Customer experience reigns as brand loyalty driver through the COVID-19 pandemic: Study

Prior to COVID-19, just over half (54%) of consumers reported having a better experience shopping online; however, after facing nearly three months of COVID-19, 76% of consumers moved to online shopping for items they would typically buy in store. What?s more, 57% of those consumers plan to continue buying online after the pandemic ends, signaling a potential for permanent change in consumer shopping behaviours, according to Sitel Group?s COVID-19: The CX Impact study. The study analyzes consumer sentiment toward customer experiences, both before and during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Shopping is not the only area where consumers have increased their desire for digital customer experience (CX) throughout the pandemic. When experiencing difficulty with a product or service, more than a third (35%) of consumers would now rather find the solution themselves online than reach out to customer service (up 7% since early March). Furthermore, Gen Zs (43%) and millennials (43%) are nearly twice as likely as baby boomers (27%) to want to find the solution themselves. Additionally, 14% of consumers feel a digital company representative (e.g. chatbot, IVR, etc.) would best understand their request and assist them properly during the COVID-19 pandemic (up 6% since early March), proving tech is key to CX through a crisis. 

?The last three months have challenged consumers and brands like never before, and we are all faced with understanding a new reality: how do we shift from adapting to the crisis to driving a success strategy in this future world?? said Martin Wilkinson-Brown, Global CMO at Sitel Group. ?In this quickly changing world, customer experience is truly one of the only ways for brands to stay competitive within their industries and now more than ever it?s critical to meet consumers where they want to interact with brands. Our COVID-19: The CX Impact study reveals that brands have a short window of time to construct their plan for the future, and consumers are rewarding innovation over passive action.?

The COVID-19 pandemic has turned the CX industry on its head leaving brands questioning how to move forward and struggling to keep up with consumer demand. While consumers have been more forgiving of brands during the pandemic ? just 14% have submitted a complaint (down 18% since early March), when asked how long it took for the company to get back to them and resolve the issue, more than a quarter (22%) never had their issue resolved (up 6% since early March).

Additional findings from the report include:

Consumers are Being Sensitive to the Current Climate When Leaving Negative Reviews and Stopping Business With Brands:

  • Just one in ten (10%) consumers have left a negative review for a brand/company during the COVID-19 pandemic (a dramatic decrease of 30% since early March).
  • Nearly two thirds (63%) of consumers spoke with a customer service representative (e.g., a human being or digital representative) about the problem they were having before leaving a negative review.
    More than a third (37%) of consumers left a negative review during the pandemic because the product/service didn?t meet their expectations.
  • More than two in five (43%) consumers would stop doing business with a company during the COVID-19 pandemic if they received poor customer experience (down 30% since early March).

Consumers Appreciate Brands? Needs to Implement Policies That Negatively Impact Their CX During the Pandemic: 

  • More than a third (36%) view brands more positively because of policies the brand implemented (e.g., longer shipping times, limited hours of operation, etc.) due to COVID-19 that may negatively impact their experience.
  • Nearly half of consumers (49%) have not changed their opinion of brands for implementing these policies, and just 9% view brands more negatively for implementing these policies.

Retail Has Been Hit Hard by the Pandemic and Economic Downturn, But Consumers Applaud Their Innovation in Emerging Tech to Create Better Experiences:

  • The majority of consumers (27%) think the retail industry has been the most innovative when it comes to using emerging technology to provide positive customer experiences (up 12% since early March), compared to:
    ? Banking and financial services (16%) (down 11% since early March) telecommunications (15%%) (down 4% since early March), travel and hospitality (8%) (down 6% since early March) and insurance (3%) (no change since early March).
  • The majority of consumers think that order online, pick-up curbside (48%) has most improved their customer experience with brands/companies during the pandemic, compared to virtual experiences (13%), membership freezes or discounts (13%) or corporate social responsibility initiatives (6%). 
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