Certain businesses are preparing to open up to employees and customers, yet they're opening differently than they did before. Other businesses have shifted to a digital model and will continue to serve customers via these digital channels.

The global pandemic has created such a change in everyone’s lives. Work is different. School is different. Shopping is different. And simply being a customer is different.

Customers are seeing how brands have responded to their needs during these extraordinary times. They are making decisions based on different criteria than in the past. Is your brand ready to serve customers today and tomorrow, even as their expectations have changed?

Customers expect three main things as they move through this new normal.

  1. Customers deserve a complete, seamless experience.
  2. Customers require reassurance around safety.
  3. Customers want choice around their actions.

Customers Deserve a Complete, Seamless Experience

For too long, digital transformation was an aspiration for many organizations. The customer journey was still segmented by channel and digital was often an experience unto itself. After all, a shopper in a grocery store who didn’t order online didn’t need to see consistency in the experience there.

When suddenly, so many customers had to shop online, the customer journey had to be understood and improved with greater urgency. This meant more than improving an app or adding better filters to online ordering tools.

Brands learned quickly that customers were designing their own journeys. They wanted to have the options to filter their selections via a digital channel, but they also wanted to know exactly when the delivery was made. Customers quickly became savvy on what items were running low (toilet paper, anyone?) and were willing to work the system to be first in line.

Meanwhile, brands had to understand new supply chain issues and communicate in new ways with customers. They had to hire more inventory and delivery workers. They had to connect the dots between the digital experience and the overall customer journey.

Customers have long had their own journeys. They move from their mobile device to their laptop and expect the same shopping cart to be there. They want support via the channel they prefer, and not necessarily via the channel assigned to them by the brand.

Customers won’t go back to expecting an experience that isn’t connected and considerate of their journeys. They will expect brands to meet them where they are, pandemic or not.

Customers Require Reassurance Around Safety

Reassurance has long been applied to the customer journey when it comes to payment systems, data security, and the value of a purchase. But now customers are using the “Is this safe for me?” lens to decide who will earn their business.

Safety looks different based on the industry, but customers will be looking for ways both the environment and the employees are keeping them safe. It’s important to show customers just what is happening around safety measures.

Cleaning and sanitizing surfaces don’t just happen when the cleaning crew arrives for the overnight shift. Customers want to see active cleaning happen.

Customers also want to see that employees are not only keeping customers safe but also how their employer is keeping them safe, too.

Customers see employees working extra hard and doing what they can in stressful business situations. Customers care about these employees and don’t want to see them suffer. They want to see that the business they frequent cares about them, too.

In one case, customers of a book store chain reported employee concerns about safety to the media when they discovered management wasn’t listening. Employees were too scared to go public, but their concerned customers did it for them!

Safety is more than just following the protocols. It’s about showing customers your brand is willing to go above and beyond to keep their employees and customers as safe as possible.

Customers Want Choice Around Their Actions

Certain experiences required a lot of effort from customers. Waiting in lines, finding a salesperson, paying via kiosks that didn’t feel exactly clean.

Now customers are seeing more choices around digital ordering, contactless payment, and delivery options that don’t require opening the door or tipping in cash. Businesses quickly determined ways to serve customers that ironically felt more personalized and respectful of their choices.

A local toy store offered virtual shopping and home delivery, when before those were not options. Customers loved the way they could shop while little ones napped and appreciated the honest advice from the knowledgeable staff. Even as the store opened its doors to in-person, socially distant shopping, customers begged them to keep this virtual option available. To add even more value, the store owner and staff began creating age-appropriate recommendation videos and setting aside some inventory just for virtual orders and delivery. The business created a new revenue stream and gained customers who otherwise would shop with the online giants.

Customers won’t move beyond wanting choice just because the next phase says it’s ok to go back to business as usual. They expect choice as a part of their unique customer journey.

Change is indeed all around us. There are so many factors to consider when serving customers. Understand your customer’s expectations to deliver the best experience possible.