Oh! Here comes my burger super meal. This time it only took 20 minutes for the delivery rider to deliver. That’s two minutes faster than how it was last week. Perhaps, I should also just order my dinner later.

Food deliveries, online shopping, e-learning, online meetings – all these have become a norm these past three years. The COVID-19 pandemic had significantly accelerated the adoption of digital technologies and pushed businesses to shift from the old “brick and mortar” model into what the global retail expert, Tom Oliver, referred to as the “click and mortar” model – where an online aspect is added to customers’ shopping experience. Within their organizations, companies started to adopt a remote work set-up, thereby allowing employees to perform their work at the convenience of their home.

These sudden changes posed two unprecedented challenges – improving client experience and improving employee engagement.

Improving Client Experience

The abrupt advancement of the digital age highlighted the critical importance of creating a unique and memorable customer experience. Digitalization has enabled aspiring entrepreneurs to start their own businesses and to sell their products and services with minimal cost and effort. There is no longer a shortage of competition out there in this digital age. This consequently led to fierce competition in all industries and in order to survive, you should be able to set your business apart from your competition.

But how can you differentiate yourself from your competition? How can you effectively show the human touch in today’s digital era?

First, you should reinvent and personalize your customer experience journey. Create unique and memorable experiences for your customers. It is essential to provide customers with something more than what they can get through digital platforms. One way to do it is to keep them updated with the up and coming offers and promotions of the company. Proactively send invites to special events you know may interest them. Make their special moments count. Show them you care and celebrate with them. Some companies offer gifts or discounts for birthdays, anniversaries, and other special events. Others would even go the extra mile of sending personal messages or gifts to their clients. This may not amount that much, but it will definitely make a mark on your customers’ minds.

Second, refine your customer service experience and make it more engaging. Customers know they are chatting with bots when they make a product or service inquiry on your webpage, but they don’t want to constantly feel like it. Provide them with an avenue to reach out to your customer service team whenever they need. Not only will it address the customer’s concerns, but it would also permit your employees to show small acts of compassion to customers. Keep in mind that there’s no effective substitute for human kindness and judgment. A strong and open customer service center will also enable your company to obtain first hand feedback about your products and services and be updated with the changing customer needs and preferences. Having a thorough understanding of what your market wants will help your company accelerate growth and leap forward better than your competitors.

Finally, share their values. Make them feel that the important things to them are just as important to you as well.  One particular trend nowadays is the sustainability or ESG (environment, social and governance) impacts of businesses. Various studies have shown that customers are now shifting their spending towards products and services with ESG-related claims, may it be animal welfare, use of eco-friendly materials, gender equality, etc. Having such an understanding, keep your customers informed (through your website, blogs or social media pages) about the relevant activities that your company is doing.

By continuously providing unique, engaging, and memorable experience, and by sharing their values, customers will associate your brand to a certain product or service, which eventually will make your brand to be the first to come to their minds when they require that product or service.

Improving Employee Engagement

As important as improving client experience, businesses should also be able to effectively engage their employees in today’s digital era. As the work-from-home set-up became a norm, we realized how efficient we can perform our tasks regardless of the environment we are in. Unfortunately, improved technologies include the risk of diminishing the human touch that companies desperately need to optimize performance, boost employee morale, attract talent, and retain employees.

Companies are now faced with unprecedented challenges that make it harder for regular tasks to be completed on time. It seems unavoidable for employees to be distracted by the things that happen at their home, or to be overwhelmed by the messages, notifications, ads and other diversions that they can now be freely accessed during working hours. Some employees became addicted to technology where they felt that they couldn’t help but check on everything that happened on social media. In result, they access their social media first thing in the morning and last thing at night. Undoubtedly, this drains their concentration and ability to think deeply. Consequently, this led to low employee performance, targets not being met, customer dissatisfaction, and financial losses.

What then should companies do differently?

One of the basic yet among the most important steps is to set expectations early and to do it often. This is a key element in successful time management and in ensuring that employees will have a work/life balance. Having a clear understanding of the actual deliverables, priorities, milestones, and targets, employees will be able to gauge the timing and pacing of the tasks assigned to them. This will also enable managers to clarify their expectations on employees’ responsiveness to emails and chats during and beyond the agreed working hours.

One other thing that employers can do differently is the increased focus on coaching and mentoring. The remote work set-up provided limitations in establishing and maintaining interpersonal relationships with mentees/coachees. Consequently, this led to voluminous errors at work, low employee performance and low employee morale. To address this issue, companies should invest more time and effort in strengthening their coaching and mentoring programs, ensuring that the coaches/mentors will have ample time to regularly meet with their coachees/mentees. Moreover, coaches and mentors should receive regular training on the proper conduct coaching/mentoring sessions.

Companies should also consistently promote good digital etiquette. Showing up on time with your camera on is something that each employee should practice in all virtual meetings. Not only will this build connections, but it will also encourage employees to prepare for meetings and will allow managers to clearly see the state that their employees are in. The mere opening of the camera also minimizes the risk of employees being distracted by their phones and the ads and notifications that come along with it.

Lastly, celebrate wins, no matter how small. Despite the remote set-up, managers should look for opportunities to celebrate the same work milestones that would otherwise be celebrated in the office. Send shout outs through your company-wide group chats, provide incentives or small tokens of appreciation, or share your success stories through social media. No matter what platform you choose, what is important is to recognize the efforts of the employees that led to the team’s success.

The advent of technologies has disrupted the way we deliver great client experience and outstanding employee engagement. All these technologies have been part of our everyday life, and they will stay for a long time. To stay relevant, we need to adapt to the new ways of working. As what Robin S. Sharma has written in his The 5AM Club book: “All change is hard at first, messy in the middle and gorgeous at the end.”


As published in The Manila Times, dated 27 September 2023