Across all sectors, whether B2B or B2C, there has never been a greater need to understand your current digital technologies, digital customer experience capability, and to identify the opportunities to reduce risk, control costs, protect market share as well as identify new ways to serve customers, partners, donors or beneficiaries. Here we’ll address the different stages of this crisis from a digital experience point of view and look at the four emerging digital experience patterns.

As with any major changes, there are stages through which organizations, like individuals, go through to initially come to terms with, and then learn to positively adapt to the new conditions. One way to frame it might be by describing that process across these three stages – the first of which, of course, most of us passed through in March and April:

  • React (0-10 weeks) where businesses assess the immediate impact and put in place measures to protect and maintain services. This react stage includes rapid response to customer demand, scaling digital experience operations to shift essential services to digital, working from home, furloughing staff, and ensuring technology can meet the new emerging demand.

  • Respond (2-4 months) where businesses stabilize operations, build muscle and process around new ways of working, reforecast around new revenue and budget realities, and those most able to be responsive to the new environment will have a big advantage. This stage includes a reassessment of customer service priorities, securing new supply chain arrangements, building out digital roadmaps for the coming 12 months, auditing and enhancing existing digital marketing and customer experience technology, becoming more experimental and prototype driven, and making the most of new ways of working.

  • Reform (6-18 months) where businesses need to build upon the foundations of the previous stage and use their new flexibility and stability to boldly identify and lean into new opportunities. New digital experience strategies will need a deep understanding of existing and potential technology options, improved integration, etc. Few can yet predict the lasting level of change we will need to adapt to, but the winners will be those who can identify and respond to new opportunities quickly, improving existing and building new services in the digital space.

There are four digital experience patterns emerging however, things we can make sense of, and build upon. Here are some we have noticed among our customer base and industry:

  1. Uncertainty is the new normal - no one really knows how things will change in the coming months and years. Some aspects will change far more than expected, while others may return to near pre-Covid normal within a few months. The capability to identify and innovate around opportunities, often with a digital customer experience emphasis, is going to be a critical factor in future success.
  2. We are doing business in a new era of caution, and trust is key as customers will spend less frivolously while employment is uncertain. Winners will understand the value of great customer experiences on and offline, and the power of advocacy and recommendation from trusted sources. As it stands, 54 percent of B2B organizations define their customer relationships as strained, developing or non-existent, which means organizations have their work cut out for them to be a trusted source during this time.
  3. Digital is now established at the heart of the end-to-end customer journey, and the working practices to deliver it. We can expect it will be awhile before we are shopping or meeting normally in the workplace again, and many businesses will discover huge efficiencies and risk mitigation in transferring to digital platforms for key service delivery interactions and ways of working together. Much of these new behaviors will stick and become part of the new normal. When Episerver surveyed 600 global B2B leaders in March 2020, nearly 75 percent said their company has a customer-centricity gap, meaning the digital experience they offer does not meet their customers’ expectations.
  4. Blending digital with face to face will be pivotal in the customer experience - these encounters need to really matter. Physical customer experiences have become less frequent, due to reduced capacity in stores and other buildings, and therefore these need to be more strategic to be more memorable and effective. Customer experience must be built around digital.

There will be many lessons to learn in the coming months, and it will be down to digital leaders to spearhead the necessary adaptation alongside colleagues at all levels of the organization. Winning organizations will be the ones that strategically commit to investment and agility across technology, capability, and process, placing digital customer experience at the heart of customer service as well as internal processes.

Episerver and Netcel are hosting a virtual round table for digital leaders to collectively explore the challenges and opportunities businesses face as the world emerges from Covid-19 lockdowns. Click here to join the discussion.