As we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic and businesses ramp up to welcome customers into their stores at full capacity, it’s more important than ever to reevaluate and improve on customer experience strategies. Consumers spent the entirety of 2020 getting used to the convenience of home shopping and delivery, and retailers now need to elevate their game to meet new expectations.

We’ve put together a list of five of the most important — and most effective — best practices to deliver the sort of experience customers expect in 2021 and beyond.

1. Prioritize Customer Service Everywhere

Customers should be able to reach you, and they should be able to use their preferred platform to do so, whether that means an old-fashioned phone call or a series of emoji-laden DMs on Instagram. The medium shouldn’t matter, but the messaging certainly does — customer service is key to customer retention, and customer retention plays an extremely important role in growth. That’s why it’s one of our most essential customer experience best practices.

Businesses these days are well versed in omnichannel marketing strategies, but they need to apply the same approach to their customer service efforts. The goal here is simple — be ready to respond to a customer’s needs as quickly and efficiently as possible, regardless of the channel used. While this might sound like an additional load on your customer support team, the truth is that it helps to distribute their workload and let them operate efficiently.

With a good ticketing system, your team can easily see and assign support tickets regardless of their origins. You can also create automated responses for many electronic platforms, and even employ chatbots to help customers self-solve their issues without adding to your team’s workload.

2. Leverage Chatbots and AI

Chatbots are everywhere — and with good reason. They’re great for assisting with customer service, and they also help with everything from lead-gen to boosting overall growth. Chatbots and other AI technology is a customer experience best practice because it reduces the amount of work your actual team members need to engage with, freeing them up to handle the things that absolutely require a human touch.

If you’re already employing chatbots on your website, ask yourself how you can expand their role. And if you’re not using them, ask yourself what you’re waiting for! The past year has really pushed the boundaries of self-service and automation, and the extra convenience isn’t something customers are going to want to give up just because it’s safe to return to shopping in person.

3. Embrace Personalization

One of the many benefits of applying AI to your business is the ability to apply predictive analytics and other advanced algorithms to create unprecedented levels of personalization. Marketers have relied on consumer personas for decades, and new technology AI makes it possible to the extreme. It’s no surprise that the general consensus is that the internet of the future is built on hyper-personalization. In 2021, this is a customer experience best practice you can’t afford to ignore.

What does this mean for your business? It means if you’re not catering communications to the individual consumer, you’re missing out. A simple example of this is the personalized promo offer — a coupon for a customer’s favorite past purchases, or for a customer who hasn’t made a purchase in an unusually long time.

Software makes it easy to do the work here, from parsing vast volumes of consumer data to find trends and identify prospective sales, to creating personalized coupon codes. All you have to do is operationalize it. 

4. Bring Customers Behind the Scenes

Social media introduced the concept of the customer as an insider, but a year of isolation has made it more important than ever. During an extended quarantine, a virtual tour can provide a much-needed escape from the familiar confines of the apartment.

Behind-the-scenes footage helps customers connect with a brand, and a connected customer is a loyal customer who is more likely to provide continued business. Show your fans what day-to-day life is like at your business. Conduct short interviews with employees, put together short videos of your product being created or your supply chain in action. Let customers know that, at the other end of that screen, there are real people behind your business.

5. Create Cohesion Between Online and In-Person

Perhaps the most important customer experience best practice for transitioning back into the full swing of a post-pandemic economy is to ensure all of your digital efforts translate to the in-person experience. There needs to be cohesion. Someone who makes a reservation online shouldn’t have to wait in line in person, and someone who visits your store to check out a product in person should have no problems finding that exact item later when they visit your website to make a purchase.

A great example of a cohesive online/in-person experience comes from Bluebird Auto Rental Software and Move Mee, who created a fully contactless rental process during the pandemic year. Their customers reserve a vehicle online, unlock the car at the rental facility through an app, and drive off without ever interacting face-to-face with an employee. What can your business do to bring this same level of convenient self-service to your customers?

Don’t Be Afraid of Change

As things get back to normal, one thing’s for certain: “normal” will not look like it did before the pandemic. If you’re looking for best practices to improve the new customer experience in 2021 and drive customer satisfaction, contact Qless today.