Recently, McKinsey & Company released their COVID enterprise recovery plan framework entitled The COVID-19 recovery plan will be digital: A plan for the first 90 days. As the report states, “we have vaulted five years forward in consumer and business digital adoption in a matter of around eight weeks.” Given this evolution, consumers are shifting how they interact with brands on a multitude of dimensions, including channel, volume and frequency.

As McKinsey states, “customer behaviors and preferred interactions have changed significantly, and while they will continue to shift, the uptick in the use of digital services is here to stay, at least to some degree.” Understanding the degree to which your own business is impacted, along with your customers’ attitudinal and engagement shifts, is critical to setting a ‘return to business’ strategy and developing an effective customer engagement plan.

To get a deeper understanding of this approach and how enterprises are actually developing market recovery strategies to address the current ‘Age of COVID’ we spoke with Mark Langsfeld, an expert across customer analytics, CX, social listening and applied AI for an array of industries, including automotive, life sciences, financial services, media and CPG. He currently serves as CEO of mTab, a market intelligence pioneer over the past 35 years.

Setting the Plan

McKinsey lays out a four step plan for a business to effectively emerge from the ‘Age of COVID.’ These steps are largely data-driven and focus on understanding customers and how to educate and align their organization to the same customer “drumbeat.”

The four steps McKinsey lays out include:

  • Refocusing digital efforts to changing customer expectations
  • Using new data to improve operations
  • Selectively modernize technology
  • Increase organizational drumbeat

“These steps are largely aligned with the strategies we are undertaking with brands, however the order does differ,” Langsfeld explained. “First, the focus has to be on integrating current and new data sources to understand the evolution that has happened between the customer and your brand. This guides your strategy and planning around investing in new technology.”

Many brands are already taking the steps mentioned above, however they are focusing on first understanding how isolation has affected customers before setting a plan to change their expectations and deliver on them. This is so that targeted expectations are appropriately aligned with the delivered experience in order to maximize impact. To achieve this brands are relying on a customer experience insights platform to understand a spectrum of customer dimensions.

“The next step is then democratizing this data and customer insight so the entire organization marches to the same drumbeat,” according to Langsfeld. “Teams need to be able to use the same customer datasets to make decisions and set strategies. Lastly, with customer understanding in place, technology enhancements underway, and an informed employee base, the focus then turns to adjusting the business to meet customer expectations, since enterprises can now deliver in terms of their innovation, communication and support.”

Step 1: Using New Data

Brands are recognizing the critical need to overlay complex, diverse internal and external datasets to gain multidimensional insight into the relationships between their customers, products, brand and the impact of COVID-19. Many are relying on a customer experience insights platform that facilitates the ingestion of fragmented datasets from many sources, both internal and external, in order to synthesize it into a single data environment.

According to Langsfeld, these systems secure a single integrated data environment to ensure that the organization is analyzing a single-source of data evidence. The technology prevents analytical issues like statistically irrelevant sample sizes, as an example, no matter who in the organization is performing the analysis.

“Achieving customer understanding entails integrating multiple internal and external datasets to gain insight into the relationships between your customers, products, brands and the impact of COVID-19,” Langsfeld explained. “So, leveraging a customer experience insights platform that facilitates the ingestion of these datasets from many sources in order to synthesize into a single data environment is the first step. If you don’t understand the customer, it’s difficult to anticipate and predict how they behave.”

Step 2: Selectively Modernize Technology

By modernizing an organization’s analytical capabilities with a customer experience insights platform, enterprises gain insight and understanding as to how the customer journey has shifted with their products, channels and overall brand. This enables the business to appropriately develop a strategy to modernize technology platforms at the points where it is needed most.

As Langsfeld said, “For instance, a company may need to develop a new app or enhance its online customer support if customer engagements have largely shifted to digital channels. The first step in this is having clear visibility into the behavioral and attitudinal shifts customers have experienced, so you can engage them effectively.”

Investing in analytical capabilities should be the top priority to understand any business shifts before developing a plan to invest or modify your customer technology capabilities.

Step 3: Increase Organizational Drumbeat

Facilitating broad user access to these analysis solutions across the organization is critical to making sure teams have the intelligence and understanding they need to address their challenges and drive individual strategies.

“Democratizing your data and customer insight is the next step so the entire organization is aligned in the view of your customers,” Langsfeld explained. “Teams need to be able to use the same experience datasets to make decisions and set strategies.”

The distribution of this insight empowers teams across your organization, including Marketing, Sales, Product, Customer Experience, Client Services, Finance, and beyond, to focus on data-driven customer stories that inform their decisions and planning.

Additionally, it’s essential to get employees across the organization ‘marching to the same drumbeat’ as McKinsey puts it, to devise customer-centric strategies while incorporating tactics that focus on the individual and motivate them to engage your brand.

Step 4: Change Customer Expectations

Once the business has a deeper customer understanding and democratizes insights, it can guide decisions and advise strategies across the organization. Plus, having access to real-time intelligence, rather than limited snapshots in time, allows business decisions, strategies and tactics to evolve with the customer.

“With customer understanding in place, technology enhancements underway, and an informed employee base, the focus turns to adjusting the business to meet customer expectations, since your business can now deliver in terms of your innovation, communication and support,” Langsfeld explained.

As McKinsey states in their report, “It’s not just about digitizing. Companies must also reimagine customer journeys to reduce friction, accelerate the shift to digital channels and provide for new safety requirements.” This is why gaining customer understanding is a critical first step business investment. Failing to do so will result in a loss of time, money and customers.

The ‘Big Opportunity’

Before devising strategies for customer engagement in COVID, first understand how your customers’ attitudes and behaviors have shifted due to isolation, digital adoption and fear. A customer experience insights platform is critical in this matter. Engaging this technology allows teams to synthesize disparate datasets, including customer surveys, product data, industry benchmarks and COVID analysis, to connect it all for analysis and visualization. The resulting insight from these datasets can be used to guide decision-making and set strategy around engagement and technology modernization, while also developing cohesive alignment across the workforce.

According to Langsfeld, “There is a big opportunity for businesses to innovate operations and evolve with the customer to deliver exceptional experiences. Getting a complete picture of the ‘Age of COVID’ impact on your customers should be your focus before adopting innovations and evolving engagements. This will not only make your business stronger, it will help it avoid a loss of time, money and customers with ill-advised decisions and poor investments.

“The businesses that focus on data-driven insight, then tackle organizational and operational innovation are the ones well-positioned to gain a competitive advantage and succeed with customers.”

Read more: How to Recover Clients Who Disappeared During the Pandemic