New precedents have been set this year on every stage of our social, professional, private and cultural lives, and fresh examples of ‘the new normal’ have emerged nearly every week as we’ve adapted amid COVID-19. Our latest consumer research, however, shows one thing has remained constant: the importance of delivering fantastic customer experience. 

Eighty percent of customers tell us the experience a business provides is just as important as its products or services. But the demands of 2020’s massive and rapid shift to digital presented new challenges even for organisations that excelled at delivering amazing CX. How could they deliver this experience in times of crisis? 

Our fourth State of the Connected Customer report helps answer that question with data and insights from more than 15,000 consumers and business buyers. 

Here are the highlights.

Values are put to the test and trust reaps rewards

Our research has shown for many years now that earning the trust of your customers is critical to an ongoing and successful relationship with them. Throw in a global crisis, and trust becomes a spotlight brighter and more searching than ever before.  

Ninety per cent of customers say how a company acts during a crisis demonstrates its trustworthiness and a whopping 99% say companies need to improve their trustworthiness. 

Customers are increasingly interrogating the values of the companies they do business with, with 82% agreeing that a company’s trustworthiness matters more than it did a year ago. They want transparency around what a company’s values are and how they are demonstrated. The pandemic and powerful social movements such as Black Lives Matter have put those values to the test
 


And 61% say it’s hard to earn their trust | SEE THE FULL STATE OF THE CONNECTED CUSTOMER REPORT >>

 

The companies that stick to their values even when it could impact the bottom line are rewarded with customer loyalty. And that’s an increasingly difficult resource to come by, with 61% of customers saying it’s difficult for a company to earn their trust – seven percentage points higher than in 2019. 

Our report includes a telling list of business improvements generally needed, according to customers. Sixty per cent say trustworthiness is a major need, followed closely by environmental practices at 55%. Product improvement comes in fourth with 46% of customers saying it’s a major need – and social practices nips at its heels with 45%. 

Companies that demonstrate their values are in a strong position to connect with customers who are seeking organisations they can depend on and feel good about aligning themselves with.

Empathy isn’t just for friends and unity wins the day (and the customer)

We know that customers expect a personalised experience. But this year of crises has upped the ante with customers now also expecting a demonstration of empathy and understanding. People facing unexpected challenges and hard times need a seamless digital experience that adapts to their changing needs. 

Scalable empathy presents a significant challenge for organisations striving to create meaningful, sensitive, relevant experiences for their customers. Add to that challenge the fact that the data organisations could use to help create an empathetic encounter is being shared with rising reluctance from an increasingly wary customer base. In fact, the share of consumers who feel they’ve lost control over their personal information has risen dramatically over the past year – from 46% to 61%. 

A unified approach in which sales, service and marketing departments are truly aligned and share a single view of the customer can go some way to providing the reassurance customers want that they are not just a number, but an individual with unique needs. 

“Disconnected experiences used to inconvenience customers,” notes Tiffani Bova, Growth and Innovation Evangelist at Salesforce. “They still do, but they also cause so much more damage in our current environment because they signal insensitivity.”
 

And the businesses that take this opportunity to reimagine the entire customer experience will come out on top | SEE THE FULL STATE OF THE CONNECTED CUSTOMER REPORT >>

 

The delivery of connected, unified CX – a moment of straightforward certainty in ambiguous and uncertain times – has never been more critical to business success. With 76% of customers expecting consistent interactions across departments and 54% saying it feels like sales, service and marketing don’t share information, this challenge presents a unique competitive opportunity to businesses that are prepared to respond. 

Most organisations are well on their way to complete digital transformation. But the pandemic has forced many to supercharge that journey. Eighty-eight per cent of customers expect companies to accelerate digital initiatives because of the pandemic and 68% agree that COVID-19 has elevated their expectations of brands’ digital capabilities. Fifty-four per cent want to see companies introduce new products or services in response to the pandemic.

“To me, this really drives home the point that yes, digital transformation is essential, but we need to think about it as part of something bigger,” observes Brian Solis, Global Innovation Evangelist at Salesforce. “The companies that use this moment to understand not just how to digitise their existing businesses, but how technology can drive new, innovative experiences that set them apart will prove more resilient as we move into the next normal.”

The challenges presented by customers who want a new level of personalisation in their digital experiences, from companies with values that stand up under pressure, are significant. But they do present opportunities to business leaders with innovative approaches to make these insights work for them. 

Dig deeper into the data and insights revealed in our report. Download the Fourth State of the Connected Customer

Vala Afshar is Chief Digital Evangelist at Salesforce.