Research Study: Marketing & CX Leadership in the Crisis Economy – Part 1


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Part 1: Keeping employees and customers physically and emotionally safe

As CMO’s, CCO’s and CXO’s respond to the COVID-19 crisis, our study captures their priorities, decision making frameworks and strategies in this time of crisis. In this, the first of a 3-part series, we examine how leadership teams kept their employees and customers physically and emotionally safe.

“We were having daily executive meetings, considering across the organisation what was going on, what things we had to react to and action very quickly. Then I was having daily cascading meetings with my team and then they would have cascading meetings with theirs.”

Marketing & CX Leadership: A Day in Their Lives
Marketing and CX leaders are now settling into a new operating rhythm after working around the clock. In that first month of the COVID-19 crisis most leaders felt they had lost the normal separation between work and home. ”Working in a state of adrenaline high and fatigue low is just not sustainable.” commented one Chief Customer Officer.

Their work and private lives blended, “We had WhatsApp groups’ messages coming through at all times of the day and evening. We were still having executive calls on the weekend. We were making decisions on the weekend. It was just a whole mish-mash. And that was fine as we were establishing and influencing and creating our rhythm in week one and two.” said another CMO.

“Protect customers. Protect the business. Protect the team.”

Goal: Deliver Deep Care
Within days of the Australian government introducing radical social distancing measures, thousands of organisations mobilised tens of thousands of employees to transition from working in offices together to working from home alone.

Driving this rapid change were executive leaders and managers; ensuring their teams were supported functionally with equipment and emotionally with care and support. Organisations ‘opened their wallets’, approving spending on upgrading technology and home delivering computer monitors and ergonomic furniture to get employees not only operational, but physically safe and comfortable in their new work-from-home environment.

Leaders then leaned-in to support their teams emotionally. CEO’s were making random calls of support; daily team huddles were quickly convened to help employees establish a positive morning mindset and set daily routines and regular check-ins were made to see how people were coping. “We had three agenda items; transitioning to working from home, dealing with very specific issues around productivity and who was coping and who wasn’t.”

“From a leadership point of view we went into high frequency, low formality communications mode, and deliberately so.”

Over-Communicating Delivers Safety Fast
The crisis brought uncertainty, fear and stress. Leaders used the tactic of over-communicating to fill a vacuum of ambiguity; getting employees and customers on the same page, fast.

With daily announcements and updates from the government and the situation changing rapidly, in some cases by the hour, organisations stepped up to disseminate a huge volume of information.

From the executive leadership team down, communication became a top priority. Sharing information as it came to hand, daily executive leadership team meetings dealt with critical decision making information, “We were canvassing key issues, bringing them up through the leadership and establishing very clear lines of communication back into the field.”

Leaders utilised daily, face-to-face meetings with their teams, multi-channel communication through their intranet, websites, social media, advertising and marketing messages. “I feel like our efforts on the communications front have ramped up so much that it’s almost like we’re overcompensating.”

Video became a tool for fast, frequent and effective communications, helping employees and customers ease confusion. “A lot of our communication was about why we’re doing this. Helping to keep people protected, basically. This is how we helped mitigate the impacts of isolation and keep people connected.”

“The message we delivered from our CEO and HR Director was that it was really OK if things were confronting or to feel that you were struggling; the business, your managers and your executives are here to help.”

Deeper Human to Human Connection
Leaders reiterated an unexpected and positive outcome of the crisis was learning about each other’s personal lives which has brought everyone closer. Functional corporate relationships have undergone a metamorphosis, “… it has reset what the norms, or what what’s acceptable or not.”

“He has never turned up to the office in full drag, he turned up on the team catch up at 7:30 in the morning; he’d been making a video for a drag show that he was in.”

Through technology and video streaming, leaders shared their personal lives, working with their peers in their living rooms and kitchens. Working in comfortable clothes, in comfortable surroundings; their homes, home life and work life blended to reveal a new side; a more human view of the people that they work with every day. “He has never turned up to the office in full drag, he turned up on the team catch up at 7:30 in the morning; he’d been making a video for a drag show that he was in.”

Stepping into each other’s lives, they discovered a personal story behind the corporate facade. “We’re getting to see into people’s homes. They’re showing us their pets. Their kids are jumping on the screen saying hi. Everyone knows the ins and outs of my kitchen.” “And it’s lovely to see the home environment and you see their children pop up and it creates talking points, and you really start to learn more about others, which has been wonderful.”

“I was on a Zoom call earlier and their mum brought them a cup of coffee. And they were like, ‘Thanks Mum.’ This is the kind of stuff you’d be really uncomfortable with six weeks ago, now it’s just normal.”

Part 2
In Part 2, we will explore the types of decision making frameworks and how Marketing and CX Leaders used rapid decision making to get their organisations operational with 24 hours’ notice.

About this Research Study

Leadership in the Crisis Economy: Pulse 1/2020
By Alex Allwood – Director, Customer Strategy and Experience
David Thompson – Research Associate
All Work Together Pty Ltd
June 2020

Leadership in the Crisis Economy, Pulse 1/2020 is based on a qualitative study of 12 Australian executive leaders across 12 industries.
All Work Together conducted the research study in May/June 2020. Data from the research was synthesised using cluster analysis to deliver findings and insights.
All Work Together is a business consultancy specialising in customer experience (CX) research, strategy and design.

Alex Allwood
My focus is connecting customer and culture to empower customer-centric growth; fostering a culture of customer centricity, building team capability and helping transform customer experiences. With a 20 year track record in leadership, operations and marketing, my strength is developing customer experience strategy: customer understanding and empathy, experience vision and guiding principles and the customer narrative. I am the principal of the CX consultancy, All Work Together; authored the books, Customer Empathy (2019) and Customer Experience is the Brand (2015).


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