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Prioritizing the customer experience is key to accelerating business growth

September 22, 2021

By Larry Faragalli, courtesy of Brightly

As business leaders evolve their digital strategies to align with a post-pandemic world, the customer experience (CX) must become an urgent priority. When McKinsey ran its Digital Sentiment Survey last year, it found that 75% of customers were prioritizing digital channels during the pandemic and would likely continue to use them as the world reopens. During the height of the pandemic, the same research revealed that 75% of U.S. consumers branched out more than ever before, trying different stores, websites, and brands—of that number, 60% plan to continue testing new brands and stores. With this in mind, executives must recognize CX as a crucial component to successfully accelerating business growth. 

No looking back

In 2021, more than a full year into the COVID-19 pandemic, and as the world begins to return to some semblance of normalcy, the CX landscape continues to shift. The way consumers procure products and services has been completely reshaped and there’s no going back. 

As an example, take a look at airports, which continue to improve contactless options for travel. Massachusetts Port Authority CEO, Lisa Wieland, said in an interview with McKinsey, “We’ve been thinking for a long time about how to improve customer experience and the passenger journey … We had to migrate toward contactless [journeys], from how people get to and from the airport to checking in without any paper or, potentially, with a biometric [i.d.] to board the plane. That also means implementing contactless payment methods and working with our concessions to roll out services where you can have food and beverages delivered to you right at your gate.” 

Wieland makes the point that true change doesn’t happen overnight, and not everybody gets it right the first time around. Furthermore, CX is not a one-and-done; your strategy must rapidly evolve with changing consumer behaviors. “Looking back, the advice that I would give myself—knowing what I know now—is that this is a marathon, not a sprint. I would tell myself: prepare yourself and your teams for the marathon and be ready for the course to change,” she added.

CX opportunities are everywhere 

The opportunities for ROI as it relates to CX are vast and span across every industry. For prime examples, look to home fitness and healthcare. Lululemon Athletica, an athletic apparel retail giant, acquired a home fitness device called “Mirror” in Q2 2020. Mirror totaled $170 million in 2020 and is forecast to rise as much as 65% in 2021. “Guests were seeking more convenient at-home options before COVID-19, and they will continue to seek these options post the pandemic,” said Calvin McDonald, Lululemon CEO, according to the transcript from a recent earnings call. 

Peloton, another company that offers at-home workout devices equipped with virtual classes, became a household name in 2020 when its stock quadrupled. These numbers signify that even as gyms and other fitness centers continue to reopen, many consumers will choose the convenience of their newfound virtual routines rather than going back to their old habits. 

Another old routine most people are ready to ditch? In-person visits to the doctor’s office. According to a recent Accenture survey, more than half of patients said they would choose virtual options for basic care services; 62% say they “definitely” or “probably” would receive health and wellness advisories, and 52% would choose virtual for routine appointments. However, for telehealth to continue, healthcare leaders will need to put a greater focus on patient privacy and data security. The same survey reveals that 38% of respondents ranked “concerns about my privacy or data security” as the number one barrier to adoption of chatbots, computers, or digital devices for their health questions and care. 

Brick-and-mortar retailers will also need to reevaluate their CX strategies as consumers have an overwhelming amount of options for online shopping. Retail executives can take a cue from stores like Bed Bath & Beyond, which, thanks to its digital stores, continued to see comparable growth to its pre-COVID sales. Meanwhile, as demand for in-home fitness equipment soared, companies like Dick’s Sporting Goods went above and beyond expectations for growth after adding safe and convenient pickup and delivery options. 

Takeaway

Safety and convenience will remain key factors in customer decision-making, even as vaccination rates increase. These new customer habits will be hard to break. In order to gain an edge, executives should ditch pre-pandemic ways of building customer trust and instead constantly look for opportunities where there are gaps. 

If you want to build a better customer experience, but you’re not sure where to start, contact us to speak with a CX leader. We can help you create and implement a CX strategy that evolves with your customers’ rapidly shifting behaviors.

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