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SurveyMonkey Partner

What will consumer and employee experience look like in a post-pandemic world?

What will consumer and employee experience look like in a post-pandemic world?

In 2019, a 30-day return policy was standard—45 was generous. Digital visit options were for forward-looking companies and startups, not universal norms. In 2020, waived fees, flexible return policies, and increased customer service are so normal that 80% of consumers say they’ve experienced at least one of these kinds of special accommodations. The big question is: what about 2021and beyond?

We partnered with Freshworks to dig deeper into the habits and expectations consumers have formed over the past year and find out whether they’re likely to last after the pandemic is contained. We also surveyed full-time employees about the challenges and opportunities that businesses are facing at the same time. 

We sent  over 1,150 consumers on SurveyMonkey Audience, including 662 working professionals to get a sense of the overall landscape. 

Over 70% of people signed up for digital services (like Zoom or Slack) during the pandemic. 47% use digital services more than they did before—with an additional 40% using them about the same amount, and only 13% using them less. 

We also asked consumers to rank the attributes that matter to them the most when choosing new tech. From “most important” to “least important”, they chose: security, price, ease of use, customer support, and then brand familiarity

Many consumers plan to keep their new digital habits after the pandemic is over, and even expect to increase their usage—with 80% planning to use digital services as much or more often than they do now. 

If businesses want to keep customers engaged—even post-coronavirus—they’ll have to meet them in the virtual world.

45% of people have cancelled a product or subscription as a result of the pandemic. Some services are rendered less useful during a lockdown (e.g. a gym membership), while others are simply expendable luxuries when budgets are tight. As a result, many companies are compensating with special policies and services designed to keep from losing customers. 

Our research turned up dozens of examples of these accommodations, and 80% of the people we surveyed had experienced at least one of them. Here are a few that were especially common:

  • 50% of consumers had experienced options for virtual visits/consultations
  • 43% were offered new delivery options
  • 35% had benefited from flexible payment schedules (extended deadlines or deferments) 
  • 28% had had waived cancellation fees or discounts 
  • 25% were offered free access to virtual events
  • 20% had experienced increased customer service

We asked whether people expected customer service teams to be more responsive, about the same, or less responsive in the midst of a pandemic. 45%  said more responsive, 30% about the same, and only 25% said less responsive, in spite of the additional challenges that businesses are facing. In the eyes of consumers, companies need to adapt to customer needs.

There were certain areas where consumers were especially opinionated. A whopping 75%, for example, expect brands to offer flexible return policies until society is fully reintegrated.

The results seem to suggest that companies that are investing in customer experience to get them through this slower economic period have the right idea: 55% have made a decision to stay with or leave a company because of its customer service.

Our free webinar with Freshworks dives deeper into the data and gives you expert guidance about how to get ahead of consumer expectations in the new normal.

Now that consumers have gotten a taste for more generous customer support policies, will they be willing to accept anything less in the future?

According to our research, consumers expect that some shifts, at least, are here to stay:

  • 60% expect companies to maintain virtual visit options after the pandemic is over
  • 53% expect businesses to continue new flexible delivery options
  • 43% expect brands to keep customer service levels higher
  • 43% expect companies to keep offering virtual events
  • 41% expect new flexible payment options (including delayed billing or “skipping a month” or subscription services) to continue
  • 37% expect waived cancellation fees (like those offered by airlines) to continue after the pandemic

Most people seem to understand that financial changes like discounts and waived fees are a luxury that businesses are extending to stay afloat through tough times—but accommodations that are more focused on flexibility, like virtual visits, are expected to stick around. The customer experience of the future could be significantly more fluid than we’re used to historically.

80% of working people in our survey said that the pandemic has changed the way their company does business.

Companies have needed to be innovative and our respondents mentioned experiencing new work from home policies, new product offerings, and updated health policies. 

The pandemic has also surfaced a variety of challenges on both a business and personal level. We asked our working respondents what’s come up for them as they try to do their job in the new normal.

  • 41% found that communication with coworkers was harder
  • 37% found it harder to collaborate on projects
  • 23% said they couldn’t access information that they need to do their jobs well
  • 15% felt that they didn’t understand their customers’ needs during this time.

When we scaled out to company-wide challenges, the 5 most common difficulties employers were facing were:

  • Cancelling or postponing planned events (45%)
  • Layoffs (40%)
  • Losing customers (35%)
  • Delivering products or services safely (27%)
  • Temporarily shutting down business (26%)

Only 27% of employees thought that their company would maintain the changes that they’ve implemented during the pandemic after the world is fully reintegrated. 

In other words, there’s a disconnect between what people expect as consumers and what they expect as employees and businesses. 

At the same time, it’s an optimistic statistic, and most people expect their business to bounce back from the challenges of the past year.  

If you’d like to hear more data points from our research and learn about how businesses can deliver a 2021- caliber experience post-pandemic, check out our free webinar.