We live in a world of turmoil. Periodically, unpredictable and unprecedented events shake the very core of our lives. These times require keeping a cool head, understanding the psyche of our customers and remembering that we have organisations to protect once the crisis is over.
In the last few weeks, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has rocked the whole world. The full extent of the human tragedy and economic impact is yet to unfold. What we do know is that our customers and our organisations are living through tumultuous times.
There are many pressing business issues to contend with as the crisis continues. One that should remain top of mind is how to continue to deliver customer experience in a sustainable and impactful way so that our organisations can weather the proverbial storm.
During times of crisis, it may seem tempting to slow down on engaging in customer feedback. There is often a deluge of news and direct communication, making it feel as if your message may be lost. Organisations tend to favour silence, hoping to be viewed as empathetic and mindful of intrusiveness; however, this approach can be more detrimental than positive to a brand in the long term.
If you feel as if you have nothing useful to add, that is precisely the brand message you are communicating. That as a brand, as an organisation, you have nothing of value to add to your customers.
It is essential to do better than that.
While it is not an easy decision to continue engaging with customers or to know what to say, we at Smoke CI have guided our global clients through various localised and global times of turmoil. Here are our recommendations.
1. Do not abandon your customers
Although isolation or lock-downs mean customers might be engaging with your brand less frequently than usual, their experience with your brand is just as relevant as ever – if not more so.
The concern of intrusion is a valid one; but customers need to know you are available, are in tune with their needs and are responding to the crisis in an empathetic and useful way.
If a transaction triggers your current VOC programme, consider changing your approach to a communication-based strategy. For example, distribute an update on what your company is doing, followed by a relational NPS® and verbatim question to gauge how your customers are responding to your crisis management actions.
2. Adapt survey channels
Depending on the nature and severity of the crisis, telephonic communication with your organisation may decrease sharply. Furthermore, engaging with your customers via this channel may be perceived as intrusive.
Switching to a digital channel, such as SMS or email communication is an ideal option since it allows your customer to engage with you at their convenience.
If your organisation operates a call centre, it is essential to continue (or implement) a post-call feedback platform during times of crisis to not only convey the message of “business as usual” but indeed offer customers the human interaction they may be missing.
Maintain or add SMS and email as a channel for gathering feedback. Implement, or maintain, a post-call feedback survey in your contact centre. Adding a survey link to all statements and formal communications is a channel that could serve you well. During a crisis, it is vital that you offer customers a range of ways to give you feedback.
3. Change your questions and messages
Showing your customers that their well-being is more important than the bottom line puts the customer as your priority and truly embodies customer-centricity.
Factors such as empathy and professionalism become more critical as customer values evolve during crisis times. For example, how a query is handled will outweigh the speed in which a call is resolved meaning that an empathy question in a feedback survey will resonate better with a customer.
Acknowledge the Crisis in a survey invitation by using something like
“Our country is in the midst of uncharted disruption, and we thank you for your loyalty and support. During this time, your voice is even more important for us to hear so that we can provide the best possible customer experience to you as we face the COVID-19 pandemic together. We truly appreciate your taking a few minutes to provide your feedback.”
Also, consider adding questions that assess the impact of the actions your company has taken to make sure what you are doing resonates with your customers.
4. Monitor more & react swiftly
You may well be expecting a decrease in response rates, but in times of crisis, when customers do offer feedback, it is often clear and relevant (and given with the expectation of rapid response).
Clear and effective service recovery and escalation management must be in place so that any low scores can be responded to.
Overall reporting needs to be changed to a daily cadence, and insights need to be extracted and interpreted rapidly. All levels of the organisation need to be aware of customer feedback and empowered to take swift action to make changes required.
Create or expand your close-loop escalation management process and re-consider what is deemed a low score. For example, for a regular NPS survey, an escalation is generally triggered for scores lower than 6. If a question is asked with regards to a crisis action, it may be worth being notified of any ratings under 7. If you haven’t already, use text and sentiment analysis to understand verbatim feedback. Create an action committee that reviews results daily and include people in this group that are empowered to make swift decisions .
5. Don't forget about your employees
In times of crisis, employees are impacted as much (if not more) than your customers. They are expected to either continue going to work to offer essential services or to adapt to working at home under unusual conditions.
We expect extraordinary effort from our employees but sometimes tend to forget that as organisations, we are still responsible for their well-being and ultimately, satisfaction when crisis times disrupt our usual routines.
Triggering daily feedback from employees to gauge how they are doing and soliciting feedback, or triggering a survey after any disruptive change or announcement is an excellent way of monitoring how your employees are doing. Such surveys do not need to be as complicated as a full eNPS survey and can be as simple as asking employees to rate their emotions or satisfaction through one question each day or week.
Deploy an employee well being survey, either through a link on your intranet or via email. Issue this daily to stay on top of the evolving sentiment and need within your workforce. Another idea is to create a mechanism where teams can celebrate each other to maintain organisational culture. After-all, they are the people who will carry you through the crisis.
6. This too shall pass
Every crisis does eventually come to an end. During the 2008 financial crash, Jack Welch, the late CEO of GE, said: “Leaders emerge during trying times.”
While the safe option may be to watch and wait, others are actively building brand loyalty and deepening relationship with customers.
There is many a story of organisations offering payment plans, extended offers or free insight to their customers. If this is your approach, monitor the success of such through gathering feedback after any offer is taken up. If your strategy does not include examples such as these, continue to engage your customers with useful information and gather comment as to what they need.
Those organisations who take a proactive stance, who show their customers they care and who genuinely listen during the hard times, are sure to be rewarded in the good times.
Follow up any crisis initiative by gathering feedback. This will not only give you insights into the success of such offers but also offer guidance regarding what your customers expect as events unfold. Ask your customers what it is they need from you. Taking action during tough times will go a long way once the crisis passes.
Unprecedented challenges are facing our organisations and our customers. We need to stay alert and engaged if we want to bring them, and ourselves, though to the other side successfully.
Smoke Customer Intelligence is fully operational, and ready to assist you with your Voice of the Customer programme during this crisis, Contact us today.