The returning customer: life after lockdown

Online shopping’s boom hardly comes as a surprise. Since the sudden entrapment of different parts of the world under a bell jar, and the closure of all non-essential retailers until social distancing measures are lifted, e-commerce has seen explosive growth. Different generations, including older people, are increasingly finding their way to online stores. For many, it’s becoming a commonplace way to shop.

It is often said that it takes 6 to 8 weeks for people to actually change their behaviour. But when Covid-19 came along, change happened overnight. People altered their behaviour – and have already stuck to these alterations for a few months. So it would be foolish to assume that once governments begin to ease restrictions, we’ll all suddenly return to our old ways of late 2019, when no one had even heard of Covid-19.

The change in customers’ behaviour

Companies across the world have been taking measures at various levels. After ad-hoc measures in the early stages of the crisis, like enabling all employees to work from home, we’re now witnessing a shift to medium- and long-term measures. Which brings us to a key question: Will the world – including customers’ behaviour – have changed irrevocably, or will everything go back to the way things were?

Let’s not delude ourselves: the change in customers’ behaviour won’t be a temporary phenomenon. The question of what will happen to the virus in six months is best left to scientists. But how customers will behave is something we ourselves can predict. Until there’s a solution that allows us to permanently get rid of the virus, we’ll remain cautious. This means digital channels will continue to do well, and customer journeys will remain changed. By definition, these journeys will be different at companies that offer the best customer experience: they’ll be effortless and bring added value, in line with these companies’ brands and consistent with everything else they do.

Ten years from now, we’ll still remember what 2020 was like, as it will have had such an impact on our lives. Many believe this could become a turning point: an opportunity to start doing things differently. And these new attitudes, beliefs and values are giving rise to new behaviours and habits.

Of course, things won’t look as bad as the most pessimistic scenarios predict. No one wants to see brick-and-mortar stores and retailers disappear, and companies will see a large share of their customers return once they get the opportunity to do so.

But two questions remain:

  1. When will customers return, and do companies have the time (read: money) to wait until that moment?
  2. Will we be able to meet our customers’ new expectations?

For most organisations, the answer to the first question is clear-cut: they don’t have the time to sit around and rest on their laurels, waiting for their customers to return. Organisations that don’t have a digital presence yet will have to put the pedal to the metal to bring their digital platforms up to scratch – or at the very least keep up with their competitors. And these competitors could pop up anywhere: we’re no longer solely talking about old-school competitors from the same sector, but also about alternatives that have become available and visible to consumers.

The second question is whether customers’ new expectations will be met. Will companies’ customer experience correspond with the new experiences customers have gained during lockdown? Or, in other words: will your customers actually return to you, or will they jump ship because your customer experience doesn’t live up to the experience offered by competitors, which they now implicitly expect?

At the moment, running out of cash is without a doubt a real danger for many organisations. But companies shouldn’t lose sight of the next challenge, which will be even harder to tackle – namely, offering customers a remarkable customer experience.

What is a remarkable customer experience?

Now, more than ever, it is important to deliver remarkable customer experience. With it you can attract new customers, offer a better service, lose fewer existing customers and generate a higher lifetime value. A remarkable customer experience offers a higher Return on Experience (RoX).

Remarkable customer experience:

  • is consistent throughout a customer’s entire life cycle
  • reflects your brand promise
  • brings added value to both the customer and your organisation
  • is effortless and tailored to each individual situation
  • is unique yet always credible

Watch the video in which Michel Stevens, Customer Experience Expert and Managing Partner at goCX, talks about remarkable customer experience and explains why some companies do very well while others struggle to keep afloat.



A new normal

It’s not so much about what companies want to do over the coming weeks and months, but what they will have to do. Companies that will survive this crisis will not only need to find out what their customers’ needs and desires are and how these have evolved, but also which developments the competition has undergone and which alternatives have become visible to customers. Consequently, companies will have to ask themselves whether or not their proposition and the allure of their services or products are still as strong. With these questions as a starting point, they’ll need to work on delivering remarkable customer experience.

No one has a crystal ball, and no one can predict the future, but a return to the way things were before seems highly unlikely. People will still need transport, fuel, food, entertainment and many of the other things they’ve always needed, but companies waiting for a return to the normal of old will find themselves going bust.

As we head towards a new normal, organisations have a chance to truly put customers front and centre – to develop companies in which people and remarkable customer experience are at the heart of all decisions. We’re at a crossroads today, with the opportunity to re-evaluate our priorities, processes and our value for customers and our organisation, and reshape those into something we can be proud of. Something that delivers sustainable growth. Something returning customers won’t be able to find anywhere else. Something worthy of our brand.