The current COVID-19 has exposed brands’ CX shortcomings and a lack of understanding of their customers, according to a Forrester analyst, who outlined a path of CX recovery.

During the Zendesk Showcase, Riccardo Pasto, head of CX research ANZ at Forrester, said brands can not always avoid turbulence but when they are impacted, it doesn’t mean they have to fail at customer experience. 

He said, “It doesn’t mean that we have to drop in profitability either. Resilient organisations are those that prepare for different scenarios. Resilient organisations are able to create customer value continuously regardless of how badly that turbulence is shaking their organisation.”

Pasto highlighted four key ways brands can deliver better customer experiences through the turbulent times: through empathy, customer value, conducting a CX ecosystem impact analysis, and ongoing communication. 

Empathy

Firstly, Pasto says brands should be showing empathy. These times are causing disruption for everyone which means a customer’s needs and wants are different to what they normally are. 

This disruption is also causing customers to behave in different ways, for example, hoarding toilet paper. 

Pasto said to understand them better in a pandemic, brands could use surveys but need to supplement the information in other ways.

“Reflect on the quality of insights that you are able to collect through this method, especially when we, as organisations constantly bombard them with service, all the time. 

“We need to move beyond that, we need to include more data sources into our voice of the customer,” he said. 

Another way to gain empathy is through the contact centre. Pasto said it is a great listening post for unstructured, unsolicited customer feedback.

He said when you humanise customer insights with qualitative feedback, and qualitative research and give a face to customers; you are more likely to boost customer empathy right and foster and sustain a customer-centric culture over time. 

Customer value

Secondly, brands need to make value for their customers. Organisations are trying to address and recognise the hardships their customers are facing by creating products that a customer really needs right now. For example, Archie Rose, a distillery in New South Wales, launched a hand sanitiser. 

Pasto said, “When you think about customer value, which fundamentally, is how customers perceive what they get versus what they give up. 

“Consider context – and today’s context is the pandemic – and how that changes what value is from their perspective, right from the customer perspective.

Pasto said just as important is to consider different dimensions of value:

  • Function: Can the customer accomplish their goals, the tasks that they have a hand in.
  • Economic value: Are we helping them save, gain or make money?
  • Experiential value: How pleasant are the interactions organisations are delivering
  • Symbolic: The meaning customers create and attach to brands and also think about the value and the meaning in relation to other customers as well. 

Considering these dimensions, the place to start is either from a functional or economic value or maybe a combination of both, according to Pasto. 

He said brands should also consider the emotional angle and the experiential angle.

CX ecosystem analysis

The third way is delivering that value and enabling our organisation to deliver that value through a healthy CX ecosystem. 

Pasto said this is probably the most difficult part. For example, grocery stores being impacted heavily with shortages of many items resulting in empty shelves. 

These stores want to sell more to their customers but the problem is their supply chain that couldn’t cope with sudden drastic demand changes, especially in the early onset of the pandemic. 

Brands should be evaluating all staff from customer-facing to those behind the scenes like the IT and HR staff who support employees. 

Pasto said, “When many of us are working from home but also think about your suppliers and business partners, providing critical services to your organisation. Think about your tech vendors and BPOs.”

He said the problem is that today a business’s CX ecosystem is impacted by heightened turbulence. And turbulence, when left undetected or unaddressed, leads to chaos and chaos leads to poor customer experience. 

“Use this opportunity really to review and update your risk management and scenario planning practices for example. CX professionals have an important role to play, bringing their customer understanding to the table. 

“Making sure that you know there is that understanding at the corporate level [about] how customers you know could be impacted in different scenarios because of potential ecosystem breakdowns.”

Communication

The final priority is communication. Pasto said brands need to have a purpose when they reach out to customers before sending emails and marketing messages. 

He said brands should be asking themselves if they are stating the obvious. 

They should also be asking how they can create and deliver value to our customers. Whether that is highlighting new initiatives like a contactless delivery service. 

He said, “Just as importantly, I want you to reflect on the need of keeping the communication simple and clear. You don’t want to add stress and anxiety especially during a complex and difficult time.”

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