Surviving ‘Skimpflation’ by Upping Your Customer Experience Game

The first place most consumers are looking to cut costs to battle rising prices is axing brands that don’t provide excellent customer service.

Costs are up — there’s no denying it. Consumer prices increased 9.1% over the past year, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics — the largest yearly increase in 40 years. While fuel, energy and utility industries have seen the biggest impact, other sectors, including food, apparel, recreation and transportation, have not been immune.

Inflation rates, however, are only one piece of the puzzle. They fail to capture the phenomenon of “skimpflation” — the combination of rising costs and companies skimping on the stuff they provide. The result is people spending more money but receiving less in return.

You’ve probably seen it for yourself. Maybe you’ve gone to the grocery store to pick up your favorite cereal. You notice that not only has the price gone up, but the box has gotten skinnier. That’s skimpflation in action.

No matter the reason for this tactic — the need to cut costs or corporate greed — customers aren’t satisfied with this new norm. Instead, their expectations and behaviors are making big shifts.

Customer Habits Changing Alongside Economy

According to Vasili Triant, chief operating officer at UJET, research from his company shows that customers are taking action to combat rising costs. They are:

  • Canceling subscriptions
  • Moving to lower-cost providers
  • Negotiating contracts

Most consumers, said Triant, are planning to cut spending. And the first places they’re looking at? Brands that don’t provide excellent customer service.

“Price is no longer the great differentiator,” said Triant. “Consumers can find the best price across the vast landscape of ecommerce and price-matching. Customer service is what separates brands, wins the purchase-decision moment and is what customers remember.”

Related Article: A Decade of Dramatic Change in Digital Customer Experience

How Brands Can Maintain CX Despite Down Economy

Rising costs aren’t just affecting consumers. Brands are also being hit by inflation, with many of them dealing with slashed budgets, downsized staff and even requirements to cut back on resources.

However, when it comes to cutting costs, taking away from customer experience is not the way to go. “Downsizing during a recession doesn’t need to negatively impact customer service,” said Triant.

Let’s delve into how brands can keep CX and customer service a priority during these trying times:

Utilize AI Across the Customer Journey

Triant recommended brands tap into technology like artificial intelligence (AI) to downsize without sacrificing customer experience.

“Conversational artificial intelligence can manage a variety of simple tasks traditionally supported by a live agent for quicker service and shorter wait times,” said Triant. “As a result, agents are freed up for more complex needs — and are supported with AI-powered insights for faster customer resolution.”

AI that functions across the entire customer journey can also give brands insights into how customers engage with them, Triant explained. The technology can predict customer intent based on past interactions and provide employees with next-best responses to efficiently solve problems.

Modernize the Contact Center

Another way brands can excel in customer experience during a downturn? Look to modernize the call center.

“Advanced CX features, like enabling customers to use smartphone features (such as camera, video and screen sharing) to expedite service requests go a long way in separating your brand from the rest,” said Triant.

He recommended offering multiple ways for consumers to reach your brand — text, chat, phone, in-app, etc. — and making it easy for customers to switch between channels.

“By exiting the landline era and entering the next generation of CX, customers will consistently choose your brand in a climate of cutting back,” Triant said.

Level-Up Customer Service Talent

Now, when the economy is down and competitors are cutting back on CX, is the time to reinvest in your customer service, which includes enhancing your staff’s skills.

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