Customer service has changed. Covid-19 was the most significant ‘black swan’ event of our generation, with few businesses able to accurately predict the onset of the virus and even fewer equipped to deal with the eventual fallout. Due to its influence, we saw mass layoffs, lockdowns, and the largest economic contraction since the Great Depression all become the norm. In 2020, organizations weren’t looking at growth, they were looking at survival.
2021 is a different story. Whether it was in an end to restrictions, returning to the office full-time, or a newfound appreciation for the physical retail experience, 2021 has largely been viewed – as predicted – as a year to rebuild. Notably though, this does not mean that we should or even wish to return to a pre-pandemic customer service standard.
For many of us, life at a slower pace has illustrated new ways to purchase, experience and engage with the world around us, such that the customer of the pre-pandemic bears little resemblance to the post-covid consumer. The contemporary buyer expects that the brands that they engage with will engage with them more meaningfully, so to what extent must the modern seller engage with the contemporary buyer?
How has Customer Service changed in 2021?
B2B – For a great deal of 2020, B2B selling was hamstrung by external pressures that limited our potential to control external factors. Buyers are understandably wary in 2021 and this has led to widespread change in the purchasing process. For example, it’s not unforeseeable that the buying process can involve up to ten decision makers, all looking for solutions which provide a greater degree of personalization and control. Additionally, more millennials are stepping into senior leadership roles, and these tech-savvy individuals prefer to access the information which pertains to your company on your website rather than lengthy sales calls.
In 2022, B2B sellers need to better develop and position their message for an increasingly uncertain world. There are many ways that we can look to do this but increasingly, creativity is seen as one of the most effective means of driving value, whether that be in your marketing, amongst employees, or in the executive suite. Throughout the course of the pandemic, we’ve seen brands try and fail to embrace this quality, but if one thing is for certain, you can’t afford to blend into the background. Explain who you are and what you believe in passionately and unapologetically and support will often follow.
B2C – When it comes to B2C, now more than ever, the consumer wants to feel safe and that a brand has their best interests at heart. This was a primary concern for retailers as they started to open up again earlier this year and it’s broadly one that we’ve managed to address with ongoing mask, sanitizer and distancing measures. In large part, this issue has given way to the far more pressing concern of how brick-and-mortar outlets hope to compete with their ecommerce competition.
The best means of retailers combatting ecommerce sites is by providing consumers with the very thing that they could not find last year, an experiential offering which focuses on them first and foremost. Ultimately, we’re all tired of being sold to and we all crave human interaction that is both engaging and earnest. To this end, we need to provide more training and technological touchpoints in-store which can help us to better drive meaningful interactions both during and post-purchase. Only in doing so can retailers provide an effective customer service.
It isn’t hyperbolic to suggest that Covid-19 was the single greatest disruption to business-as-usual since the financial crash of the late 2000’s and whist we’ve always expected salespeople to be adaptable to the world around them it isn’t enough to hope that these staff members can simply learn to pick up the slack.
Current business requirements have demonstrated just how necessary it is that we enhance skills across the organization and in a report from McKinsey, 87% of executives said they were experiencing skill gaps in the workforce or expected them within the next few years. When we consider the importance of agility in the modern workplace, this simply has to change and leaders must prioritize ongoing training programs to help keep employees safe whilst also helping them to add value to the needs of a consumer that are increasingly difficult to nail down. Customer service has changed, it is time that we do too.
Read our more extensive RevGen Spotlight report here: “5 CSOs on the Sales Strategy Plan of the Future“.
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