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Customer experience: how to improve it during the COVID-19 pandemic

By Jake Smith

Since the pandemic disrupted normal life in early March, industries of all kinds have struggled to recover, even as reopening plans rapidly progress across the country. Small businesses have had to overcome perhaps the greatest challenges to serve their customers throughout the tumultuous last few months.

Uncertainty for the business climate in the near future is marked by low consumer confidence but strong recovery recently in retail sales

Businesses can take steps to respond to the present situation with leadership and openness, providing customers with an experience that, though likely different from the past, may be better for our future.

Customer experience: reflect on the situation

Just as businesses have struggled, the customers they serve have also been impacted by the pandemic – from financial difficulties to complications related to coronavirus itself. 

The typical customer base for any given business has likely depleted significantly, as many opt to stay home, increasingly go online for purchases or avoid discretionary spending entirely.

It is important for businesses to acknowledge the situation from both a business and a consumer standpoint – it helps to be on the same page as customers by reaching out and when possible, providing support. 

Businesses should work to understand where they fit into their customer’s lives and fulfill that role with concrete, actionable steps to keep customers satisfied and comfortable. A newsletter can be a great way to stay in contact with your customers and keep them updated on the steps you are taking to make their interactions with your business as safe and smooth as possible.

Ensure that your business follows COVID-19 guidelines, and optimize your physical space to keep customers spread out and limit unnecessary interactions between employees and customers. Invest in proper safety measures to protect your employees and customers, including hand sanitizer, countertop sneeze guards and masks and gloves to be provided to employees and customers.

Keeping customers engaged

As consumers go online, it is vital to follow and keep pace with the current trends. 

Even as physical business continues to recover and reopen, the increase in e-commerce spending has likely accelerated the looming decline of traditional brick-and-mortar retail. It is more important than ever for any type of business to establish and maintain a strong, consistent online presence to engage new and returning customers.

Consumers have been forced to reevaluate their own spending habits, and it is the perfect time for businesses, especially local businesses, to take leadership positions within their communities. 

Given the present situation, coronavirus-related messaging can be a positive way to reach out by showing customers how a business is ensuring the safety of the consumer and promoting safety in their communities. This can be done through messaging on social platforms and in-store through signage or posters. 

Take time to strategize what your business wants to be as a member of the community, but stay true to what your business is really about, or customers will see right through it.

Adapting to the new normal

Businesses should not be afraid to adapt based on their recent experiences, as it may take some time for things to return to the way they were pre-pandemic. 

There are many resources locally to assist your business moving forward. It is on you to ensure employees are trained and prepared for new challenges related to the customer experience and the business itself must adapt to its customers’ new experiences. 

The bottom line: Communicate with your customers. Keep their best interests at the forefront and let them know how you are adapting to best serve them. 

The Campaigns and Storytelling Teams at the 1893 Brand Studio can help you build and leverage your social platforms to help your business shine through the pandemic.