Most brands were already in the midst of a digital transformation before the pandemic, but social distancing caused a tectonic shift in priorities, making customer experience a strategic imperative. More specifically, customers migrated to digital channels of engagement as their first preference, and brands needed to deliver a seamless experience. From grocery deliveries to Zoom calls, people found themselves more dependent than ever on digital experiences to stay safe and connect with their communities.
And that reliance is here to stay: With questions about COVID variants and future outbreaks still unanswered, brands must evolve to be digital-first businesses, focus on the customer experience to stay relevant, and keep pace with rapidly evolving customer preferences, motivations and expectations.
Now, the key consideration in customer journeys—whether it be using Buy Online Pickup in Store (BOPIS) or curbside retail pickup, visiting virtually with a healthcare provider or making financial transactions without ever setting foot in a local bank—is the “last mile” of the customer experience. This is where the focus of the experience has shifted away from customers coming “inside” to the “outside.”
Imagine, for example, that you are driving through your favorite fast-food restaurant. An intelligent device detects your license plate, correlates that to orders placed in the past and allows you to personalize your order. The device then processes your payment automatically using the card used for prior orders, accelerating your drive-thru process. This is a service design that is highly optimized and personalized; it demonstrates the “art of the possible” with innovation in the last mile of CX.
Let’s unpack some more examples as we think about emerging use cases in different industries.
Digital makes healthcare more accessible
While use of telehealth peaked in April 2020, it has stabilized at levels 38 times higher than before the pandemic, according to an analysis by McKinsey & Company. COVID-19 has fundamentally altered patient behaviors and expectations, with 40% of people saying they will continue to meet with doctors virtually in the future.
Telehealth still has a long way to go before it is universally adopted, but forward-thinking healthcare organizations can take steps now to design a more digitally accessible experience to deliver what patients are looking for in a few key areas:
- Care at home: With providers now able to leverage enhancements to wearables and other devices to remotely capture blood pressure, heart rate and other vitals, digital care at-home kits have become feasible. This democratizes access to care for those who can’t make it to the nearest healthcare facility.
- Digital care summaries: Digital records of patient summaries, including benefits such as automatic prescription refills with pickup reminders, streamline the patient experience by consolidating information.
- Pricing Transparency: Patients can access a seamless experience that informs them of the cost of a healthcare service before receiving care. Currently this experience is broken and fraught with post-care billing surprises.
Financial services embrace hyper-personalization
Financial institutions that have already found success with digital banking and contactless pay can take it a step further and use their digital experiences to foster loyalty. They can do this by better understanding customers’ needs and interests and leveraging digital tools to address them.
For example, millennial and Gen Z customers—who are younger and still on the path toward building wealth—have a growing appetite for financial education, and digital budgeting apps like Mint, Goalsetter and Cleo are maximizing this trend with personalized financial insights. By offering hyper-personalized products and services, financial institutions can build stronger relationships with new and existing customers.
Retail reimagines itself, digitally
Perhaps more than any other industry, retail has felt the effects of supply chain disruptions and changing consumer expectations due to COVID-19. Retailers have revamped loyalty programs, rolled out admin tools for franchisees and more, but the vast majority of them can—and should—take the digital experience further. There’s a wealth of untapped opportunity, for example bringing browsing to curbside pickup—enabling customers to select products they’d like try during a curbside appointment.
Major events that change peoples’ everyday lives have a way of creating moments that matter that can bring us all together in spirit. COVID-19 has forced us to connect in new and innovative ways. Technological advancements, including 5G and IoT, create touchpoints for digital engagement that bring new expectations and opportunities. These innovations have the power to change the customer experience landscape for the better after the pandemic has ended, allowing for more convenience and a greater brand connection for consumers.