Nothing could have prepared us for the impact of this pandemic on the customer experience


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Not the bust in the 2000’s. Not 9/11. Not the 2008 financial crisis. Nothing could have prepared us for the pandemic crisis we are in today and its impact on the customer, employee, and student experience. While we can certainly learn from past crises, those practices we used are simply not comparable nor as all-encompassing as this pandemic. Rather than being able to rely solely on the lessons of the past, we are literally defining the experiences as we go, every minute of every day. We don’t have time for journey mapping workshops or “how to” strategy sessions. As they say in the NFL draft, “We are on the clock and the clock is ticking”. Every decision we’ve made. Every strategy we’ve executed seems meaningless in the face of 30 million unemployed Americans, a contracting GDP and a volatile stock market. Today’s pandemic requires us to simultaneously strike a delicate balance of thinking and executing as business leaders, adjusting to new customers expectations as CX professionals and ensuring the safety and health of our own families.

Today’s decisions are obsolete by tomorrow. Some companies are thriving while others are gasping for air. Some employees are essential while others are deemed non-essential. What a terrible way to define the employee experience. Does anyone really want to be considered a non-essential employee? After weeks of shelter-in-place, we’re getting antsy to get out. Spring is blossoming across the country. Warm weather draws us to the outdoors and calls us to a season of renewal. We’re torn between our need to stay safe and healthy and our desire to break free of this terrible virus.
Organizations of all sizes, across varied industries are struggling to find the right path for their customers. Some have been more successful than others. Regardless, I will not criticize those that have mis-stepped or failed. The instinct to survive is driving decisions that may not always have the best interest of the employee or customer in mind, but I believe their intent remains good.

Hundreds of articles are being published, blogs written, podcasts posted, and webinars held providing road maps for how to manage CX in a crisis. While all provide innovative ideas and creative recommendations, they’re missing one important fact that must be considered during this crisis. Each of our situations is unique. Just as our organizations are unique, so is the customer experience. We must take what we’ve learned, apply it to our own situations and create customer experiences that are flexible and responsive to ever-changing environments.

Consider this simple fact: customer expectations changed overnight and will never again be the same. We won’t get back to normal because the normal we knew is gone, forever. And guess what, that’s OK! The similarities between this crisis and the financial crisis of 2008 are few and far between. We’ve changed. The world has changed. The question is, can we adjust to what’s changed and create a new set of opportunities to grow our organizations and create better customer and employee experiences?
How we emerge from this crisis will test our character as individuals and leaders. How we deal with the reality of a changed environment will challenge the core of our beliefs. How we create new experiences from the ruins of the past will mean the difference between our survival as an organization or our ultimate demise.

On Thursday, April 30 the Austin,and Dallas networking groups of the Customer Experience Professionals Association joined forces for our first ever virtual brown bag lunch session entitled, “Are you ready for what’s next?”. We had a lively discussion among participants with our panelists, Diane Magers, David Sandal and Lisa Nance. Key takeaways from the session were:
Key Takeaways:
• CX professionals are uniquely positioned to help their organizations manage through the crisis.
• Use a variety of perspectives when making decisions to ensure you’re considering all aspects of the customer expectation.
• Connection is more important than ever with employees, customers, and colleagues
The recording of this session will be available soon. It was good to know that participants all had similar feelings about the state of the customer experience as of now – and a desire to understand rapidly changing customer expectations.
I believe in the inherent goodness of the human spirit.

“The human spirit is stronger than anything that can happen to it”. CC Scott.

We are writing history in real time. Forget the seminars and the training sessions. This is the real world. CX is happening in the here and now. It’s time to earn your stripes. This is where we will realize the genius of the human spirit to overcome this obstacle and achieve what was once unimaginable.

“It’s the people no one imagines that do the things no one can imagine” Alan Turing.

Bob Azman
Bob Azman is Founder and CXO of Innovative CX Solutions, LLC, a boutique CX consulting firm. He is the 2020 Immediate Past Chairman of the Board of the Customer Experience Professional Association ( Bob has a wealth of executive, diverse, global operations leadership experience at Carlson Wagonlit Travel, Thomson Reuters, Ceridian and Deluxe Corporation. Bob earned both his MBA and BA from the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, MN. He is an Adjunct Professor at the University of Minnesota Carlson School of Management and Rutgers University Business School.


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