Posted by Gina Mayhead - 15 May, 2020
Right now is the time to re-connect
As we wait for additional clarifications and detail on exactly when and how our shops and services can re-open for business, now is the time to reflect on how you are going to re-connect with your customers.
What does Customer Experience look like now, and how will that evolve over the next few months?
Reassurance and safety
One key criterion all businesses will need to achieve is reassuring their customers that it is safe to interact with them, to come into their branch or store and make their purchase or enquiry. This has two sides to it:
- Practical Compliance incorporating physical distancing, customer flow, personal protective equipment for staff, hand sanitisers for customers etc.
- Emotional Intelligence which includes making the customer feel welcome as well as safe, respect for the individual customer’s risk levels, being helpful and friendly.
I am no expert on store layout so I’ll leave that to the likes of the big supermarkets and the health services to show you how to do it well. A word on PPE and hand sanitisers though. Protect your staff and respect their wishes but do think about the type of face mask or shield you choose to provide them with. It seems to me that there are two routes to go down, the clear plastic shield type or the smaller, usually fabric version to cover nose and mouth.
The plastic one will allow your staff to smile and show empathy with customers. It’s a fact that a lot of customers coming into your business will be nervous or anxious in some way. Being able to use body language and facial expression to reassure has never been more important. Avoid the tendency to go completely stone-faced and looking overly serious.
Yes, things are tough, but lighten up. Genuinely a smile goes a long way and will help your customers relax. YOU NEED TO PRACTISE THIS WITH YOUR STAFF! They will be nervous too. Like any new sales/CX requirement, training and testing are essential to bed it in and make sure it becomes, and stays, second nature.
If you are using the fabric type, which in some ways look less scary than the full plastic visor in my opinion, then think about exaggerating your facial expressions when you are dealing with a customer. They cannot pick up cues like a smile so make sure your friendly demeanour reaches your eyes. Avoid robotic behaviour. Yours is a retail/service environment despite coronavirus, not an operating theatre. Remember you want to encourage customers to come into your business. Don’t scare them off; make them feel welcome but safe.
Ample hand sanitisers for customers and reducing the need to touch surfaces or staff is an obvious one. However, try to frame it as protecting and respecting the customer. It’s all about emphasis. Yes, you need to protect you and your staff but don’t make the customers feel like some kind of hazardous chemical presence. It’s courteous to disinfect baskets, trolleys, door handles, and to offer hand sanitisers. It feels borderlines offensive for a staff member to back away from you and immediately spray themselves with anti-bac. Do what’s required, then deliver your best customer experience.
Everyone is Different
As we already know, a first-class customer experience is not a universal truth. Yes, us CX professionals work hard to establish best-in-class, objective criteria to measure you and ourselves against, and that continues to be completely valid, but don’t forget personalisation and customisation in your sales and service processes.
In the current climate, it’s even more essential to talk to your customer, to show empathy, and to perceive quickly where they are coming from. Yes, you still need to approach, fact find, recommend products, sell a lifestyle/brand, close the sale; but crucially, to make the experience relaxing and enjoyable for them, you need to ask and confirm at every step of their journey through your business that they feel comfortable and safe.
What I am getting at is that people have different attitudes to risk. Some of your customers may be extremely vulnerable (and not obviously so) and require extra reassurance or a much less intimate interaction than another customer who is quite happy to talk to you at length and discuss their requirements. The key is to ask and defer to the individual. This shows true respect, trust and a positive customer experience.
Fun and Innovation
A quick word on fun and innovation in the time of corona. Everyone’s physical worlds have shrunk down to our own four walls. Think about how you can make your sales environment and product offering stimulating. We are a blank canvas right now. Entice us in; show us why we should be spending our money with your brand or business. As well as feeling safe, we need to be excited to come and visit you.
Is it too early to talk about novelty face masks? Could they be another slogan tee or brand extension opportunity? If it fits your brand, have fun with it. Get some smiles printed on, think of some life-affirming messages to put on there. Looks like they might be around for a while. Embrace the creative opportunity.
Measure and Test
Now is the perfect time to train your staff in the new rules of CX. Refine your sales and service processes to incorporate the practical requirements of social distancing whilst making sure your customers feel safe, welcome and fulfilled.
Together we can create a new best-in-class, objective set of CX and compliance criteria to make sure we really are offering customers what they want as we navigate the months ahead. The rules are slightly different but good customer service perfected through personalisation, customisation and a high degree of empathy have always been the holy grail.
If you'd like help working out your plan to reconnect with customers, or to measure ongoing performance in a new world, just drop me a line at email@example.com