Changing Customer Expectations and the “Stay Safe” Lens


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In this period of rapid change, customer expectations are one of the key customer experience elements that have changed overnight. As referenced in a previous blog, these expectations drive customer behaviors and, as CX professionals, it’s our job to understand these changes. Many times, we use the analogy of a customer lens. This is helpful when we try to understand a perspective that someone else has, how they may approach a particular situation, or even how it will impact their spending. A key way to use this lens is to develop customer personas. Using personas to see through the customer’s lens can help us better understand how specific types of customers will interact with new or modified touchpoints that we’re introducing to our business. This isn’t a new topic and we have previously illustrated some of the powerful ways personas can be used when developing journey maps and designing experiences.

This year, a new lens was applied to everyone globally and that is what we’re calling the “stay safe” lens. Our view of the world through this lens impacts our thoughts, behaviors, purchasing decisions, everything. So what does the “stay safe” lens have to do with customer experience and why should we even be discussing this topic? Let’s take a look at two different restaurant examples and we can see how this “stay safe” lens applies.

COVID-19 thrust upon us the importance of wearing masks, washing our hands, and social distancing 6 feet apart. This was all done with the intention to stay safe and not contract or spread the virus. Some companies quickly adapted with modifying customer flow through their retail space, dramatically increasing cleaning procedures, and creating touchless interactions. One example is Chick-fil-A. If you’ve been through a Chick-fil-A drive through recently, you will notice the employees are wearing masks and keeping human contact to an absolute minimum. They’ve taken every precaution so that customers can place an order and receive their food without even touching a credit card machine. The process runs so smoothly that it doesn’t appear any business disruption has occurred at all.

Let’s contrast this with one regional pizza chain across we recently visited. This restaurant was able to take an online order, but after customers entered to pick up the food, it was observed that none of the employees (including the cook staff) were wearing masks. This lack of attention to new social norms, local ordinances, and new rules on hygiene reflected a lack of attention to and leadership within their core operation as well. Not surprisingly, orders were lost and customers were upset with the amount of time involved to fulfill orders. Unfortunately, this was a local favorite but the lack of ability to adapt and maintain operational excellence is likely leading many to not visit again due to concerns with safety of the food and an overall poor experience.

These two companies demonstrate vastly different awareness of the customer’s ‘stay safe’ lens. In one case they took things very seriously and made every effort to ensure the business ran smoothly while attending to the concerns of customer health and safety. And the other example, there was little awareness at all that customers would expect the staff to wear masks, ask customers to practice social distancing, or post signs about modified procedures. This ultimately failed to meet changing customer expectations that can only be seen through their lens.

Tactically speaking, the level of adaptation needed to make all customers feel safe and welcome will likely include enabling new omni-channel and digital capabilities. For retailers, the ability to buy online and pick up in store is now a must have capability rather than a novelty. Similarly, customers now expect the ability to buy in store and return online. It simply must be a digital and omni-channel experience if the new customer lens of staying safe is going to be respected. These trends have been developing over the past few years, but the COVID-19 event has accelerated all digital and omni-channel customer expectations.

The “stay safe” lens of customer experience has changed shopping behaviors across all industries. Image by Juanmonino via iStock/Getty Images.

All of this change means your customer experience teams need to change as well. Consider all the impacts that happened overnight to your customer journey maps, personas, and moments of truth. All of these need a new, refreshed look through the “stay safe” lens. You may now have customer personas that are very fearful of the virus and take every precaution imaginable, and you may also have a customer persona that will never wear a mask. If you are a retailer, your journey maps are vastly different now and should be updated to reflect the new experience and the relevant listening posts.

So where does your business fall in the maturity scale? Here are some tactical next steps for you to take immediately:

    1.Review your Voice of the Customer Analytics. For instance, surveys should include questions about how safe the customer felt while interacting, or your speech analytics categories and queries should be updated to identify conversations that include “COVID,” “virus,” “mask”, and so on to understand the root causes of customer issues and concerns.
    2. Update personas and customer segmentation. These should now reflect the changing psychographics and related behaviors towards social distancing, channel preferences, etc. so you can understand your needs for omni-channel / digital capabilities, new policies and processes, experience designs, etc.
    3. Revisit your customer journey maps to understand new impacts and implications for touchpoints and moments of truth, including new ones that likely emerged overnight as a response to COVID-19.

Many companies have started addressing these items. If this isn’t already included in your plans for the remainder of 2020, you are likely behind the industry. Contact our team if you would like a jumpstart in better connecting with your customers in this rapidly changing environment. Visit

Tim Carrigan
Tim Carrigan, Consulting Vice President at Andrew Reise Consulting, helps clients develop and deliver on their customer experience strategies. He recently co-authored the Customer Experience Fiasco, Learning from the Misguided Adventures of a Customer Experience Executive, now available in hard copy or Kindle version through More information on the book, along with other customer experience case studies and guides, is available at Follow Tim on twitter (@timjcarrigan)


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