Human imagination has often been fascinated with the possibility of an apocalypse. We predicted meteorites falling on earth, natural calamities creating global havoc and even mass destruction through man-made weapons. However, most of us did not anticipate the most likely cause of a global-scale disruption—tiny but deadly viruses.
COVID-19 has opened our eyes to the otherwise invisible microbes and the mayhem they can cause. A few months back, one could not have imagined a global shut down. When Ironman said, “Earth is closed today”, it seemed like nothing more than a quirky line. However, it turned out to be reality way too soon; coronavirus has brought our entire world to its knees.
Even though safety and health are major concerns at this time, people are also being haunted by the accompanying economic crisis and their inability to make ends meet. Supply chains have been hit, business models ruined and workflow shattered. Thousands of people have lost their jobs, both in the organised and the unorganised sector.
However, the financial hit has been most pinching on daily-wage workers, freelancers, entrepreneurs and small business owners. Even businesses that have maintained operations during the pandemic are facing a scarcity of resources, affecting their revenues and customer volume. Naturally, we’ve also seen a dramatic shift in customer behaviour, affecting companies across the globe.
Given that the crisis necessitates following social distancing norms, we’ve witnessed the emergence of remote customer service trends that here to stay for a long time. It is crucial for managers to improvise their business models and get ahead of the changing customer behaviour curve.
For this edition of Expert Advice, we bring to you the indispensable guide to managing customer experience. Let’s talk to Ian Golding, a Certified Customer Experience Professional (CCXP) and a certified Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt with a career spanning over 17 years. In an exclusive interview with Servetel, he explains the five things that businesses should focus on while managing CX. Here are some major insights you should take into account for your business:
1) Have a Simple, Clear Message
This goes a long way for all business communications. Customers react better to minimalistic and straightforward messages. Try to recall some famous taglines. McDonald’s’ “I’m lovin’ it”, Nike’s “Just do it” or Coke’s “Taste the Feeling” are probably etched on your mind. These brands benefit from the rule of using clear messages.
Ian adds that businesses need to get back to their drawing boards and ask themselves some crucial questions: “What are you doing as a business now, and what do you want the experience for your customers and employees to be? Are you clearly communicating the message in a way that fits into the changing lives of your customers and employees?”
The answers to these questions will form the basis of your customer experience and overall sustainability. Remember, the steps you take today will have a long-lasting impact, even after the pandemic is over. Therefore, call for an in-depth deliberation with your entire team. Getting a variety of opinions on board will help you analyse the problem and its probable solutions with a better perspective.
2) Focus on Your Employees First
Ian says that if you want to deliver an experience that leaves customers remembering you for the right reason, then you must make sure that you have enabled them to do so. “You cannot expect your people to treat your customers in a way you are not treating them.”
It goes without saying that customer care starts with employee care. It is imperative that your employees feel secure—emotionally, physically and financially. Lack of resources might force you into pay-cuts, but care goes beyond money. Several unicorn founders have openly shared company revenues with their employees to enhance transparency and build trust.
It is time for you to connect with your employees and reassure them that you can beat the COVID-19 blues with collective effort. Simultaneously, as a business owner, you need to facilitate effective working models through virtual collaboration. Utilise the latest cloud technology and let your employees work from the safety and comfort of their homes.
3) Give Your People Time to Think
Here’s what Ian has to say about this: To be able to empathise, your employees need to be able to think and act in the interests of the customer. Therefore, you must give them the flexibility to do ‘what is right’ for the customer in this specific situation, rather than just sticking to rules and protocols.
“If they just ‘do what they are told’, they will be less likely to empathise with customers. This will not only negatively affect the customer experience, but also the employee experience.”
As he pointed out, this is not the time for head-on marketing or promotion. It is time to work in unison with your employees and customers to create a healthy environment for mutual assistance. For instance, some credit card companies have waived off interest charges, and online education platforms are allowing individuals to enroll free of cost into skill development courses to aid in their employment. Think of how your business can help customers through these strenuous times. It might result in a little dip in your profits initially, but will help you build goodwill and establish life-long relationships with loyal customers.
4) Listen More and Talk Less
Ian points out that this is not the time to merely speak to customers and employees; it is the time to listen. Customers and employees need reassurance; they need to trust the businesses they are dealing with. Listening to their concerns and acting accordingly will lead to positive emotional experiences.
Healthy interactions with customers go a long way. Businesses must go beyond their routine operations to address critical user concerns—from safety standards to operational continuity or finance options. Outbound IVR, SMS marketing and other such tools enhance user interaction and allow seamless surveying, which is crucial in the current scenario.
5) Close the Loop. Act on What You Hear.
Far too many organisations fail to act on the feedback they capture from consumers. Showing customers that you’ve taken their response into consideration allows you to demonstrate empathy, authenticity and sincerity towards them. Successful businesses understand the importance of customer feedback. It helps identify critical areas of the business operation that need immediate care. In this period of stressed relationships, client feedback is even more important. Implementing changes might be difficult due to financial constraints, but people will appreciate the genuine effort towards a transformation. This will help your business not only in retaining customers during the pandemic but also in bringing in new customers.
Business relations are built over time, by carefully nurturing each customer engagement. It can be argued that COVID-19 has set the world back a few years. However, with careful planning and systematic changes, you can definitely revive your operations.
This pandemic has presented companies with certain unexpected opportunities. Digital integration has been accelerated and virtual collaboration has seen a significant rise. Firms have the option to recruit talent from various parts of the world while cutting down on other expenses. In addition, they enjoy the added freedom of experimenting with unique customer service channels. After all, a good CX lies at the core of business continuity and driving long-term sustainability. The path companies take now will define their future—hopefully, one ripe with opportunities and growth.