Reports

Customer Experience
COVID-19 Business Research

July 2020

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High level Summary

We asked CEO’s, senior executives and managers from our extensive database for their thoughts on the Covid-19 crisis, how it has affected their business and its future impacts. While many answers were what we expected, there were also a few surprises.

The Demographics

  • 61% of respondents run businesses that supply essential services, while 39% were from businesses supplying non-essential services.
  • Respondents came from 19 different industries and from both the private and public sectors.
  • They were fairly evenly split between businesses that are B2B, B2C and B2B2C, at 40%, 33% and 27% respectively.
  • They were also evenly split between large organisations and SME’s, with 34% coming from businesses with more than 1,000 employees and 45% from businesses with less than 100.

Impact of Covid-19 on business

  • 85% of respondents agreed that the pandemic has influenced how they think/feel about Customer Experience, while 89% agreed there is value in an efficient and flexible CX strategy.
  • 95% agreed that trust and confidence plays a big role in how customers perceive their business.
  • 88% of respondents agreed that the pandemic has forced them to think creatively about how they connect with customers.

Notable comments

  • “It’s also been important to show care and understanding and to make sure this doesn’t come across as trite.”
  • “Positive human interaction & quick problem solving & responsiveness will make for strong customer loyalty.”
  • “Front line workers have been elevated in the mind of customers so the interaction with customers by staff is
  • even more important than before.”

Customer behaviour

  • 91% of respondents agreed that customer behaviour would change post-pandemic, with 81% thinking this would mean reduced spending.
  • 79% agreed that customers will expect greater automation and digitalisation of services.
  • 92% disagreed that “nothing will change”.

Adaptability

Most respondents thought their businesses had been able to adapt to the changing needs of customers. 50% felt this had been done “with some difficulty”, while 29% said it had been easy to adapt.

Business & Supply Chain

82% of respondents said Covid-19 had caused either “manageable disruption” or “massive disruption” to their business and supply chain. Only 5% thought it had caused no disruption.

• Education & training, hospitality & leisure and tourism were the most disrupted industries.

Budget spend on CX and future investment priorities

  • Despite respondents overwhelming recognition of the value of CX, 40% of businesses had reduced their CX spend due to the crisis, compared with 23% that had increased spending.
  • However, those from industries most severely effected were more likely to have decreased their CX spend, suggesting this was something forced on them by reduced revenues.
  • 17% of respondents identified CX as one of their top two investment priorities.
  • The most widely identified investment priority was “digital transformation and automation of services”, selected by 32% of respondents.

Drop in sales figures

  • 75% of respondents reported that their sales figures had dipped since the start of the pandemic, with 34% saying they were down by more than half.
  • 14% of respondents said their sales had not reduced at all.
  • The worst impacted industries were automotive, education & training and hospitality & leisure. 

Government assistance

  • Only 29% of respondents reported that their businesses had applied for or received government assistance.

Hindsight

  • In terms of the most important lessons learnt by respondents, 100% agreed that good leadership is critical in the face of a crisis, while 98% agreed that empathy is key to retaining customer support.
  • Otherwise, 77% of respondents agreed that their company should become more flexible and agile and 83% thought their company needed an efficient CX strategy.

Future focus

  • Asked to rank areas of future focus by importance, a majority of respondents felt the most important areas are “digitalisation and automation of services”, “focusing on getting ‘real voice of customer’ so we can keep on top of market sentiment”, “strict hygiene and sanitation practice” and “Re-thinking how we work – reduce office space and allow staff to work from home.”

Trends

  • A majority of respondents felt the most important trend for moving their industry forward would be “empathy in better understanding our clients”.

Notable comments from respondents concerning future trends

  • “Product innovation to fit changing times.”
  • “Having a CX strategy.”
  • “Social media has seen an increase in usage to voice customer opinions and get their message across.”
  • “The debate between automation and human engagement will continue and I remain convinced that appropriate automation will win out.”
  • “Staff training is crucial – positive interaction in terms of addressing our customers needs & problems needs to be a top priority.”

a) Is your business regarded as an Essential Service during the Covid-19 Lockdown

b) Which of the following sectors does your organisation fall into?

c) Our organisation is predominantly:

d) Our business employs:

e) My age is:

f) I am employed in a (position):

If Other, please describe your role: Specialist / Consultant

g) I am responsible for the following region:

1. The Covid-19 pandemic has influenced how I think/feel about Customer Experience.

2. We have been forced to think creatively about how we are connecting with our customers (share examples if possible).

Examples

Automotive

  • We have had to think outside the box - our customers receive the product which is utilised by many different drivers - we have had to come up with solutions of sanitising all vehicles on a daily basis.

Consulting

  • We utilize online learning and communication apps.
  • Zoom / Skype.
  • I was already thinking about it.
  • The power of relationships, partnerships...

eCommerce

  • We still interact in the same way. It’s business as usual even though it’s not from the office.

Education & Training

  • All live events have been cancelled, decimating my income. Haven’t really figured out webinars yet, but most people seem to be offering free content, so how do you charge?
  • Sales team have moved from face to face meetings to have either telecons or virtual meetings. We now offer the theory component of our training virtually and the practical is still face-to-face with very stringent PPE and Covid policies in place.
  • Multiple video conferencing platforms, virtual classrooms, much more frequent and flexible communication plans.

Engineering

  • Less face-to-face interaction, internally as well.

Financial Services

  • Much of our previous interaction with our customers was telephonic or via email hence there has been little change in methods of connection.
  • Moving to digital rather than face-to-face. Bringing information to customers more regular basis. Reassuring customers all is okay
  • Had to put things in place for call centre to operate from home, to have continuity.
  • We had to ensure that we provide solutions to enable clients to work from home. Apart from that, it was business as usual for us.
  • Virtual meeting platforms, webinars, social media servicing growth, new communication preferences, media, more web, app and chat reliance, revised contact and physical details for customers since no longer in offices.
  • Using Zoom for meetings.
  • Remote Connection with customers / Ramp up digital capability / Digital signatures.
  • With the SAPO not working, we had to revert to a lot more emails. Internally utilizing video conferencing and WhatsApp.
  • Need to reduce physical contact in an environment that has had high physical usage.
  • Online Engagements are now the norm. Also deciding when to use the video and when not. Regular contact is essential and thinking how we not only connect emotionally, but also how we solve and assist where possible.

Government & Public Sector

  • How we engage technical meetings, how we conduct joint meter readings, how we conduct service level evaluations

Hospitality & Leisure

  • Assuring guests that we have their safety as top priority
  • We are an event hiring and manufacturing supplier. Most of our client engagements are face-to-face. We have completely shifted this to the digital sphere, focusing now on digital meetings and mock-ups.

Information Technology

  • Most of our services have been re-designed to accommodate people who are unable to come to our offices and vice versa
  • More home deliveries and conference call meetings

  • Keep in constant contact with clients

  • Interacting with Customers. Solving client queries. Addressing failure points through the use of IT and video conferencing
  • Very productive online meetings
  • Making sure to connect on a p2p level is more important now and doing so in a personalized manner is more important than ever. The type of message that we deliver also needed to be adjusted. The development of sound relationships with your brand community has become the focal point.

Insurance

  • Heightened level of engagement required. Frequent comms required
  • Self-service, enablement and personalised / remote support

Logistics

  • We found information session via Zoom incredibly valuable for our customers.
  • Social media and telephone calls have increased.

Outsourced Services

  • Limited face to face exec to exec engagement. On-line meeting platforms have been used exclusively (TEAMS, Zoom, Skype)
  • Electronic mediums have been used extensively and will change the way we communicate going forward. Might be a bit impersonal (which would have to investigated and worked on) but quite effective overall.
  • Email, cell phone and Teams/Zoom calls rather than face to face communication.
  • Setting up regional and national WhatsApp groups for real time engagements / Weekly zoom and Teams calls.
  • Virtual meetings, digital documents & processes.

Retail

  • Need to find ways to connect without the real human engagement. With everyone distancing and wearing masks, it’s really difficult to build relationships with customers.
  • Consistent, clear & positive messaging has become terribly important. It’s also been important to show care & understanding & to make sure this doesn’t come across as trite. Safety needs to be a top priority in our stores & the workplace to give everyone a feeling of confidence in us as a customer. Positive human interaction & quick problem solving & responsiveness will make for strong customer loyalty.
  • Front line workers have been elevated in the mind of the customers so the interaction with customers by staff is even more important than before
  • We don’t have online so it’s been challenging to communicate with customers. We have used our windows and social media to welcome customers back etc.
  • Travelling a no go so we connect online

Transport

  • Far more interaction over social media and through other electronic mediums such as MS Teams, Zoom and Skype

3. We are placing increased value on real-time data to understand the attitudes and perceptions of our customers.

4. We see how trust and confidence plays a big part in how our customers perceive our business.

5. We see the value in having an efficient and flexible CX strategy in place.

1. I expect client or customer
behaviour to change, post Covid-19

2. Customers will expect more automation
and digitisation of our services

3. We expect reduced spending from our customers, or cancellations of non-priority services

2. Customers will expect more automation
and digitisation of our services

We have been able to adapt to the changing behaviour of our customers

Covid-19 has impacted my business and supply chain in the following ways (retrenched staff, supply shortages, drop in sales, profit loss, etc.)

Covid-19 has impacted our budget spend allocated to CX.

Covid-19 has impacted how we prioritise spend.

Please select which most applies to your company: (the top 2 investment priorities)

If other, please specify:

  • Consulting - Mergers & Acquisitions
  • Government & Public Sector - Ensuring continuous supply of water 24/7
  • Outsourced Services - Spending priorities right know are 1.) existential and then, 2.) shareholder value. We’ll review investment priorities when we have satisfied 1 and have some degree of clarity on 2. I will be surprised if more than a few respondents can honestly answer any differently.

Our sales figures have dipped since the lockdown period started by:

We are estimating that profitability in our financial year 20/21 will reduce by:

CX in the face of a crisis: What are the business lessons you learned
since the start of this global pandemic?

a. My company needs to be more flexible
and agile in its business practice.

My company needs to have an
efficient CX strategy in place.

c. My company needs to communicate more
efficiently with its customers.

d. Empathy is key in retaining customer support
in time of crisis.

e. Good leadership is key in the face of a crisis.

Going forward our company will focus on:

(Please rank the following factors on a scale of 1 to 8, where 1 is the most important and 8 is the least important)

The following CX trends will have a major impact on moving my industry forward / attracting and retaining customers:

(Please rank the following factors on a scale of 1 to 5, where one is the most important and five is the least important)

Automotive

  • We have to look at our business in a different light.

Consulting

  • I think face time is equally important for those who expect a personal approach, rather than RPA.
  • Product/Service Innovation and Reconfiguration.
  • Awareness regarding change and the way that we are able to adapt...
  • Performance Management and training interventions will have to be reviewed and adjusted to meet the current environmental requirements and these will have to be driven by HR and CX.

Education & Training

  • Access to continuous professional development in rural areas where internet is not available or poor connections.

Financial Services

  • Do you mean moving industry or company forward? If company, market intelligence (competitor information) is important.
  • Product innovation to fit changing times.
  • For us we focus on reducing failure demand, i.e. need for clients to contact us because something broke.
  • Shared value.
  • Digitisation.
  • Segmentation, specifically from B2B perspective.

Government & Public Sector

  • Having a CX Strategy.

Health Care

  • Being dynamic and adapting to needs as swiftly as the lockdown levels changed.

Hospitality & Leisure

  • Developing ways of adapting the product to appeal to clients post Covid.

Information Technology

  • Artificial Intelligence etc.
  • Too early for trends as we still don’t know the full impact on business yet.
  • Changes in customer behavior will only become apparent in next three months.
  • We need to be aware of what trends are new, but understanding our clients better and using various sources of data to derive insights from, will act as a lens to view trends as they start to occur.

Contact

For more information on how we can assist you with your customer experience
strategies and turn your team into service-driven champions, contact nlighten today.

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