Customer experience and insight in challenging times
How do we support team members?
Employee relationships are complex
All experiences – both good and bad – are magnified during a period of crisis and uncertainty. It is impossible to over communicate with team members during such times, provided communications are meaningful, valuable and empathetic, rather than formalistic and bureaucratic.
For crisis-related businesses, employees or associates are more important than ever as the front-line. For non-crisis businesses, however, employees are now uniquely dependent on employers support and a sense of security. Once “business-as-usual” resumes, customer relationships will quickly snap-back and move onward as if nothing happened. Employee relationships, however, are more complicated.
Whether employee relationships “snap-back” will depend on how they are treated. If employees come away feeling a true sense of community with a company, a sense that “we are all in this together,” employee engagement will be stronger than ever. For employees who come away feeling abandoned or betrayed, who sense a lack of empathy from firms that put profits ahead of their well-being, however, the situation will be different.
This is a time for true introspection: if you have a great culture, how do you sustain it? If your culture is less healthy, how can you try to re-mediate that under the most challenging of circumstances? Faced with a vacuum or an unsupportive culture, employees will create the narrative – and it’s un-likely to be very flattering.
How do you ensure that you make sure that while employees are happy to get back to “normal”, that they do not bear the scars of a corporate culture that abandoned them in their time of greatest need. Here are some ideas to consider:
- Apply the Hippocratic Oath: first do no harm
- The Golden Rule: Treat your employees TWICE as nicely as you want them to treat your customers
- Express and ACT with empathy
- Lead from the front. Leadership needs to be “in the trenches,” side-by-side with team members and part of the team that will pull through
The bottom line
- Be upbeat, but don’t sugar coat the situation
- LISTEN and ask… then listen some more
- Be transparent and don’t pretend to have all of the answer
How do we support customers?
“We think we listen, but very rarely do we listen with real understanding, true empathy…Yet listening of this very special kind is one of the most potent forces for change that I know.”PSYCHOLOGIST CARL ROGERS
Empathy is critical
In a quest to be empathetic, a key question is “how do we support customers right now?” To do this, you need to understand their needs. Many people are wondering whether surveys are appropriate at the moment, so it is important to determine when and how to use them with your customers at this time. There are key strategy differences between transactional and relationship surveys – and between B2B and B2C listening.
For ongoing transactional surveys, especially in the B2B space where companies are trying to keep “business as usual,” we recommend continuing to listen with the following in mind:
- Acknowledge the current situation. This 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.
- Keep ongoing, continuous transactional programs running which can be a critical practice for the business during these times.
- Understand the customer perspective and appropriateness of your action – both of which could be huge differentiators, especially from B2B customers and employees.
- Most B2B respondents are still connected/online/working from home, so are still accessible and striving for “business as usual”.
- Can your business act on feedback in the current environment? If resources are stretched thin and little will be done with the information, consider postponing it until this has changed.
For periodic relationship surveys, there are other considerations and it may be wise to pause these programs temporarily. Think about the following:
- Annual relationship surveys are likely to result in very atypical feedback that might not be useful. Consider delaying these surveys by a few weeks if this is the case.
- Respondents may well be distracted and focused on the emergency of now. Will your survey get lost in the shuffle of busy, distracted days?
- If you do retain your surveys, interpret findings in the context of global events. Any declines in opinions would likely be due to very unusual circumstances today.
- Who is your audience? It may not be appropriate to request feedback from workers in particular sectors right now.
The bottom line
There are many complexities that affect the survey decision and you need to consider the pros and cons of your situation. Put yourself in your customers’ shoes, and trust your gut. Make sure you:
- Distinguish between CX action and CX surveying
- Introduce some kind of empathetic, customer-oriented action
- Explore non-survey channels for continuous customer feedback.
How can we lead at this time?
During this time, CX professionals need to find ways to lead their organizations and engage key stakeholders to take focuse actions to drive the change(s) that will help meet their customers’ rapidly evolving needs.
Understand and react
Organizations are being tested. Every industry, from airlines to retail, face challenges. The organizations that succeed will be those who are able to respond to their customers’ needs.
Companies who have a clear understanding of their customers will be better placed to respond to their needs. Those who already have a customer-centric culture in place are at an advantage and can work to put actions in place faster.
You do need to act fast, but make sure you keep everyone informed. How? Rapid action and clear communication can be hard, but they are not mutually exclusive. How do you do it?
- Create a SWAT team with executive buy-in/involvement – marketing, CX, customer service/support, operations. Everyone who has a role to play.
- Think about how you have triaged during tough times in the past. What worked? What lessons did you learn?
- Be transparent and communicate to your employees and customers. Your CEO should be the face of your comms.
CX has a huge role to play and has the ability to guide the organization to be seen as a trusted provider or partner at a key moment. CX leaders should take this chance to step up. This is because:
- Now is the time to create an emotional connection with customers and CX has the insight to know how to do this.
- The range of listening posts, data inputs and skills within the CX teams means they often have the best understanding of customer in the business.
- Good CX teams are used to working cross-functionally and have the ability and relationships to make things happen.
The bottom line
Customer insight gives you the ability to go above and beyond expectations. This means strengthening relationships and building trust. There are many stories emerging of businesses supporting customers, employees, communities and more but moving out of “business a usual” mode and into a role as a responsible organization
How do you make this approach work?
Have a metric for everyone to rally around in this new reality. Go beyond typical metrics like NPS and use something that is meaningful at this time.
- Share stories that can be celebrated internally – trust is not just about customers, and making employees proud to work for you is hugely valuable.
- Focus on four stages for success:
- Leverage customer understanding
- Act fast
- Be transparent
- Measure succes
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