How to ensure your CX programme doesn't stagnate
With so many worries and pressures in our business and personal lives, it's easy for customer experience programmes to lose momentum.
With the COVID-19 pandemic causing so many pressures in our business and personal lives, it's easy for customer experience programmes to lose momentum.
In many organisations, staff have been furloughed. For most businesses, staff are now working remotely. And every company is having to adapt to extraordinary operating conditions.
It's no wonder that in the scramble to recalibrate your business, you can easily lose sight of your over-arching customer experience strategy.
But CX leaders owe it to themselves and their organisations to keep the momentum going - and they owe it to their customers most of all.
Here's a checklist of key things you can keep an eye on to ensure that your customer experience programme doesn't stagnate.
Keep your staff engaged and empowered
Your service teams and CX staff will be dealing with their own pressures and strains, so it is important to ensure that they are safe and well, first and foremost, but also still feel engaged and are empowered to be able to do their jobs.
Check in with your team regularly one-to-one as often as possible, and send short surveys to gauge how they are.
Bryan Horn also recommends the following steps:
- Show genuine care. Even remotely, employees can feel a connection to management through small and simple acts of caring. Send your employees a gift card to Amazon to purchase a book of their choice on their birthday. Make yourself available to them through email, texts and phone. Ensure them that you have their back, and you are here to help them be the best people they can be.
- Give them a voice. Telecommuting employees must feel they have a voice, and their concerns are important to the direction of the business. Allowing them to express concerns is vital to the success of the organisation. They need to know the company has a vested interest in them. Employees should have direct access to managers, supervisors, and HR professionals.
- Recognise their work. Remote employees can often feel they are “out of the loop” when not directly apart of the traditional office culture. When your employees go above and beyond, make sure they are recognised through the virtual huddle. Many companies have an online reward system where managers can send messages and even gifts to honour employee contributions and successes. Send them a personal email thanking them for their hard work. There are countless little things you can do to show them you appreciate them.
Keep customer journey maps up-to-date - and use them
Jeannie Walters of Experience Investigators believes that customer journey mapping is crucial as organisations are forced to pivot. She gives three reasons why it is so important at this moment in time:
- If you’ve been asked to review or reduce expenses, a journey map can help you identify ways to reduce service costs.
- If you are looking for ways to improve retention rates, journey maps can help you identify where to add value for your customers at key points in their journey.
- If you are launching a new product or communicating to a new audience, a journey map can help you provide a more seamless experience to customers who need what you offer right now.
Customer journeys are also changing dramatically during lockdown - trips to many shops are now not possible, contact centre phonelines are busy, and consumers are becoming more accustomed to new digital channels. Many of these changes in customer preferences may become permanent. So organisations need to keep tabs on how their customers are changing.
As Lane Cochrane of iperceptions notes: "The forced adoption of new experiences will undoubtedly change behaviours once restrictions ease, and the economy returns to a new state. Existing customer journey maps will have to be redrawn, as changed consumers will begin their journeys again, leveraging their previous habits along with new insights, tools, and experiences they gather during these unprecedented times."
And Walters also emphasises how important it is for organisations to ensure they are using their customer journey maps to actually address specific challenges during this time.
"Leverage what you know to understand what your customers need and where they need it in the journey," she says. "Shore up what you need to provide the best experience you can for these situations."
Keep listening to customers - but pare surveying back
Customers will have little patience for company surveys at the moment, and particularly so if they feel self-serving or pointless. Yet at the same time, organisations need to understand their customers' thoughts, opinions and preferences. So what can you do?
Forrester's Maxie Schmidt recommends that companies pare their surveying down to the bone by cutting out:
- Questions that send signals to customers that you don’t know them. For example, “What did you come to this website to do?” Why not get this information from web data analysis instead?
- Questions about CX drivers in transactional surveys. Especially if they correlate highly with each other (meaning they basically measure the same thing) or if stakeholders aren’t using them other than to put the numbers in a report.
- Transactional NPS. Starting a “feedback” survey with “How likely would you be to recommend us?” seems particularly inappropriate at this time.
- Demographic questions about age, gender, and income. Those can feel intrusive at the best of times, and often don't add enough insights to make it worthwhile. Instead, tag each survey with a unique identifier so you can link feedback to the customer data you have in your customer relationship management system.
Ideally, Schmidt recommends, limit your surveys to a single, simple question about the experience. For example: “How was your experience with ___?” Offer customers the option to add a comment, but don’t force an answer.
Elsewhere, you can also shift your customer listening strategy so that there is less emphasis on surveys are more on other elements such as:
- Using your social listening platforms to identify trends among your customers and also monitor inquiries directed to your social media accounts.
- Working closer with your customer support team to capture and report any changes in customer queries and call volumes.
- Investing in having live conversations with customers. Forrester's David Truog and Harley Manning suggest that companies should get their research professionals onto custoer service calls and proactively reach out to customers.
Keep reinforcing your customer service culture
If you have a strong service culture, you will have expressed these cultural expectations at every possible juncture from recruitment, hiring, and employee onboarding onward.
However, your employees may now be operating remotely in environments that they haven't traditionally associated with work. So there is a danger that certain standards could understandably start to slip.
Micah Solomon has recommended a repeating ritual for cultural reinforcement, what he calls a daily Customer Service Minute - a "huddle" where employees gather in small groups to kick off their shift on the right note, by focusing on an aspect of providing great service.
"This typically includes sharing examples that illustrate that single service principle as well as going over helpful techniques, pitfalls encountered, and challenges overcome," says Solomon.
"I recommend that the Customer Service Minute be led by a different employee (not necessarily a manager, by the way) each day; if you take this approach, your employees, in rotation, will be learning and teaching at the same time, and you’ll avoid overburdening any manager or single team member."
With teams encouraged to have regular virtual meetings to keep in touch, maintain camaraderie and boost morale, this is also an opportunity to adopt the Customer Service Minute to reinforce the service culture.
Keep in touch with key stakeholders
It's not only your team that you need to keep in regular contact with.
CX managers need to foster relationships within their organisations if they are to successfully embed their customer experience programme. Because of the organisation-wide influence that CX programmes need to have, it is also absolutely crucial that they collaborate well with all the customer-facing departments, and beyond.
Therefore, it is vitally important that regular communications are taking place with stakeholders across the business - solidifying relationships, surfacing insights, nurturing ideas and embedding a company-wide customer-focused culture.
Keep sharing best practices and learnings
When you and your team are isolated from eachother it is easy for best practices and insights that emerge organically to simply go forgotten, whereas in the 'normal' working environment they would have been shared. Yet these are the kinds of insights that ensure that CX improvements are continuous.
Peter Massey has noted that out of the current chaos will come opportunities to make long-term improvements in the way we work - provided that we acknowledge them and make a conscious effort to embrace them.
"Now is a big chance to not waste the new behaviours people are learning and experiencing to make a better normal - to reset your business’ normal. A 'new normal'. It's a big chance to take note of what's good - really learn and take note and reuse, redesign and reinforce. People want to travel less. People want to have some connecting time when with people, to interact differently in meetings.
"But above all? Above all, people want to keep slaying the dumb things. At speed. In the way they were allowed to when there was a crisis. To be treated and trusted as adults in their work. To be allowed to get on with stuff. To demand help when they need it. And don't you dare forget: who was important when the chips were down."
Find a tool or platform you can use to share insights, or even just get into a routine of noting them down as they arise and encouraging your team to do the same. These best practices and learnings could prove to be the nucleus of better ways of working - and even better customer experience programmes - for tomorrow.
Neil Davey is the managing editor of MyCustomer. An experienced business journalist and editor, Neil has worked on a variety of newspapers, magazines and websites over the past 15 years, including Internet Works, CXO magazine and Business Management. He joined Sift Media in 2007.