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Business

Re-Imagining the Customer Experience—Post Pandemic

Written by, Gerri Knilans, April 2022

Every day, digital transformation professionals face the challenge of retaining customers in a post-pandemic environment. From cosmetics to children’s toys to banking, the mantra has not changed from Peter Drucker’s message: “Know Your Customer.” But knowing today must be faster. And deeper. And both more sensitive and intuitive.

Part of the answer lies in digital transformation, but simply installing it without attending to it is insufficient. This is especially true in banking. S. Kumar Ghosh, a globally renowned technology and product executive for one of the largest U.S. banks, knows first-hand how important customer loyalty and retention are. He, like others involved with digital transformations, cannot afford to guess what the winning customer experience will be in an industry that has seen massive changes since Covid-19 altered the world. One of those changes according to an Accenture 2020 global banking consumer study claims “29% of respondents trust their banks to look after their long-term financial wellbeing, compared with 43% two years ago.” To recapture customers’ trust requires strategic insights and the recognition that “No one size fits all.”

How is the customer experience changing?

Early in the pandemic, it became clear that digital banking would be the answer to managing consumer transactions safely. Mr. Ghosh notes that banking demand varies by age, gender, income, etc. As such, some consumers were forced into the digital experience, and some weren’t necessarily comfortable there. To implement a more personalized approach to meeting customers’ needs, Mr. Ghosh identified three core groups of banking customers for marketing purposes. These apply to other consumers as well. They are as follows:

  • Tech-savvy customers, who love everything related to technology.
  • Traditionalists, who value technology but also love the human touch.
  • Technology sceptics, who don’t trust technology.

Before the pandemic, customer groups were clearer. Tech-savvy folks were willing to do all their transactions online. Traditional customers, however, tended to go to their brick-and-mortar stores but might mix in the online experience. The sceptics? They had the hardest time. As the pandemic eased retailers, including banks, scrambled to see how many folks would continue to prefer the digital experience. Digitization saves money for the banks and other retailers, but it also makes it easier for customers to change vendors if they perceive that they are but an electronic blip in a vast database. “Each financial company fights for market share against other banks and faces the gorilla ‘neobanks’ and fintechs such as Chime, Robinhood, Venmo, etc., which have no real estate or bank branch infrastructure to protect,” says Mr. Ghosh. The answer is to have a personalized approach for every customer group.

Personalizing an impersonal digital experience

How is this done? By customizing encounters. First, each digital channel includes a tailored-to-the user, interactive network of mobile devices, desktops, and tablet computers, aided by Artificial Intelligence (AI) and cloud computing. Each interaction must exude transparency and trust. Second, understand your customers’ needs deeply; use cutting edge technologies to gather feedback at different service points.

An October 18, 2021, Forbes magazine article says banks will become invisible in the future and argues that it’s not simply customer experience that keeps customers but rather a specific offering that individuals seek. An example is a fintech (not strictly a bank, but a player in the industry) that protects overdraft protection for no charge. Another one offers early access to funds for paycheck direct-deposit customers. These are not strictly customer experiences, yet they add to the overall satisfaction and sense of security in an insecure post-Covid-19 world.

Trust varies across the globe. And post-pandemic data security will take on higher importance. Demand for services with personal touch will increase, so it’s important to create the right customer experience. A drop in customer satisfaction can result in business loss. For one of the world’s largest retailers, Mr. Ghosh’s group created two game-changing, innovative and trend-setting credit card application paths by factoring in where the customer was and how they would interact before creating the experience. He noted, “We offered a credit card to customers in long checkout lines. But typing in patrons’ details on a screen took time, and any data entry errors would increase checkout time, creating a negative experience. To overcome both objections we scanned the customer’s driver’s license, prefilling all the credit applicants’ details accurately. Here’s another convenience he introduced. “When lines were shorter, or customers seemed suspicious, our team offered them a way to text a number to start the application process. That saved time because banks could use applicants’ phone number for various verifications, including fraud prevention.”

Leveraging the CX

In a post-Covid environment, the customer experience will be defined by increasing digital interaction across multiple channels. Banks and other retailers will become essentially invisible, but skepticism may increase if businesses do not address data security with unwavering care and complete transparency. At the same time, as businesses leverage customer service initiatives, they must weigh them against the rising costs to do so and decide how technology assists like Artificial Intelligence, cloud computing, and digital tools will help with both the illusion of higher personal interaction through proven feedback loops while lowering costs to provide it.

The most innovative establishments will be the winners. They will create their customers’ experiences in collaboration that delight and gratify their stakeholders. Not, “You tell us.” Nor, “We’ll tell you.” Instead, “Let’s figure this out together.” Because what works today might be different tomorrow. In the scheme of things, we need to know what, when, and how people want their retail transactions at every point throughout their lives in our changing world. As we advance, all our institutions, including governments, will need to be flexible, attentive, innovative, and collaborative.

About the Author:

Gerri Knilans is president of Trade Press Services, a strategic marketing communications firm. With more than 40 years’ experience, Gerri has been recognized as a thought leader and top marketing professional by ABC, CBS, NBC and FOX. She is a frequent author and podcast guest who covers strategic marketing, sales and customer service topics. For additional information, please visit www.tradepressservices.com or email [email protected].

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