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When first confronted with this pandemic we moved quickly to identify the high risks for our employees and our customers and then worked to define the action steps required to minimize those risks. We got everyone involved at all levels of the organizations, followed local, state, and federal guidelines which changed week-to-week, and innovated, looking at every possible solution to keep us safe. Within the hospitality industry, we considered everything from hand sanitizers to Plexiglas shields, from floor and door decals to HVAC filters, reallocating the funds to cover the costs. We sought recommendations from experts, vendors, and our competitors to see what they were doing in response. We established protocols when someone was sick or had symptoms. What would have taken many months to implement for any other initiative took only a few weeks. Many of us had to make the difficult decisions to reassign, furlough or lay off employees. We had to make many necessary, yet tough decisions, but we did not hesitate because the need for quick action was crucial.
We can learn from the processes we took during this pandemic to establish the same steps to reassess and create our customer experience in what is the new normal. While improving customer experience is not literally life and death, without offering a good experience we stand the chance to lose the customer forever.
With restrictions being lifted and vaccinations for everyone available soon, now is the best time to assert yourself to reinvent your customer experience. As a direct result of the pandemic, customer expectations have changed dramatically. So, the experience before the pandemic is no longer good enough. Take this time now to make a similar determined effort to evaluate what needs to be done to offer an experience that is simply better than before the pandemic.
QUI Customer Experience Strategies from the Pandemic
Define who is the CX Champion and the key players on the CX team. In our case, during the pandemic, the champions were the director of housekeeping and director of loss prevention because they were responsible for guest and employee safety. Pre-COVID, the CX team may have been directed by the marketing leader. Now is the time to ask yourself who should champion customer experience improvement. Who is the leader of the team who has the most face-to-face customer interactions that can create a raveable customer experience? Be sure to include as co-champions and team members the employees who interact daily with your customers. Choose the group’s internal social influencers so that the message can be amplified throughout the organization.
Identify the experts who deliver an exceptional customer experience. Mystery shop your competitors in person and online. Google the Top Ten Best list, not only in your industry but also in the business category where your customers buy products or services. Is there any idea you can CASE and tweak to make it your own? For example, CASEing the practice of complimentary beverages on an airline flight, we began offering bottled water to guests who were checking in AND when they were checking out. With daily housekeeping services being suspended during the pandemic, the bottled water served as our “peak-end” experience enhancement.
Assess every position. Is the job description of each employee pre-COVID the right job now? In hospitality, for example, could a front desk position be changed to be a pre-arrival concierge calling multiple-day stay Guests to offer their assistance in planning sightseeing activities, making restaurant reservations or celebrating a special occasion? Does each role in your business enhance the customer experience or can it be modified to give customers a better one?
Allocate resources. Review each budget line item. Given the new environment, is that the best use of the appropriation? Is it time to consider upgrading to a customer relationship management application instead of using the contact feature in Outlook?
Involve everyone. As you did in announcing the safety protocols, make sure you publicize internally the action steps and outcomes of your focus on customer experience improvement. Create a channel, whether it is via email, a private Facebook or Yammer group, or a “What are you hearing” voice mailbox to constantly solicit for staff feedback. And make sure you share the feedback and let them know what you are doing as a result. Without the involvement of every employee, there is no commitment to maintaining the newly defined customer experience standards.
Continually remind your people. During the pandemic, we plastered doors and floors with social distancing decals, and walls with CDC guidelines posters. At our hotel, we had safety reminders run on the guest in-house TV channel and on the employee backstage TV channel. Safety reminders were part of the daily 15-minute staff huddle and the weekly e-newsletter. Use the same methods to continually remind your team of your foundational values and daily performance standards. Repeat it everywhere and often to make it stick.
QUI TIP: Maintain a sense of urgency. Choose a date like June 1 or July 4 to define the internal reopening of your establishment with the “new normal” customer experience. Back plan action steps using that date.
QUI TAKEAWAY: At the start of this pandemic, we all worked with a real sense of urgency, innovated, spent money, and elevated our safety game. Now is a great time for you and your team to put in as much critical thought and intense energy to revamping your customer experience.