Here’s what we are learning about customer feedback during the crisis. Customer behaviors are changing in the short run and may change permanently. Keep in mind that our work is B2B clients (e.g., Caterpillar dealers, AGCO, Blue Bird Bus, Thomas Bus, among others).
A few weeks ago, when the coronavirus threat became more apparent, we changed our surveys. We changed the introduction to acknowledge the danger we all face. We also asked a question about any specific needs or requests the customer had of the dealer or OEM. If the customer had a problem or a need, we tagged the survey, and a notification went to our client.
Three things we are learning from this customer feedback during the crisis:
1. Customer expectations have changed and continue to evolve
Several customers mentioned they wanted quicker and easier parts delivery because they are short-staffed, or they do not want their staff to take unnecessary trips. In some situations, our clients modified their delivery approaches to accommodate customer needs. Online parts buying is becoming more critical. Customers will increasingly expect that parts store to be accurate and easy-to-use. The longer this virus threat is around, the more critical that online presence is.
Virtual buying is becoming the new normal for many things not purchased that way in the past. For example, take buying a car. In a 2018 study by Cox Automotive, 83% of consumers indicated they wanted to do one or more of the car-buying steps online. This virus threat is only likely to speed up the adoption of online car sales. Tesla, Carvana, and others are proving the power of selling cars online. More will follow!
A home window replacement company is promoting its app for providing an estimate. Using the app, you take pictures of the windows or doors for replacement. The company takes the information, calculates the numbers, sizes, and types of windows and provides you a quotation—all without having anyone visit your home. I suspect this approach will continue after the pandemic is behind us.
2. Communication with your customers is more critical than ever
“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place,” George Bernard Shaw.
We learned when we started probing for ways our clients could help customers in these challenging times. We heard numerous questions about hours of operation, availability of services, etc. Our clients communicated this information and assumed their customers heard and understood. Customers, on the other hand, made assumptions about service availability, hours of operation, etc.
Especially in times of uncertainty, the need to communicate is even greater. We all have regular appointments that we assume will happen, no matter what. For example, early on in this pandemic, I had a regularly scheduled dental checkup and had made a mental note to go. It is likely I would have shown up had not the dental office sent a text asking to reschedule until later in the year.
Our team has answered and continues to answer a lot of basic communication questions. Even in the best of economic times, effective communication is challenging. In times like these, do not assume that customers know as much about your operations as you think, Communicate, communicate, communicate, to make sure there are no illusions.
3. Customers will give feedback even now
Initially, we were concerned that customers would not give feedback because they had other issues to face. They were more than willing to talk. Customers often complimented our clients for the jobs they were doing to help them stay in operation. They acknowledged client employees who were practicing proper social distancing and safety practices to keep them safe. Moreover, customers noted locations and situations where safety practices were not being followed. Most importantly, many customers expressed gratitude for the relationship they had with our clients.
Now more than ever is the time to let your service shine. Keep talking with your customers. You will likely discover new ways to serve your customers that will outlast this pandemic. Don’t make the communication an illusion. Make it valuable and keep it going.
If you have customer feedback stories during this crisis you would like to share in an upcoming edition of Success Strategies, send me an email.
Thanks, and be safe.