2021 was a year of big change in almost every aspect of life and it has had  a transformative effect on the business world. As things start to return to normal, business owners will find that there have been some major shifts in customer expectations, and we’re here to shed some light on what these could be, in order to help you adjust and succeed in this new era. 

During the recent pandemic, many businesses failed to survive as a result of the strict measures put in place. Employees had to work from home for a significant period of time, in order to stop the spread of the virus in the workplace. Not every business was able to adapt quickly enough with new digitised forms of communication. Similarly, many experienced a major loss when it came to their customer base as everybody was asked to stay home in multiple lockdowns during the height of the virus’ threat. 

It would be a commendable achievement for any business to find their way around these huge challenges and come out on the other side unscathed. As a result, competition amongst businesses became far less fierce with a few big, established names monopolising the market in many industries. However, times are changing and things are slowly returning to normal, making way for huge opportunities for new businesses to take the spotlight and make the most of this record level of demand. This leaves companies with the new challenge of needing to innovate in order to stand out amongst new comers with fresh ideas who are not burdened by their existing structures and can respond immediately to the new demands of customers in 2022. 

In many cases, businesses will have reorganised their staff bodies as result of the challenges posed by the pandemic; creating a more efficient workforce. This, in turn, will have forced them to review the effectiveness of the roles that their company is split into, and those who fill them, therefore improving profitability and customer experience. Furthermore, businesses have had to introduce innovative ways to communicate internally in order to unite a remote workforce, and provide digital platforms for customers trapped in their homes. 

However, there is plenty more to do if you want to stay ahead of the trend and beat your competition. Effective communication needs to remain a priority as customers now expect excellent levels of convenience and efficiency when it comes to meeting their demands. You need to focus on providing an omni-channel customer experience which provides multiple options when it comes to communication. One phone line is no longer likely to facilitate a healthy cash flow or happy customers; you need to start considering other options such as call centres, responsive email accounts, a live chat feature on your website, apps, and even making the most of smart technology as a communication gateway for your customers.

Luckily, b2b businesses are also responding to the new challenges companies are facing in 2022, meaning that affordable solutions can be found to help facilitate this change in communication strategy. For example, Cymphony provide a big team of experienced, expert call handlers that business can outsource their phone lines to on a pay per minute basis, helping them to avoid the cost of having to hire a significant number of full-time staff to meet new demand. Similarly, they also have live chat agents available if you do choose to integrate this option into your website. Bear in mind that live chat is the most popular form of communication amongst customers in the UK thanks to its ultimate convenience factor. Cymphony’s virtual personal assistants can also help to manage email accounts and are available round the clock.

Improving the efficiency of your business can help to minimise customer interaction while still profiting from them. For example, meeting customer expectations initially, such as sending out results on time, reduces the number of complaints and attempts to chase, leaving your communication team free to catch and convert any new leads.  Speed to lead is key in a time where businesses are fighting over a wave of returning consumers, and 78% of customers would choose the company that responds to their query first. The days of being able to get away with not dotting the is and crossing the ts are over and customers expect an excellent service consistently, so take the time to ensure that your business and staff are performing to the best of their abilities. 

We’ve touched on the importance of convenience in the 2022 market already, but it’s important to emphasise the weight of a strong digital customer experience going into this new era. Not only have customers become accustomed to being able to access anything at the touch of a button, they are now facing a record rise in fuel costs, meaning that they are less likely to travel out to shop in person. With so many customers now turning to online services before anything else, the best way to ensure that it is your business they choose is to create a great digital platform for them to use. Invest in improving your website; making sure it is simple, easy to use and easy to navigate whilst leading customers to important information such as new deals, campaigns and other sales messages. You could also consider creating an app that will help to make the customer journey even more convenient and succinct. 

That said, the new focus on digital communication is argued to have resulted in the human connection with customers being lost. This is something customers expect and want, even more so after so many months of feeling isolated from the rest of society, so make sure that this is another of your priorities. One way to achieve this is by investing in customer service experts such as those provided by Cymphony, as they understand the pillars of great customer service. Two such pillars are listening carefully to and empathising with the customer. They’re unlike other call centres who tend to give the opposite impression, and this is also achieved by ensuring that they blend seamlessly into your business. 

When it comes to live chat, opt for real live chat agents rather than bots, as it will give your customers comfort knowing that you value them enough to dedicate time and resources to them. After all, only 9% of customer would choose a chat bot over a human to handle their customer service needs. Similarly, take your time when deciding on things like customer compensation; treat every case individually to avoid appearing as though you’re a faceless conglomerate. 

One of the new challenges facing businesses, now that we’re learning to live with Covid-19, is the focus on protecting the data and privacy of customers. Since the growth of personalisation in marketing, through tools such as cookies, customers have become far more aware of how the information they share is being used. As a result, there is now a growth in focus on customer retention rather than concentrating purely on attracting new leads. A key aspect of this is, of course, excellent customer service; helping your customer feel valued and know that their loyalty if of paramount importance to you. As more and more businesses come to be, in light of the gaps in the market left behind by the failed companies of the pandemic, it is more important than ever to protect your customer base. 

Furthermore, as a new era dawns in the wake of a pandemic, that highlighted the many flaws in how businesses had previously been functioning, customers now expect brands to be more purpose driven. This means that customers are looking beyond the products being sold to them, to investigate the ethical and moral stance of the company which, in turn, lends weight to the likelihood of them making a purchase. The latest generation are known for their more inclusive and environmental considerations, in fact, over half of gen zers would favour socially conscious brands, so it is important to meet their expectations if you hope to gain their custom. Consider how you can give back with the money you make from them, whether that’s donating to charities, planting trees, or whatever you feel will resonate most effectively with this new audience. 

In addition to much improved levels of consciousness, the customers of 2022 are also more careful about where they spend their money as a result of the challenges they faced in the last few months. Many people suffered a loss of income or lost their jobs altogether as a result of the closure and restructuring of so many businesses, so they no longer take their income for granted. To help them grow in confidence as consumers, you could consider how you could reprice your products, and take greater care in convincing your customers when it comes to the true value of your products; helping them to understand why they could be making a great purchase. 

And one final expectation from 2022 customers is a need for more safety and health conscious business environments. Whether they are purchasing a product or service from you, the fear born from the rapid spread of the coronavirus is far from alleviated, so putting measures in places to ensure that customers feel comfortable visiting your premises is important. Think one way systems, the availability of hand sanitiser, maximum store capacities, and contactless delivery just to name a few of the options available to you. 

To conclude, it’s fair to expect some big changes in customer expectations as we make our way into 2022. In response, communication, both internally and with your customers, needs to be a priority. Twin efficient operations with excellent customer service and you will be able to provide the heightened customer experience that has come to be expected. Focus on convenience too and you’ll meet expectations easily, with the help of outsourcing which will aid you in your endeavours to make major improvements without your wallet taking a hit. Keep in mind that customers need that personal touch more than ever and that retention of existing customers is growing in importance, as new challenges begin to face marketing departments. Adjust prices where possible to take into account the drop in disposable income that you should expect from the vast majority of consumers, and double up on health and safety measures to encourage customer confidence.

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