Changed consumer behaviour and new expectations will need to be taken into account when delivering quality customer experience in a post-COVID world.

“Over the course of the pandemic, consumers have become more accustomed to digital interaction and have grown more wary of mass communication, all of which impact the way the travel industry views the consumer,” said principal consultant at The CGV (customer, guest and visitor) Experience, Darryl Erasmus.

“I think it’s important that we talk COVID-19 and what this pandemic has done to the relationship between the consumer and provider.” He defined ‘customer experience’ as the way a consumer felt before, during and after transacting with your business, and said the pandemic would have changed this experience.

Traumatised

Darryl’s first point of changed consumer behaviour is that, due to the pandemic, operators and suppliers will be dealing with consumers who may be traumatised. “There are so many people who have a family member or a friend who has been affected by the virus and, unfortunately in our sector, many people have been impacted from a work perspective.

“All of this has made people feel vulnerable,” said Darryl, citing research he had done showing mostly the younger generation reporting feelings of anxiety and general pessimism following being confined to their house.

Customer trust

He added that customer trust would have a large part to play post-COVID. “There has been a lot of scepticism built up in the consumer space with regard to what information we can trust.” He explained that the misinformation surrounding the pandemic had made consumers examine things more critically.

“Importantly, and this has got a very interesting impact on the way in which people engage with businesses they choose to shop with or buy from, is that 71% of people in a study carried out by the Edelman Trust Barometer, said if they perceived a brand to be putting profit over people, they would lose trust in that brand forever.”

Sense of community

Darryl qualified that consumers wanted corporations to care about the well-being of employees and create a sense of community.

Digital enhancements

He also touched on the technological upgrades consumers would expect operators to have in place, namely electronic payment options. “Payments can be a significant hurdle in the customer’s path to purchase,” he said, emphasising that customers would be sceptical of the reliability and overall security of the payment systems.

He said the pandemic had accelerated digital development and consumers were increasingly comfortable interacting via digital channels than in person or telephonically.

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