This CX Mini Masterclass looks at the practical realities of managing the customer journey in time of crisis. Interactions during a crisis can be the ultimate moment of truth for the customer, but experiences will only strengthen loyalty if brands have made appropriate adjustments to the journey. Show host and customer experience expert, Julia Ahlfeldt, explores how the customer’s perspective changes and what businesses need to do in response. If you’re looking for insight, guidance and practical ideas on how to modify customer experience in times of unprecedented uncertainty, then this episode is for you.
CX in times of crisis
The world is currently facing an unprecedented global health crisis in the form of the novel coronavirus pandemic. Over the course of the last week, the spread of this virus has skyrocketed in Europe and the US. It’s become a global pandemic, travel restrictions have been put in place, industries such as the travel sector have had the rug pulled out from under them, global stock markets have tanked and businesses are scrambling to respond.
Some businesses face total shutdown during government lock-down, but many others such as pharmacies, retailers and grocery stores are still providing essential services. B2B services provides are pivoting to change how they support customers whose workforce is now either operating on reduced capacity or working from home.
This crisis will (hopefully) pass, but one thing is guaranteed, this time of uncertainty is not the first and it won’t be the last. CX leaders and practitioners need to be prepared to jump in and redirect customer journey management when the unexpected happens.
Adjusting customer journey management
Interactions in times like these can be the ultimate moment of truth for a customer. It’s an opportunity for brands to demonstrate their loyalty to the customer in a time of need, but it’s also a moment when the relationship is especially susceptible to damage. The key to success is for brands to listen and respond quickly. There will likely be aspects of the customer journey that need immediate attention and change.
Regardless of the nature of the crisis at hand, there are several aspects of CX management that are especially important. CX leaders should consider these when deciding how to guide changes to customer journey management.
When a “new normal” arrives, it brings with it a whole new set of needs and concerns. CX leaders need to understand how customer perspectives and priorities have changed. Something that might not have mattered yesterday is now important, and what was top-of-mind yesterday is now on the back burner.
Changing priorities bring about a heightened awareness both in terms of individual behavior and what consumers expect of others. In the case of the coronavirus, health hygiene has been thrust to the front of everyone’s minds. Consumers expect brands to provide experiences in the safest context possible, and they are suddenly scrutinizing the details of cleanliness. Brands need to respond to this new expectation by altering their actions and communication with customers.
Today it’s cleanliness, but the next crisis might bring about a different set of priorities, concerns and expectations. Brands need to be dialed into Voice of Customer Data so they can stay attune to these changes as they happen and modify the journey appropriately.
The ripple effect of new needs
Brands should also consider how customers’ need have changed, and what this means for the customer journey they deliver. It might be helpful to ask: what aspects of customers’ lives are they leaning on more now than they used to before? How does this impact the customer experience we deliver?
Taking another example from the current coronavirus crisis, more customers are practicing “social distancing” and living their lives from within the confines of their home. This means they are relying heavily on remote channels of interaction and phone or internet connectivity as their gateway to the world. From a customer support perspective, many organizations can expect a shift in support from physical to digital and phone touchpoints. In response to social distancing, many food delivery providers now offer special drop-off services to accommodate those who need food, but want to limit possible germ exposure or have been infected with the virus and are on self-quarantine.
To spot these changes in needs, organizations can tap into voice of customer data and/or customer activity data to see how patterns are changing, and then quickly respond with the appropriate customer journey management steps.
Deciding which data are important in a crisis is a massive topic unto itself. CX thought leader and frequent show contributor, Stephanie Thum just published an excellent article on measuring CX during a crisis. I’d encourage you to check it out.
Dial up the empathy
A time of crisis presents the opportunity for brands to rise to the occasion and provide compassion through living their values. Ideally, all brands should be doing this every day, but when the world is uncertain, they need to dial it up. When everyone is stressed and tensions are high, it doesn’t bring out the best in people. That why during a crisis, it’s time for an extra dose of patience and empathy. More than ever, leaders should encourage teams to put themselves in the customer’s shoes and live the values while delivering the customer journey.
On the flip side, it’s also a time for organizations to pay extra attention to looking after employees, by setting boundaries that protect them, encouraging self-care and giving people the space to just process the human experience of living through uncertainty and change. Richard Branson famously said that brands need to first look after their employees, and that’s never more true than in a time of crisis.
Want to keep learning about CX?
If you’d like to checkout more of these CX Mini Masterclasses or listen to my longer format CX expert interviews, check out the full listing of episodes for this CX podcast.
Decoding the Customer is a series of customer experience podcasts created and produced by Julia Ahlfeldt, CCXP. Julia is a customer experience strategist, speaker and business advisor. She is a Certified Customer Experience Professional and one of the top experts in customer experience management. To find out more about how Julia can help your business achieve its CX goals, check out her customer experience advisory consulting services (including CX strategy, voice of customer and culture change) or get in touch via email.