CX’s role in helping brands respond to COVID
It’s no secret that some of the world’s most successful companies not only invest in customer experience but are also able to continuously adjust their strategies to reflect how their customers are thinking and behaving. Done well, it is indicative of a brand that cares about its customers, is engaged with their feedback and responsive to change. Done poorly, or not at all, it risks ruining a long-term relationship with a customer, increasing customer churn and limiting future sales.
In times of crisis, however – such as the world currently finds itself in – does customer experience (CX) even matter? And if so, how do you deliver it?
Listening has never been more important
The quick answer is yes, CX is still important. In fact, it’s more important than it ever has been – not least because customers’ needs are all the more pressing. When a distressed customer needs urgent help with their paycheck protection loan, or can’t order groceries online because their broadband has gone down, it is imperative that their lender or internet provider is able to handle the enquiry without exacerbating the customer’s anxiety. A company’s ability to do the right thing unfailingly is rightly synonymous with its corporate reputation.
More bluntly, it is during moments of stress that customer loyalty is earned. Your customers are the lifeblood of your business – without them, you have no sales, no profit, nothing. Engaging with them in a crisis may be more challenging, but it is absolutely necessary.
By listening to customers and understanding what they need in the moment, organisations can pick up on vital signals about things that are working well or, more importantly, things that aren’t. Using this insight, changes can be made to improve operations and encourage users to keep using your product or service.
While CX is important, we can’t, however, ignore the fact that throughout this worldwide pandemic, tapping into these customer insights has proved challenging.
To start with, many organisations initially closed their physical premises, meaning there were fewer customer touch points and fewer opportunities to grab ‘in the moment’ feedback. And even where brands have an online presence, or are starting to reopen stores, maintaining the experience of customers has been tested by limits on stock availability, longer lead times and reduced deliveries. In addition, the nature of the feedback from customers (and indeed the products they are after) has changed – with more practical considerations coming to the fore.
Doing it right
To keep delivering great CX, organisations have had to pivot, and fast.
And many have succeeded. By using tools such as theme exploration and social listening (not as creepy as it sounds), and by boosting communication with customers via messaging platforms and quick surveys, brands have been able to tap into the pulse of their customers. This has helped them understand how to enhance the services and products they offer, and placed them in a better position to deliver what their customers actually want and need.
And they are doing it well. For example, Batteries Plus, a specialty electronics retailer serving the US healthcare community, has realigned its store operations in the wake of Covid-19 from an exclusive bricks-and-mortar establishment to a click-and-collect service, to ensure customers feel safe. This insight (and the subsequent change) was captured using customer feedback.
Other organisations have been similarly innovative. Companies that identified customer concerns about signing for deliveries have adapted by making contactless options available. Others have been able to pinpoint stock shortages in certain stores and outlets, while others have created callback options for customers who get frustrated with call waiting times. These are just some of the countless examples of how organisations are tapping into their own customers’ insights and making meaningful changes at a time when it’s most important. And as companies make these adjustments to the way they operate – often for the first time – leaders in this space are incorporating iterative feedback loops, to ensure the new channel or offering is fit for purpose, understand whether it’s working as intended, and provide insights to tweak and evolve as needed.
One of the many things that Covid-19 has shown us is that, irrespective of industry or geography, there is value in listening to others and adapting – not only to keep business moving but to be there for customers. By failing to act, companies will miss a vital opportunity to engage with customers to improve their services. Get it right, and customers will be sure to remember in the longer term. But this isn’t about the bottom line – delivering great CX during a crisis is about doing right by your customers when they need it most.