The term “Experience Economy” is not a new concept and was first used in late 1990s. The concept predicted the experience economy would be the next economic revolution, following the agrarian, industrial and the service economies.
It further said that businesses must create memorable events for their customers such that the memory itself becomes the product; the “experience”.
Though countless brands and businesses are already building and capitalizing on the experiences being delivered to customers, managing this becomes more important in times of crisis and pandemics, such as the current one. The current COVID-19 pandemic has also enabled nearly all the businesses to capitalize, review, enhance or build their digital experience, strategies and propositions.
Given the current situation, themes such as #RemoteWorking, #SocialDistancing, #StayHome and others are the “new normal” and have become part of our lives; with no one knowing till when!
But one thing can be said for sure is that in these times it is increasingly important to think of the experience economy from the perspective of humans; not just customers or consumers (the chief reason as why I haven’t used the term “Customer Experience” so far!). It is an imperative to understand their concerns, fears, and approach towards the pandemic. It is also equally important for the brands or businesses to help the “humans” during this phase of their lives.
In the wake of COVID-19, some business such as airlines and tourism have down sided while others such as online retailing and hygiene related have grown manifold. But irrespective of the magnitude of the impact they had faced, all businesses need to consider the below in order to support the behavior change.
Empathy and Comfort
Empathy is the need of the hour as people feel vulnerable in such times. It should be treated as an experience rather than a feeling! Though the initial “panic” phase of the crisis is over but people need to be comforted and assured, rather consistently.
People will remember brands and businesses for their acts of generosity. Several banks are alerting customers against suspicious payment requests and waiving off or deferring payments. A classic example is that of the FMCG giant Unilever in Asia who are promoting the use of soaps in general, including that of competing brands.
Other businesses are showing good by celebrating the front liners in this pandemic and depicting them as heroes. Some are even providing tips as how to make most of the time spent indoor. In general, people do recognise authenticity so all activities need to show their essence in true spirit i.e. non-commercial.
In times of crisis and non-clarity, people seek answers to a plethora of questions and rely on intuition and surroundings in case they do not get what they are seeking.
This often adds up to the confusion. Therefore the key is to be proactive and reach out to people before they do. Airlines are extending the reservations or keeping them open for future use. Hotels are refunding the bookings and notifying the customers. This helps in building trust and pacifying the aura of confusion and anxiety.
Adapt to New Social Norms
The physical experience also matters and businesses must learn and adopt the new normal. People stepping out are cautious and expect a different treatment when entering brick and mortar stores or institutions such as banks or hospitals.
Use of masks, maintaining social distance, body temperature checks, availability of hand sanitisers or gloves for customers entering the premises and better overall hygiene are expected. The checkout and payment modes are also becoming increasingly contactless.
Adopt and Enhance Digital
A seamless experience is already expected from businesses from all the service channels but in times of crisis it might not be possible to do so.
Some channels are overburdened such as the direct ones which include contact centers. The key is here to diversify the modes of contact and activate other channels such as social media, chatbots and whatsapp. The response time need to be adequately managed for this.
It is not only important to push the use of digital but deliver on its expectations as well. Daily purchases are becoming increasingly online; even automotive manufacturers are offering home delivery of vehicles.
Another way the digital channels are being utilised is by providing online coaching and consultations, which is being done by medical and educational institutes. The capability of the channels can also be enhanced; for example, a Chinese online delivery service shows the body temperature of the rider on the app.
There is uncertainty as to when this pandemic will subside. We are in the accept-and-adapt phase of this crisis but we also have to plan for the post COVID-19 world.
Once the world is out of this, it would have definitely learned some key lessons and would have disrupted various established norms of doing business. People will remember and recall their experiences however only those will be on the top-of-mind which helped them live and navigate through this pandemic.