Freshworks Head ASEAN Business Vinod Chandramouli shares how vendors can harness customer empathy when consumer confidence is low.
By Vinod Chandramouli
While the effects of the current pandemic will continue to ripple through in the next year or so, business organisations continue to pursue different avenues for survival. To navigate dark times, companies that strive for stellar customer experience usually drive higher conversions when consumer sentiment is low. After all, the customer is king.
To ride the downturn, companies are making customer empathy an organisational imperative.
Corporates need to understand that being empathetic does not mean blind obeisance to a customer. It means engaging in active listening first, to determine their actual needs and desired outcomes, rather than just delivering what the client has asked.
For example, how may a vendor help a customer troubleshoot a problem and, at the same time, have an intuitive feel for the customers’ needs – particularly if it is difficult for them to identify the precise nature of the problem?
Understand customers are changing
In Singapore, 37 percent of consumers surveyed are shopping more online as a result of the outbreak, allowing experts to predict that this shift may be long lasting and, potentially permanent.
In addition, according to the data analytics firm Nielsen, winning in omnichannel will be the best strategy. The penetration of users venturing into e-commerce is anticipated to rise continually, as long as COVID-19 is around.
The acceleration of digital transformation in the past year, particularly around social media has made businesses publicly accountable – and praised. Customers reward vendors with tweets, posts, and ratings. Those that do not adapt, do so at their own peril.
The digital divide weak on remote
Across sectors, from tertiary healthcare to the local mom-and-pop store, owning an online identity has become more important than ever. The pandemic has truly delivered a wave that is pushing businesses which are reluctant to go online.
Thanks to all things going remote, the gap between businesses and consumers has greatly been reduced. A strong online presence is now required for every business to stay relevant and also reach a larger and younger audience.
Companies no longer can get away with dictating channels that work for them but inconvenience customers. They have to be on channels that customers prefer to use and, ensure that business transactions are quick and frictionless. The best example is customer support. What once existed only through telephone lines is quickly becoming old hat. Live chats, support on social channels like WhatsApp and Apple Business Chat are now mainstream.
Customers want to be as close to the business as possible and want immediate feedback. In turn, businesses are adapting with the plethora of business tools available that now make it possible – without being cost prohibitive.
Prepare for a value rush
Customers may look closely at ROI, product lifecycles, and feature enhancements before they commit funds. On top of all that, there will linger a key question on their minds: Is there a cheaper alternative in the market? In a world order where there is an overall constraint on spending, companies that come to the market with a diversified product portfolio would be seen as offering more value.
Businesses need to invest in technology that helps them scale. Especially during these times, harnessing new opportunities that allow businesses to be more customer-centric by investing in digital customer experience solutions will help vendors survive.
While predictions about customer preferences are always fluid and influenced by factors that are outside our control, high customer empathy is always a winning go-to strategy, especially when it is couched within complementary, digital touchpoints. For example, when using chatbots, be sure to build it to deliver empathetic responses in real time. This will go a long way to help close the deal.