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Customer experience in times of crisis: Covid-19

Customer Experience in Times of Crisis: Covid-19

I think we all can agree these are trying times. The global raise of Covid-19 has wreaked havoc and left a trail of confusion on every topic from business operations to toilet paper. While we cannot do much to help you secure such household goods, we can help you navigate the confusing waters of Customer Experience (CX) during times of crisis.

In the past few days, we’ve been getting a lot of questions from our clients on best CX practices in light of Covid-19. In this blog post, we’ll address some of the common questions to help you navigate these confusing times.

Let me begin by saying, although we have seen past crises – natural disasters, business crises, and even health-related issues – the recent global pandemic and its rapid spread is an unprecedented, one-of-a-kind challenge facing today’s businesses and citizens of the world. As such, we don’t have any absolute guarantees for best practices on this topic. As new information and announcements emerge each day, this is a very dynamic and novel scenario, to say the least.

However, based on the years of CX experience and expertise within our Global CX Consulting, we are able to offer some considerations for you to think about in deciding what decisions are right for you in today’s current environment.

While Customer Experience is always important, it is times like these where providing a great customer experience is of paramount importance. This is the time where your company’s actions can and should differentiate your business with a stellar customer experience. Your customers are in crisis too, they will remember how you handle this. Are you communicating effectively? Are you doing what you can to ease customers’ fears? Are you taking the situation seriously without feeding into the panic?

The question, however, remains, what about measuring the customer experience during these times? Should we be sending surveys?

First, it is prudent and recommended to differentiate between relationship surveys (broad, point-in-time, infrequent solicitations of feedback) from transaction surveys (narrow, deeper, frequent or continuous, event-driven solicitations of feedback). It is also important to consider the survey’s audience: B2B, B2C, Employees/VoCE, etc. With all of this in mind, let us offer the pros and cons of surveying in an environment like we unfortunately find ourselves in today, namely facing the ever-changing challenges of the Covid-19 global pandemic.

Pros of surveying:

  • In times of crisis, communication and knowledge exchange can be a powerful thing – so keeping ongoing, continuous transactional programs running can be a critical practice for the business.
  • Understanding the nuances of general perspective, opinion, and appropriateness of action could be a huge differentiator, especially among B2B customers and employees who are striving to maintain “business as usual”.
  • Most B2B respondents are still connected/online/working from home, so are still accessible.
  • Even when continuing surveys, some acknowledgement of the current situation (mentions in the invitation or introduction, special communications in advance via email, etc.) is likely to be viewed as caring, empathetic and appreciated – be careful that it comes across as genuine and sincere, but not hollow or dispassionate.
  • Some “normal” business work may have slowed a bit, depending on their business, so they may have more time to respond – although generally, response rates do suffer (at least initially) based on past historic crises.
  • Desire to keep things as normal as possible (amidst so much uncertainty and doubt) reinforces the need to keep things operational.
  • Depending on survey audience and the reason for the survey, surveying would be viewed as kind, thoughtful, and helpful. For example in education and healthcare, business may choose to leverage surveys to assess respondent’s needs and the accessibility of vital resources. Not only can this help the business to understand their customer needs and improve response times, it can help the end customer with their planning efforts though this uncharted territory.

Cons of surveying:

  • For B2C audiences especially, it may be “too soon” to ask direct questions about the Covid-19 crisis, since so much is uncertain. People are already afraid, concerned, emotional, distraught and this could amplify that – thus we do not suggest a standard template of virus-related questions at this time – there will likely be time for exploration of this at a later, more appropriate time.
  • Relationship surveys (happening infrequently, i.e. annually) should likely be delayed for a few weeks/months since this is certainly a very atypical time and opinions would be far from typical.
  • Depending on survey audience, surveying would be viewed as inappropriate (education/schools/universities, healthcare/hospitals, travel/hospitality/dining, entertainment, businesses where respondents are displaced from their normal workspace and largely inaccessible), and would most likely be seen as such.
  • Again, in certain circumstances, respondents are distracted, busy, focused on the emergency of now, and unable/unwilling to respond – surveys would likely get lost in the shuffle of busy, distracted days.
  • Even for transactional surveys, it is important to interpret findings in the context of global events – any declines in opinions would likely be due to very unusual circumstances today.
  • Ask yourself if your organization is able to currently act upon the feedback received – if resources, time, and effort are stretched thin and little will be done with the information – consider postponing it until it can and will be acted upon.
  • If you do discontinue surveys, seek alternative ways to encourage customer feedback via other unsolicited channels (websites, pop-ups, feedback links, etc.).

In conclusion, as you can see there are many complexities that affect a decision like this, and not one recommended solution comes close to fitting every clients’ situation. So our ultimate recommendation to each client is to consider these pros and cons, put yourselves in your customers’ shoes, consider other non-survey channels for continuous customer feedback, and trust your gut. That is – when considering all of this food for thought – plus the every-changing new information that emerges daily – do what you think seems right for your company at this unique time in our world’s history.

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