The consumer experience has undergone radical transformation over the past year.
People who previously wouldn't have considered ordering groceries online are now purchasing all of their food from home. Physical menus in restaurants have been replaced with QR codes. Chatting with your favorite barista each morning has turned into ordering online and grabbing your latte through a takeout window. The list goes on.
Countless experiences that used to be physical have—at least in part—gone digital. The shift towards digital has been gaining momentum over the years, and the pandemic pushed it over the edge.
The digital experience is now more important than ever, and consumer expectations are at an all time high. When it comes to delivering an exceptional experience, companies with emotional intelligence—who really take the time to get in tune with what customers want—are winning.
Here are three core practices of emotionally intelligent teams.
They recognize the importance of the digital experience
With so many seamless digital experiences available at people’s fingertips, there’s no room for subpar digital user experiences in today’s market. Companies must make the proper investments required to 'get it right' the first time to build trust with customers. Businesses who excel at this make the effort to understand the needs of their customers, and then build their digital offerings accordingly to be efficient, simple, and pleasant to use.
Take Target, for example; the company more than doubled its digital sales last year. Its curbside pickup app takes care of everything from ordering, to payment, directions, and the placement of goods in customers' trunks. It was a win-win for both the company (curbside pick up is 90% cheaper than delivery) and customers, who could conveniently and safely purchase products during the height of the pandemic. Because the company took the time to create such an easy-to-use digital experience, it’s likely to stick around and continue boosting sales long after the pandemic.
They understand the true user experience
Emotionally intelligent teams take extra steps to understand the needs, desires, and limitations of their customers. Relying on use cases and making generalizations won’t work here: Companies must be in regular contact with customers, gathering their thoughts and feedback to guide digital strategy.
Some airlines have done this well by pivoting their focus from sales and booking to instead uncovering what customers need presently. Scoring cheap flights is no longer at the forefront of people's minds when it comes to air travel. Instead, airlines are asking themselves: What health precautions will customers want to see in place to feel safe flying again? What will they need to feel confident when booking? How can we make the airport and in-air experience as comfortable as possible?
Creating successful digital experiences requires a deep understanding of the customer that goes beyond arbitrary use cases. This includes gathering feedback to consistently meet customers' changing needs.
They have a culture of empathy and listening
Often, the individuals who develop products and experiences don’t belong to the same demographic as those who consume them. But, by putting empathy and listening at the heart of company culture, businesses are able to build better offerings for every user.
Consider digital healthcare. According to research conducted by the University of San Francisco, up to 13 million people aged 65 or older don’t feel ready to use telemedicine services. How then, can a twenty-something software developer who has never seen a doctor remotely build a platform that meets the needs of these patients? If not addressed, empathy gaps such as this can result in a less-than-ideal experience for consumers.
Emotionally intelligent teams understand that nothing can replace the value of talking with their customers. They make it a priority to understand who they are, what their circumstances are, how they feel about the customer experience versus that of competitors, and subsequently integrate that feedback into everything they do. This isn’t something that is done sporadically, but rather a guiding principle of empathy and listening that fuels everything from product design to customer support.
Today's rapidly changing world has no doubt caused new challenges for businesses. But more importantly, it has brought about an opportunity for companies to grow their empathy and emotional intelligence to meet the needs of customers now, and in the future.