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  • Writer's pictureStephanie Thum, Ph.D., CCXP

Customer Expectations Are Changing. But These 7 Things Haven’t Changed About Customer Experience.

Updated: May 18, 2021

Sometimes it seems like everything has changed in the world of customer experience. But some things will never go out of style.

At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, customer behavior and expectations changed almost immediately. Teams of employees that once worked together in the office every day became virtual teams. Business models shifted. Digital transformation work went into overdrive.

But for everything that has changed lately, it is also true that some things have not changed.

Here are some of those things.

1. Customers still expect fantastic communication.

Communication is fundamental to customer experience. That is still the case. It always will be.

Lise D’Andrea, president of CXE, Inc., pointed this out recently. Lise’s company consults with more than 100 airports on service measurement, training, and recognition programs for airport security, retail, and concessions employees.

In airports, for example, as passengers begin to return, Lise says passengers will expect, among other things, relevant and timely communication—signage, announcements in the airport, and floor decals.

2. Collaboration is still the secret sauce for success.

Success still hinges on people combining their abilities at work, said Heidi K. Gardner, Ph.D.

Dr. Gardner is a distinguished fellow at Harvard Law School and author of the book: Smart Collaboration: How Professionals and Their Firms Succeed by Breaking Down Silos.

Dr. Gardner’s focus is on client success in law firms, but her points apply across business sectors.

“Together you can come up with a holistic point of view on clients and greater solutions than one individual can, working alone,” she said. “Be proactive and collaborate with customers, too.”

3. Customers still expect to be heard.

There are only a couple of things worse than not asking your customers for feedback. Asking and not following up is still one of those things.

Last year Gene Sutch’s team at the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA) started aiming for a two-day turnaround time to resolve questions for customers who reached out via the MWAA website. Those would be the customers who use Reagan National Airport and Dulles International Airport in the Washington, D.C. area.

Gene’s team uses a customer relationship management (CRM) platform to facilitate the customer response process. The CRM also stores answers to customer questions that managers can reference later if needed. Gene’s team also triages their performance toward that two-day turnaround goal.

4. Customer inclusion still matters and has evolved.

Customers still expect inclusive service, beyond handicap accessible parking, building ramps, and compliance with laws. Now, practicing inclusion means eliminating bias from the artificial intelligence (AI) that powers your IT systems.

Eliminating bias in your AI systems must be a priority, said Matt Nolan, Senior Director of Product Marketing, AI, and Decision Sciences for Pegasystems. It doesn’t make sense to be biased against someone who can be a great customer, “but bias can sneak into your systems.”

A customer’s zip code, income levels, and geography can contain built-in bias. Organizations must be careful with how they interact with customers. Internal AI governance practices should take bias into account.

“Otherwise, your brand reputation can eventually take a huge hit,” Matt said.

5. Customers still expect simplicity.

Customers still want to work with organizations that make their lives easier, not more difficult.

Fancy webinars and slick e-mail marketing campaigns may be fun to create, but nobody has time for voluminous e-mails and websites filled with jargon and technical terms. Companies still need to find ways to:

  • Reduce procedural red tape.

  • Simplify website navigation.

  • Clarify invoices.

  • Harmonize content and policies across channels.

  • Organize digital content in a simple way.

  • Write customer communications in plain language.

Simplicity still sends a message to customers that “we respect your time and we’re on your team.” That message never gets old.

6. Saying “thank you” to employees is a timeless practice.

Saying thank you and complimenting an employee’s good work will never go out of style. Demonstrating appreciation is a good habit to get into, particularly for leaders who are navigating the complexities of building trust with virtual and hybrid teams.

Studies confirm that teams need to trust each other for the cash register to ring. Leaders can build and spread trust by showing appreciation for employees.

7. Trust is still at the heart of what makes an experience an experience for customers.

Customer trust is about more than what is happening in your digital channels.

I recently shared with Dom Nicastro an example of a citizen showing up at a COVID vaccine appointment that had been booked online, hassle-free. But upon driving to the clinic and showing up (early, even!), the customer was turned away because the clinic had run out of vaccines.

“You will have to book another appointment online,” a nurse told the customer.

By the way, the customer was me.

The digital experience didn’t fail. But the behind-the-scenes collaboration and employee communication processes did, which means the customer experience failed. Why didn’t someone call, text, or e-mail me before I drove 30 minutes each way for the appointment? And if I go “book another appointment online,” will the same thing happen again?

Trust is complex. It can also be built or broken from something as simple as the language used on an internet log-in page, confusing acronyms on a sign, or jargon on an application form. There are no easy or simple techniques for building trust with customers. That’s why building customer trust is still a day-to-day endeavor in business.

What else hasn’t changed?

As much as the world and customer expectations have changed, plenty of things will stay the same. What would you add to this list?

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