Taking a customer-first service approach during unprecedented times

Research shows that investing in the customer relationship in times of difficulty will be repaid by enduring customer loyalty
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The rapid outbreak of COVID-19 has presented an alarming health crisis that has affected almost every aspect of our lives here in the U.S. and around the world. There are significant commercial impacts being felt locally and globally, affecting the way organizations engage and interact with their customers.

For example, firms are having to make significant changes to how they operate at an unprecedented pace. In these turbulent times, they are rediscovering their sense of purpose, innovating rapidly and getting closer to the communities they serve–underscoring the fact that corporate social responsibility is now fundamental to how many successful companies operate today.

Investing in the customer relationship

Research shows that taking a “customer-first approach” and investing in the customer relationship in times of difficulty–such as the COVID-19 pandemic–will be repaid by enduring customer loyalty.

The 2020 KPMG U.S. Customer Experience Excellence (CEE) report, which identifies the top performing brands and industries in terms of customer experience based on a survey, found that brands that were able to continue to transact with their customers in the COVID-19 environment performed better than those that were unable to. It also found that brands that used technology, including AI, to transfer the in-store experience online reaped the rewards of customer loyalty.

“Leaders in our 2020 index are purpose-led companies with deep connective customer relationships, offering online experiences that are immersive, emotionally connective and safe,” according to Julio Hernandez, U.S. Customer Advisory Practice lead at KPMG LLP. “With the move to online accelerating due to COVID-19, the nature of the relationship between brands and their customers has changed.”

Uncharted territory

As the COVID-19 situation becomes more complex, how and when companies should lend support is still uncharted territory. Unlike disaster relief, there is no playbook or roadmap. However, companies must continue to keep their employees’ trust, understand evolving consumer and community needs, and provide products, services and resources when appropriate.

We are already seeing companies innovating rapidly to cope with the uncertainties ahead. For example, working from home may become the new normal as companies find unique ways to respond to customer needs through a virtual, rather than a physical, team-based approach. There is little doubt that COVID-19 will irrevocably change the way businesses will compete over the next decade.

The Six Pillars

The CEE report utilizes Six Pillars of experience that explain how companies navigated the new environment and how they performed in terms of customer experience. Organizations that master the Six Pillars grow more quickly, manage costs better, and make people happier.

High performing customer experience leaders scored high across the following Six Pillars:

  • Integrity, acting ethically and demonstrably in the customers’ best interests
  • Resolution, focusing on proactively addressing customer problems
  • Accurately setting customer Expectations
  • Reducing the Time and Effort customers need to expend by enabling frictionless digital and, where possible, physical interactions
  • Delivering a Personalized experience 
  • Empathy and compassion

Connecting with changing needs of customers

The KPMG Denver office has developed and is implementing a technology solution that is a good example of focusing on the customer experience during this time of uncertainty. This tech solution was developed to help a number of financial services clients successfully navigate through the entire national Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) being administered by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA).

Since the PPP program involves a long and complex process, there is the potential for customers to feel disconnected and “in the dark.” It’s also stressful for customers due to frequent changes to the PPP loans from evolving legislation. That’s why it is so critical to remain flexible, innovative and focused on the Six Pillars, which enables the KPMG Denver team to connect with customers successfully. 

To provide a better customer experience and to reduce processing time, KPMG has designed a cloud-based and tech-enabled self-service loan application management solution for several clients to streamline the process.

Lauresa Escribano is Director of Customer Solutions at the Denver office of KPMG LLP.

Categories: Business Insights, COVID-19, Management & Leadership