Customers and Employees Are Now Firmly in Control – How Are Great Companies Responding?
2021 has been one of the most disruptive forces to hit the way we work since the rise of desktop computing, offering customers and employees more freedom and choice than ever before. The balance of power in terms of loyalty now firmly sits in staff and consumer hands, as remote working expands employment choices exponentially and products and services can be accessed anywhere, at any time. Businesses have been quick to move operations online to deal with the lockdowns globally, and now find themselves in the most competitive markets we’ve ever known.
Great brands have already realised that they need to accept that customers are making up their own desires, wants, needs and letting them know through behaviours, data and spend. Plus, they will quickly move on if left unsatisfied, leading to loss of loyalty and customer engagement. Employees are equally as important – setting out their own contracts of flexible working and how they want to work and when. Employers need to step up and smell the proverbial coffee – it’s time to accept things will never be the same again.
Research conducted by Stravito found that 76 per cent of UK businesses are set to overhaul customer engagement strategy due to COVID disruption – that means old busines-focused strategies are out and customer centricity is in. Data-driven insights are a top priority for them in 2021 and 83 per cent agreed that improving communication and relationships with customers will be critical to their business growth this year, says Sarah Sarsby, 2021.
“In this pandemic era, connecting to consumers on a ‘human level’ is more important than ever, and demonstrating empathy and understanding with customer concerns and needs is imperative. This process must start with comprehensive market and consumer research to help inform business strategy and understand exactly how consumer behaviour and expectations has adapted over the course of the very eventful last 12 months.” Thor Olof Philogène, CEO and Co-Founder of Stravito
Retailers like supermarkets have been at the coalface of working through and navigating the pandemic. They’ve had to deliver in very challenging circumstances. Despite this, they aren’t taking customer loyalty for granted and have had to adapt to continue to create trust in their customers. It’s all about getting the basics right. Marketers have had to change to a fully digitized realm of sales and marketing in 2020 as traditional methods became obsolete. They’ve also had to make sure their premises feel safer than ever; customer expectations are higher both online and in bricks and mortar environments.
“Great customer service starts before a customer has even entered the supermarket. It’s the little things that matter: Are your floors, windows, shelves, aisles, parking lot, and restrooms clean? If you think about it, customers may either openly or subliminally assume that dirty facilities equal low quality and overpriced products. Are your shelves always well-stocked? Finding the products they want and need, gives customers the feeling that there is no reason to shop elsewhere. Is your staff in place and ready to serve? Are your cashiers efficient in their records? Customers can shop in your supermarket for an hour. Still, when it comes time to check out, we have to be quick and efficient in the checkout process; customers hate to wait, so you have to train your staff accordingly.” Julio Ibañez, Abasto
Doing the Same Great Work for Employees
Interestingly, a recent survey by Howden Employee Benefits and Wellbeing found that employee engagement has improved in some ways during Covid-19. Their research indicated than over half of the employers surveyed believed that employee engagement within their organisation had either improved slightly (36%) or significantly (16%) during one of the most difficult business environments in living memory.
Where employees have to be in the office, businesses need to be delivering a safe and comfortable place to work. That means more regular cleaning and social distancing protocols. Much like customers however, loyalty needs to be driven digitally especially for those working from home as a result of the pandemic. Business2Community have observed “dramatic shifts in peoples’ acceptance of and preferences toward all things digital—evident by increases in online and mobile shopping”. This means that employee rewards must also be digital whenever possible, and employers need to be on top of what employees want and need now.
What’s good for the customer is now certainly good for employees.