Freshworks Inc., a leading software company empowering businesses to delight their customers and employees, today announces research revealing the new outlook of the UK consumer after an unprecedented pandemic shone a light on a small business revival built on adoption of digital tools.
The study of 2,000 UK consumers (part of a broader study of 10,500 global consumers) – Meet the Post Covid-19 Consumer – found that 39% were inspired to support local businesses during the pandemic and 94% of these plan to continue once it subsides, revealing a defined shift in purchasing habits. However, patience and empathy for all companies is running thin as the pandemic winds down.
Consumers look local
The strides made by small businesses were applauded, as nearly half (48%) of UK consumers believe small businesses got better at customer service during the pandemic. This was attributed to providing better levels of personalisation (52%), as well as improvements in online ordering (50%) and delivery service (50%). Other innovations such as improved websites (30%) and digital support like chatbots (21%) were also cited.
In contrast, over a third (35%) of UK consumers thought large businesses got worse at customer service, higher than the global average of 28%. As a result, UK consumers plan to extend the local shopping boom, prioritising spending at restaurants and bars (39%), domestic and international travel (43%), and shopping for clothing, accessories or at shopping centres (41%).
“The Covid-19 pandemic has driven a customer service upheaval among the small business community, as a crucial segment of the economy strives to diversify how they reach customers. ,” said John Crossan, Vice President & General Manager, Europe, Freshworks. “This is leading to a resurgence in the high street and traditional town centres, as bricks and mortar businesses develop new digital engagement to complement their in-person offerings. The last year has rapidly made this a business imperative, as consumers demand the flexibility to consume goods and services however suits them best.”
Covid excuses don’t cut it anymore
Consumers around the world largely showed empathy for brands during the pandemic, with 32% saying they were patient with those offering slow customer service or fulfilment and one in four (25%) claiming they were extra kind or complimented a customer service representative. Despite this, British respondents were markedly more sceptical about customer service than their global counterparts. Over a quarter (27%) of UK consumers said they were already sick of Covid-related excuses, or never accepted them in the first place.
British respondents were also the most sceptical of companies’ pandemic messages, as 28% said they didn’t trust what companies said. Compared with global consumers, those in the UK were also by far the least likely to be understanding or empathetic when they felt their time was being wasted by customer service (70%). In fact, 23% admitted to telling a lie when dealing with a brand or customer service representative over the last year in order to get their way.
Looking beyond the pandemic, this disparity is also evident as customer expectations rise again. Globally, 31% of consumers now consider themselves more forgiving of brands when they have a bad experience, while 32% say they will be supporting those companies that maintained great levels of customer service. In the UK, however, 31% say the pandemic has made them more likely to stop using a brand in response to a bad customer service experience.
The research demonstrates that it is now a business mandate for companies across all markets, sizes and industries to meet ever-rising customer expectations and deliver seamless delight though a range of in-person and digital channels.
“This study shows that the pandemic had a profound impact on customer behaviours and preferences,” said Adrian Swinscoe, independent advisor and best-selling author on customer service, experience and engagement. “Many of the changes to consumer attitudes considered temporary over the last year will become permanent, even as the effects of Covid-19 recede.
“There has been a marked shift towards supporting local economies in the UK, presenting a real opportunity for many small businesses. However, British consumers have admitted they are low on patience – if they don’t get service that is personalised, quick, effective and responsive across multiple channels then they will not hesitate to take their custom elsewhere.”
“Customers have been accommodating as companies navigated the challenges of the pandemic, but they are running out of patience–and have higher expectations than ever,” said Stacey Epstein, CMO of Freshworks. “Our research reveals that customers seek superior experiences from companies regardless of size and that local companies are gaining an edge with quicker, more personal service that has been supported by digital technology. In the post-pandemic economic boom, companies that delight their customers across in-person and digital channels will seize the lead.”
View the full report here.