2021 Preditction


a customer experience newsletter

(this week’s newsletter is a 5-minute read)

Journey is a weekly newsletter from Y Meadows that curates the best thought leadership at the intersection of technology and customer service.
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4 CX Insights from Isobar

In This Week’s Newsletter

  • Forever Changed
  • A Recalibration
  • An Exit at SAP

Forever Changed

The first days and weeks of the pandemic forced companies to initiate significant changes to their customer experience. Nearly a year later, with the risks of exposure still high in the U.S., many of those changes have become habits. And because habits tend to stick, even with vaccine rollouts, many industries face a changed landscape for the future.

So how can your company recalibrate for a changed world? Timothy Calkins of The Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University offers tips for companies looking to adapt their customer-experience strategies for the long haul.

Customer Interaction Post Covid

Take Stock. Which Changes Are Likely to Stick?

Calkins advises companies to first take stock of the profound changes in their customers’ daily lives and figure out how those changes will realistically impact their business over the next months and years.

  • “You have to ask your company, ‘What’s now changed in our world? And what does that really mean for us in terms of how we go to market and how we interact with our customers?’” he says.

Take the hospitality industry.

  • With people eager to get out of their homes, there are early stirrings of a recovery in vacation and resort travel.
  • But business travel still has not budged. The Hilton and Sheraton hotels in downtown Chicago, which traditionally cater to the city’s business clientele, remain shuttered.
  • “For business travel to really happen you need two people available to meet, and right now nobody is available to meet,” Calkins says. “And there’s no indication that’s going to happen for a very long time.”

Even when those hotels do reopen, Calkins sees them having to adapt their marketing efforts to new customer priorities.

  • For business hotels, this shift will include a new focus on safety and cleanliness.
  • Moreover, hotels that previously packed grand lobbies with restaurants and shared workspaces, or that hosted large conferences, may need to rethink how they use those spaces—at least in the medium term.

Embrace the Online Customer Experience

With much of life having shifted online—and much of it likely to stay online for the foreseeable future—it is time to ensure that the online customer experience is just as carefully designed as the in-person one.

  • Before COVID-19, for instance, most grocery shoppers made purchasing decisions in the store, choosing products based on what they saw, touched, and compared on the shelves.
  • As a result, companies invested in shelf-placement plans, in-store promotions, and point-of-sale merchandising to drive visibility and sales.
    “Now, so many people are ordering online,” Calkins says. “So the whole decision process is different for customers.”

This means if grocery stores and other retailers want to steer customers toward certain products, they will need to incorporate promotions into other parts of the experience.

  • Some grocery stores have begun adding free product samples to customers’ online orders, for instance.
  • And don’t forget the importance of the last mile. Reliable, quick, and safe pickup or delivery is now squarely a part of the customer experience: mess it up (or do it worse than your competitors) and your customers may start shopping elsewhere.


Customer Interaction Post Covid


Recalibrate the Customer Experience

There’s no doubt that the in-person customer experience has taken the biggest hit from COVID.

  • “For many retailers, that retail experience was always so important,” Calkins says. “It was fun and exciting, with lines of people and cool music, and that helped define the brand experience. Now, if you even go into the store, it’s more of a solitary experience and it’s very different for brand building.”
  • Still, it can’t be all hand sanitizer and no swag—particularly for brands that have strong emotional appeal, and where customer service tends to be less transactional and more relational. These companies need to be particularly creative about brand-building.

And Finally, Take the Best of Both Worlds

Above all, it’s important to remember that a constantly changing environment means constant opportunities to learn and adapt. Eventually, as the dust of a new, post-COVID reality settles, the organizations that experimented will have many more tools at their disposal.

  • “When constraints go away, or we are met with new constraints, all of a sudden we can try new things,” Calkins says. “This can lead to new ways to connect with customers, new product offerings, new opportunities, and things that hadn’t been considered before.”
  • “Everyone’s been forced to do things they never planned to do,” Calkins says. “And what we’ve learned is that a lot of these new techniques let you do things that were never possible before: things that in so many ways are far superior to what we used to do. You look back and you wonder why some of these ideas had trouble taking off before?”

4 CX Insights from Isobar

Snacks for the Road 🍿

  • Visa Would Like a Word [Link]
  • The Great Compromise [Link]
  • Optus/Google Partnership [Link]
  • An Exit at SAP [Link]
  • A Case for Civility and Simplicity [Link]
  • Qualtrics IPO [Link]

A Penny For Your Thoughts…

“Branding Through Customer Service: Over the years, the number one driver of our growth at Zappos has been repeat customers and word of mouth. Our philosophy has been to take most of the money we would have spent on paid advertising and invest it into customer service and the customer experience instead, letting our customers do the marketing for us through word of mouth.”

Tony Hsieh
Deliver Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose (2010)

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