs, shops, restaurants, gyms and salons – everything we had all taken for granted – were forced to close, and it stayed that way until recently. Now things are opening up again, it’s certainly a step towards normality, but there are differences to how things used to be.
Guidelines on social distancing, capacity, one-way systems, a desire for the avoidance of cash, and the requirement for face coverings means the experience for both businesses and customers has changed. Of course, there needs to be acceptance from all parties that this is normality for the time-being, but the onus is on businesses to provide an experience that keeps customers satisfied and coming back. As, after months of greatly reduced or ceased trading, it’s essential that they start building up that goodwill once more.
Overcoming apprehension with digital tools
For many, the return of customer-facing businesses comes with some apprehension. Whether it’s the travel on public transport, being present in an environment they don’t have total control over, or the use of cash, organisations have to take everything into consideration and find ways to make them more manageable. They need to think about the customers’ entire journey, from initial browsing, to queuing, collection and payment. Increasingly, businesses are beginning to explore how digital tools can be blended with the physical to enhance overall experience.
What could digital tools in action look like?
Let’s use the example of shopping at a retail store. Traditionally, a customer would walk around picking up and swapping items, before queuing to pay and using their card or cash to complete the transaction. In the current climate, within that flow of events some points are either not allowed or can make customers feel uncomfortable.
Now let’s think about a similar scenario where the retail store has adopted digital tools. The shop enables customers to reserve time slots to attend and browse, as the number of people is controlled, socially distancing is possible and there’s no overcrowding. The booking system can also be used to provide the latest information on measures being taken. Internally, the company uses digital staff rotas to ensure there’s the perfect number of employees on-hand. There’s a slight delay in getting into the shop but customers can queue virtually, there’s no standing in the elements in un-socially distanced lines. When it comes to buying the goods, patrons have the opportunity to use contactless payments or even pay via an app – no cash exchanges hands.
The two processes have the same outcome, but the latter enables customers to shop in a way that makes them feel comfortable and helps to ensure their safety from Covid-19, which is essential.
Ultimately, now that customers are returning, businesses can’t be sure that a few one-way signs and stickers on the floor is going to deliver the experience that keeps customers coming back. Instead, there needs to be more exploration of the full customer journey and any touch points, and a consideration of how digital tools can be blended to enhance experience.
By TIMIFY co-founder and CEO, Andreas Knürr