Ask an Expert: How to Redefine Customer Experience During COVID-19
Jeff GreenSenior Vice-President, Sales and Customer Experience
Jeff Green, SVP of Sales & Customer Experience, leads the Purolator Global Customer Team, and is focused on developing and delivering value for clients and their end-customers through improved supply-chain solutions.
COVID-19 is transforming the customer experience as both businesses and customers face a new reality. Delivering a positive customer experience, especially during this time can help drive loyalty and revenue in the long run. In this segment of our Ask an Expert series, Jeff shares his perspective on the importance of maintaining excellence in the customer experience during the pandemic, the impact of booming e-commerce sales on businesses, and Purolator’s health and safety initiatives.
How has the consumer mindset changed since the pandemic began?
I think it’s important to always stay focused on your customers’ changing needs. During a time like this one, it becomes even more critical to understand where you can best help them and provide assistance. There’s more uncertainty and anxiety, so consumers are looking for reassurance that life as they know it is going to be OK. We’re also seeing the altruistic side of Canadians – sending a care package to a friend they are worried about or donating safety supplies to employees.
What should businesses do to keep connected with consumers?
Consumers want to be assured. Communicating with them should be empathetic and supportive. How frequently you reach out depends on customer expectations. Just be mindful that they’re focused on a deeper purpose in light of the pandemic, not just on business transactions. Be prepared to adapt your approach as the situation changes or new challenges arise. Keep your thinking fluid.
Just remember, consumers will remember how they felt about you after this period passes. What you do now will reward you in the future!
What is Purolator doing on the health and safety front?
We’re transforming our processes to provide the safest experience for our employees and customers, including strictly adhering to all public health guidelines, like social distancing, proper hygiene, and deeper sanitization practices, among others. Purolator also adopted standard processes such as work at home and contactless delivery. In addition to ongoing communication and education with employees on health, safety and wellness, our Medical Officer, Dr. Shaan Chugh, conducts webcasts and regular updates. We’re continuing to monitor COVID-19 and are making adjustments and offering resources as needed to support Canadians.
What initiatives has Purolator launched to help customers meet the new business challenges?
Business continuity and service excellence are always important to our customers. That’s even more the case now. We proactively developed a Pandemic Plan as part our Business Continuity Plan. We’re also prioritizing service excellence in healthcare and essential services. Leveraging our full global solutions and expedited capabilities help support more urgent responses during a period of fluctuating and evolving demands.
More customers have turned to e-commerce models in the wake of the pandemic, so we’re concentrating our investments and resources to support them. This is complemented by accelerating frequency of certain core business processes such as forecasting and service management.
What can organizations do to keep the customer experience at high levels?
If you look at leading brands, they’re are not taking their eyes off customer service. They know that managing expectations and answering concerns are great ways of building longer-term customer loyalty. It goes back to the goal of providing reassurance in an age of uncertainty.
They’re ensuring that their customer care teams are ready to handle questions, big and small. They’re also proactive in their communications, reassuring customers before there are issues. The elite brands are taking it one step further, by internally auditing their own processes to increase efficiency, sending out surveys to get a pulse check on their customers, and so on.
What changes has Purolator made to respond to the times?
As soon as the pandemic hit, we prioritized healthcare shipments because they involve people’s health and well-being. That includes partnering with global suppliers to help import Personal Protection Equipment for the government.
Purolator also greatly boosted our capacity as a result of the boom in e-commerce. We’ve enabled weekend service, maintained cross-border solutions for expedited international shipments, and supported customer business continuity planning to bypass any facility shutdowns.
We enhanced our communications to both customers and consumers. For instance, our customers are kept up to speed on operational changes and network status so they can proactively inform their customers. Specifically, for consumers, we also introduced regular communications through social media and our website, among other channels. AI technologies are helping answer more chats.
Speaking of e-commerce, what do our customers need to know?
Many expect e-commerce to continue growing post-pandemic as more Canadians embrace shopping online. In a recent survey, more than 30% of people buying groceries and general goods online stated they will increase their online purchasing in those areas over the next 12 months.
There are some important considerations for any business making the move to e-commerce. They should know that consumer expectations are very high around speed, convenience and visibility – “the Amazon Effect”. The consumer experience must be seamless and consistent with the company’s brand attributes, or consumers will just move on to someone else.
Because the supply chain is a critical component of delivering a positive customer experience, I would encourage customers to partner with supply chain providers who share their values.
Where does shipping come in in the overall e-commerce customer experience?
Shipping is an extension of your brand promise. In fact, the promises you make to consumers is, in part, dependent on your shipping partner. 98% of customers say that shipping impacts their brand loyalty – so it’s not something a business can take for granted.
Here at Purolator, I think we’re doing a really good job in some key areas. We offer a very broad reach across Canada, enhanced visibility of shipments end-to-end, and capabilities to manage different products and complex processes, such as returns. Consumers want control in all aspects of their lives, even in how they drop off or pick up parcels, which is where our network of retail and partner locations come in.
Any last thoughts?
Delivering on the customer experience has always been important. These days I feel Canadians are even more attuned to brands that reflect their needs, their expectations and, more than ever, their values. I think we at Purolator play a big role in the new environment. We’re 100% Canadian and our purpose is, in fact, to make Canada stronger. That mission is reflecting in everything we’re doing right now. The pride I see in the way our people are. supporting Canada, our healthcare workers and communities is truly inspiring.
Stay focused on the things that will help you deliver on your promises
Even as businesses continue to adapt to the ‘new normal,’ customer service should remain a priority. A delivery provider that is responding to the changing needs of Canadians is a critical link to providing exceptional end-to-end customer service. But optimizing the last mile can help you with other business goals, from reducing costs to taking on competitive threats and building brand value. It’s good to know that in a changing world some things remain the same.