Is your organization reducing customer experience funding? Are CX leaders and staff members being let go? Is the pandemic being used as an excuse for delivering poor customer experiences? Is your online customer service experience getting better or worse?
Don’t get me wrong. It’s imperative that organizations ensure the safety and well-being of all their employees across every function of their business during this pandemic crisis. As a result, organizations have had to quickly convert employees to remote working environments, adjust supply chains due to higher than expected demand and ensure social distancing is in place for warehouse, distribution, and shipping personnel. I also know that many organizations are seeing massive reductions in revenues and profits while others are reaping the benefits of having robust online products and services for a quarantined consumer. I’ve talked to many of my colleagues who have experienced firsthand the deterioration of customer service within their organizations. Further, there are plenty of organizations furloughing customer experience experts at the exact time these professionals should be steering the ship through rough waters.
It’s now over 3 months since we shut down the US economy to contain this pandemic and nearly 6 months since it was first identified. The first 30 days of responding to this economic shutdown was cataclysmic for most organizations. It strained every component of our business resiliency plans that for the most part went untested for years. As the economy begins to re-open and we learn to live with this virus, the question arises, what now? In my opinion, now more than ever, we need to invest in ensuring we are exceeding customer expectations the likes of which we have never seen before and may never again in my lifetime. We don’t need surveys and focus groups, right now, we need investments in people, in technology and in processes that will enhance and improve how customers do business with us. And if customer experience continues to be treated as if it were a “nice-to-have” rather than a “must-have” element in our business, many organizations will risk long-term adverse effects on their revenues and profits long after this pandemic is past.
The most effective customer experience is an integrated experience. It’s not a program that comes and goes each quarter. It’s not an initiative that makes us feel good for a few months and then lands on the cutting floor like scenes edited from a Hollywood film. It’s like trying to learn a foreign language. Until we stop translating from our native language into the foreign language and think in that language, we haven’t quite learned it, have we? It’s no different with customer experience. Until we think about our customers’ expectations in every function across every department, we won’t truly achieve an integrated customer experience for our organization. The same applies for how we think about our employee experience. Thinking about how this pandemic is impacting employees is equally as important as analyzing how it is impacting our customers.
Now more than ever, organizations must invest in customer experience, add customer service staff to handle increased volumes, and ensure that you’re prepared for what’s next. Although there’s plenty of speculation as to how long this pandemic will last, it’s prudent for organizations to expect the worst and hope for the best. Following are guidelines to insure continual positive motion to maintain the heartbeat of customer experience in an organization.:
- Know your customer touchpoints. Understand how those touchpoints have been impacted.
- Add sales and service staff. If you’re one of the lucky organizations that is seeing increased volumes, it’s time to add staff and address supply chain challenges. Customers have been patient but that may be changing as the crisis drags on. They may not tolerate long waits, poor quality and delayed shipments much longer.
- Apply what you’ve learned in the last 3 months. Let’s learn from our mistakes in the early goings of this pandemic and not keep making the same ones repeatedly. Use the crisis to enhance how we better serve our customers.
- Touch base frequently with remote employees. Ensuring your employees safety and well-being is a priority. Ask how they are balancing personal and professional challenges and how you can help them as a leader and an organization.
- Invest for the future. When we fully emerge from this crisis will you be ready for a new reality? Will your customers still be there?
- Celebrate the wins. No matter how small they may be, now is the time to celebrate your wins. Building an organization’s culture is a never-ending proposition. Don’t let this crisis derail your efforts at building a diversity-rich culture that’s agile and responsive to changing market conditions.
- Create better experiences. Customers will remember the organization’s that helped them through the crisis; that responded to their needs; that demonstrated their commitment to their vision, mission, and values.
Nothing is easy. Every organization needs to determine the best way forward for themselves, their customers, and their employees. I contend that an integrated customer experience is the best and most effective roadmap for all three.