Post-Covid customer expectations

Person standing on a jetty by a lake

Person standing on a jetty by a lake

Customer experience Post-Covid customer expectations

Published on 27.09.2022 by Stephan Lamprecht, journalist

The pandemic has seen a transformation in customer expectations of retailers. There is no doubt about this among the experts. The importance of customer experience (CX) in retail has become even more important.

But what constitutes a positive customer experience post-pandemic? What do customers expect from retailers? A whole series of studies and surveys have looked at these questions.

Convenient, local and sustainable

Capgemini, in cooperation with the IFH Köln research institute, has drafted a thesis paper. “Retail of the Future” provides a basic assessment of the current direction of the retail industry. The basic assumption, which can be proven with current sales statistics, should make online retailers happy, because it predicts that customers will buy even more online than they currently do. But this will be without the double-digit sales growth of 2020 and 2021. Nevertheless, there is still hope for high-street retail, because the study also concludes that people will continue to shop in physical stores if these are also interlinked digitally.

According to the study, customers want three things from both sales channels:

  • Convenience technologies: such as self-service supermarkets or 24/7 stores.
  • Local stores/services: local high-street retail in particular suffered during the various lockdowns and Covid restrictions. Customers are aware of this and have focused on local offers. However, this aspect will continue to be difficult to implement, especially online.
  • Sustainability: Consumption of resources during manufacturing, working conditions or information on product origins are becoming more important for many customers. For some, however, convenience and price remain more relevant.

Companies such as Freshworks and Zendesk conducted surveys to take a closer look at customer expectations in the area of customer service. The results show that customers have developed higher expectations in this area. This includes accessibility, response speed, quality of responses and number of channels. At the same time, the pandemic has probably also led to greater understanding for support staff. Customers treat service employees with more empathy. This could be due to their own experiences of working from home. However, this empathy also has its limits. If companies disappoint with their service, customers will migrate to another provider. Customers seem to find it particularly annoying to have to repeat the same request multiple times when contacting a company.

The best way for retail to respond

The customer desire for convenience can be met both online and in high street shops by making the customer journey and the purchasing processes as quick and smooth as possible. Obstacles and annoyances must also be eliminated here. In high-street stores, this includes queues at cash registers, which can be reduced with self-service solutions. In online stores, critical assessments also always reveal room for improvement. This can include an inadequate range of payment methods, unnecessary or illogical form entries or confusing or poorly described returns processes. Flawless processes go a long way towards creating a positive experience. The only thing that helps here is testing, testing and more testing. This applies in particular when new features have been rolled out in the system.

The example of customer service shows that consistency of experience is also important. Regardless of the channel via which customers express their concerns and wishes, they should receive high-quality responses and reactions. To enable this, employees involved in the processes must be able to access the same information. This is the only way to ensure they can continue to process customer concerns initiated via another channel.

Creating a 360-degree customer view

To meet customer expectations, you need to develop a 360-degree view of the customer. While this term has now become a marketing buzzword, it means little more than the ability to create a comprehensive picture of each customer. This includes the entire customer journey – from the initial contact, through to the order, delivery, payment and possible complaints. Customer Relationship Management (CRM), regardless of the software you use, remains extremely important. And only those who can conduct critical assessments of their processes will find room for improvement.

Good CRM often fails because too many different systems are used that share too little data with each other. In the event of a query or complaint, customers should not have to explain which order they are talking about. So support staff should have access to the order history. It is just as unhelpful when newsletters or other means of communication offer products that customers have just bought anyway.

In short: Customer expectations increased even further during the pandemic and the bar is set high – so retailers have to try even harder.

Stephan Lamprecht, journalist

Stephan Lamprecht has been following e-commerce developments in Germany, Austria and Switzerland for two decades as a journalist and consultant.

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