Now’s not the time to be cutting customer experience funding.

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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.

7 COMMENTS

  1. Customer experience should be continuously improved as the economy will rebound and those customers who we have treated well will be our ambassadors

  2. A really well articulated piece Bob. I agree in principle that “we don’t need surveys and focus groups right now.” Having said this, I do think it is imperative that companies step back to take objective, bird’s-eye views of the experience they are providing right now.

    Necessity has caused company practices, processes and policies to change dramatically. At the same time, a myriad of factors has caused customer needs and expectations to also dramatically change. The dynamics, and the lenses that we were viewing CX from just 4 short months ago, are simply irrelevant right now. Simple tweaks to a CX strategy won’t be enough

    The scary part is that, not only do companies need to quickly adjust to these new dynamics, but they need to recognize that today’s CX snapshot will also become irrelevant in a short period of time. This is exactly the case to have CX professionals onboard. Companies need people who can stay on top of the ongoing customer-company-relationship transmogrifications to help guide them into the future

  3. Shaun, excellent thoughts related to this post. My comments about surveying and focus groups was related to various discussions that colleagues are having about is now the time to survey rather than using customer information to formulate a dynamic new CX strategy – as you so well articulated!

  4. Well said Bob. As an expert in CX and Customer Journey Mapping, I could not agree more. The biggest challenge companies will have in the new normal is how have the customer’s expectations changed, do we understand these changes, and how will these changes impact the journeys and touch-points we already have in place. Definitely a time that requires perhaps more resource not less.

  5. Your point is bang on Bob. The question I’ve been asking people is, ‘what exactly are you trying to quantify right now?’ Customers’ mindsets and journeys are so profoundly fragmented right now – and all are in flux. Trying to establish cohesive baselines – or even determining a set of metrics that will remain meaningful for any length of time – is a waste of time at the moment. Better that people take action – and follow the points you outlined. The only thing I know for sure is that NOT taking action and hoping that it will get better on it’s own is a really bad idea.

  6. This is cool Bob and thanks so much for bring this up at this time,CX is the life wire of every organization and should not be underestimated in anyway. Yes this pandemic time is a period whereby CX becomes more reflective across all org., competition is on the high side as many businesses is switching to online base business activities. The effects of this is lesser human touch in having business conversations (Digital channels).Employees are now moved from IVR channels of communication to email, live chat, social media and wed chat.
    These are all impacts of the now normal’s and organizations need to be geared in adapting to the new era of life. Is this time the CX of all organization need to be focused to see how the consumer behaviors is shift and adapting to the new normal.

  7. Bob, I’m glad you’re highlighting the need for integrated customer experience and integrated employee experience, which ultimately both should be integrated together, as well.

    Integrated customer experience, as you point out, is “Until we think about our customers’ expectations in every function across every department, we won’t truly achieve an integrated customer/employee experience for our organization.” I believe this applies to each function’s daily decisions and policy/process/strategy decisions, no function excepted.

    Accordingly, senior leadership teams and CX/EX professionals should be focusing beyond customer service, journey mapping, score monitoring, and experience design. In fact, all of the above may need a new lens, as you point out. All of these efforts should be in service to integrated customer experience. Now is the time for CX/EX professionals to strengthen their skills and internal networks to facilitate this integration into the fabric of the business.

    As Shaun points out, “The scary part is that, not only do companies need to quickly adjust to these new dynamics, but they need to recognize that today’s CX snapshot will also become irrelevant in a short period of time.” As such, I hope CX/EX professionals are adapting their VoC to better serve integrated CX/EX as defined above. Business-as-usual for every part of business in the 2020s is probably insufficient, and needs to be guided by relevant CX/EX insights. The good news is that much of this insight already resides inside companies and needs to be harvested via voice-mining, text-mining, and old-fashioned elbow grease in pattern analysis and operational translation. Much like translating from a foreign language — I like your analogy.

    I’m actually glad to see these changes underway, as painful as they are. I’ve been writing about integrated CX/EX for years, providing several article/podcast series on CEO’s Guide to Growth, B2B CX, Solving CX Silos, Future of VoC, and Organic Growth through Customer-Centered Business. I hope these pieces will be useful to CX/EX professionals as well as senior leadership teams now. Integrated CX/EX is essential to survival of CX/EX and business sustainability. I’m glad CustomerThink is a great source for this and the CXPA is helping guide this through its recent “CX as Resilience Strategy” series of advice from fellow CX professionals.

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