The pandemic has changed your customer's life, from their financial situations to how they work or even interact with each other. Our old normal has been indelibly altered and there is no going back. Regardless of everything, the customers of today still expect companies and organizations to provide an exceptional customer experience. Rooted in every proven premise of a business, CX has the ability to significantly impact your relationship with your customer, ultimately affecting retention and ROI.
We asked 6 industry experts about how covid-19 has impacted the CX industry and this is what they had to say:
Often customer experience is viewed as a luxury, and the number of explicit CX roles are still growing in the UK. A main impact of Covid in the UK mainly was when budgets had to start, the CX roles were the first to go. This meant employees had to merge customer experience responsibilities with other areas of the business. Thus, the biggest impact really was the reduction of focus on Customer Experience, despite it needing a lot more focus given the situation we were in.
However, the biggest challenge across the board in any industry is that we’ve worked so hard to understand our customers, get to know them, know their wants, needs and expectations and then the pandemic hit. And everything changed. Our customers' situation changed, their financial situation changed and we just didn’t know our customers anymore. As CX professionals we had to do a lot of guessing as to what our customers wanted and we haven’t had the opportunity to really get to know them again.
Back when Covid hit, about 10-12 months ago, everybody was facing cognitive overload. As everyone was going through such a massive change, that following processes and procedures became difficult, changing expectations of the customer.
The problem with the CX industry is that we think that easy experiences create loyalty. They don’t. Easy experiences stop disloyalty. So this is the first step that goes for easy experiences. But more than that, we as CX professionals had to become more empathetic and working towards it became really critical.
According to Shep, Covid-19 forced companies to up their game. Everything that is happening today would have happened in the next 3-5 years.
Companies now started to figure out different ways to connect with their customers. New trends now became set expectations. Breakthroughs became a part of their business models.
The key here is to understand that customers' expectations turned a little bit and some companies were able to understand that right away. And not just that, even when the entire world went down the lockdown mode, customers were very forgiving for companies that were unable to deliver. Consumers were tolerant towards waiting however, after a month or two customers started expecting businesses to jump back and deliver on their normal expectations. But companies scrambled to give them that experience.
Only companies that were able to step up, move quickly and recognise what they had to do to make their customers happy along with recognising the changes in the expectations, were able to survive.
Let’s look at the positive spin for this. The positive thing about the pandemic is empathy. I am seeing organizations, service reps, customers embracing empathy. Why does it matter and what does it have to do with CX? Everything!
Because when you have people who feel valued, included, heard, understood, and supported, the customers feel and see it too.
Other than this, the thing that comes top of my head is safety. Organizations have always cared about safety in a physical sense, but now they have to pay attention to mental safety. As we’re getting out of where we’ve been and are physically showing up to work, now the question is how do we support their mental safety, their anxiety.
Covid has awakened something inside of us. It has shifted our focus to what Simon Sineks would describe as “creating circles of safety”. There was a lot of inertia precovid and this pandemic has caused a stir and made us change the way we operate and think about our lives, the businesses we want to do business with and our customers. CX professionals had to shift focus on creating a circle of safety for our customers so that they can shift towards delivering a customer experience.
CX leaders had to step in and comfort and provide a level of safety and get back to an operational standard. And then how can we extend this circle of safety to our customers.
Another important thing to think about is “How can we get a more harmonious brand presence out there?” We are doing great things, digital transformations is an example of this. But many organizations are doing this behind a bit of a vacuum. These might be handled by a group of data scientists in a company but the problem is that it is not tied in yet with the larger initiative of CX.
We are certainly seeing that the effects of the pandemic and the lockdowns around the globe have really placed CX under the spotlight. I think part of the reason for that is customer context. Customers are experiencing heightened emotions such as financial pressures, home pressures, etc. All of this has forced brands to think really carefully about how they behave towards their customers. While Empathy has always been important in the CX industry, the need to really recognise the customers context and reflect has been important but the spotlight now is on how brands do that.
Virtual working has also created all sorts of challenges for employees and businesses. Businesses are still somewhat struggling on what the mixed mode of operational delivery is about but customers expect organizations to figure that out by now. The main challenge is to manage the operational delivery which means we need to focus on employee experiences and provide them with tools at their fingertips, so that they continue to deliver and improve on the level of service and customer experience.
Organizations are learning very quickly and we are adapting. One of the biggest changes that companies are bringing in is the slowburn of digitalisation, where organizations are creeping into the digital transformation, now have to jump in and offer this digital experience. However, it is important to note that we are not going to return to our behaviour of 2019 and early 2020.
Hence we have to continue to listen to our customers more than ever, the voice of customers is so important and so is the voice of the employee. Ofcourse, we have to be watching our processes to see what we can learn from them too. The key thing right now is that we need to create options for our customers to choose and not just limit it to the new way or the old way.
Another important thing is that we have seen leaps and bounds of new technologies, and many companies including Typerform has done a great job at it.They do a video ask, where it enables your customer to get face to face digitally with your agent and it allows the customer to feel special and personal because of the extra connection that these mediums allow them to form. This allows the interaction to become more emotive and so much more relevant.
Finally, anything that is emotive and intuitive is our future. Undoubtedly we will continue down the road of chatbots and automation and this is how we scale.
Really, the key thing is empathy. If you feel that emotions are not important, you are in the wrong industry. The irony is that we all talk about how important emotions are in the experience, but how many people actually measure the emotion? The number is strikingly low. NPS, Satisfaction, effort is not really an emotion. The customers don’t care about these, they care about how you make them feel.
Ask customers how we make you feel? Do you trust us? Do you have confidence in us? Then take these answers and take a look at your operational, behavioural and financial data to see the impact of these emotions. What you should find is that as emotion gets better, so does your business. If you have built a level of trust, customers will stay with you even if there’s a problem.
Another bit is, companies should figure out which technologies should be used to improve their customer experience. Three technologies that I learnt are used by the changemakers more so anybody else are:
Sit down with a team and let’s look at the companies who are doing it right? Consider looking at different companies, your vendors, companies you do business with. Think about what they are doing so well that they nailed it. Make a list of what that is and then what is it on that list that we are not doing.
Many companies also become more flexible about how they do business. At Shephards Presentations we have four different inter-related revenue streams. One of them being virtual events which I would do 10-15 a year, but now I’m doing 10-15 a month. That’s being flexible.
Very simple, focus on getting the voice of the customer. Their needs are changing, so the customer journey you once knew,throw it away! There is no need to guess, talk to your stakeholder and your customers. Redesign your customer experience and validate what you have now to see whether it meets their requirements.
Technology also plays an important role as long as it complements the work and does not remove the human interaction. An example is IOT which has been incredibly helpful to be a vehicle that enables communication for customers, brands leveraging that.
We as CX professionals have to be different. We have to think about change management best practices and how we can get allies to do this work with us and not allow CX to become peripheral in the organization.
The huge surge to digital with customers and companies migrating to digital channels is here to stay and this has also put a huge strain on some companies because of their operational model’s infrastructure. Therefore, they need to join in these digital channels end to end, now more than before.
So the need to join up is absolutely paramount. Think about how empathy can be demonstrated in all customer interactions. It is all about really picking up on the customer signals and then adapting the experience accordingly, which really helps in understanding the context of the customer and removes the little points of friction.
Covid has heightened customer’s expectations and it has become a necessity for companies to provide a personalized and responsive CX. Utilizing data to understand what brings better organizational outcomes can help companies create strategies which would drive performance and would be specific to what works for the company. Finally, companies must remember that employee engagement and safety is as important as customer safety and satisfaction, hence a truly competitive digital CX requires not just innovation at the front-end but also a commitment to customer and employee-centricity across the organisation.
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