Fight Change with Change: How Brands Can Overcome COVID

We’ve explored how COVID-19 has changed customer experience (CX) and behaviour in prior conversations, and how those changes are likely to leave the CX landscape altered for the foreseeable future. While the announcement and gradual deployment of a COVID vaccine is certainly cause for hope, it’s important to remember that the pandemic will be with the majority of us a while longer.

This is not the most welcome of news, especially for brands in hard-hit verticals like non-grocery retail and food service, but those organisations still have recourse for keeping their heads above water and thriving in the post-COVID world. Here’s how brands can stay ahead—how they can fight change with change.

Choose Your Transaction

Customers have enjoyed being able to choose how to transact with brands, but the rise of COVID-19 has put most of them on high alert in this regard. Customers are now especially wary of any threats to their health or personal safety, and take these factors into account when considering everything from in-person interactions with employees to touching a self-service kiosk.

As I mentioned in a previous discussion, contactless payments have skyrocketed during COVID-19 and will certainly remain the norm even after this pandemic concludes. There’s a more abstract shift underlying this trend, though, and it’s that customers are expecting brands to deliver greater transaction choice whatever its form. Foot Locker, for example, has continued to offer contactless payments, but has also begun offering Klarna as an online option. Customers have also come to expect these changes at a quicker pace thanks to COVID, and will continue to do so.

Tech’s Time to Shine

As difficult as this pandemic has been for many organisations, it also presents an opportunity to create new, oftentimes unorthodox solutions to the virus and other business challenges. Innovation has gotten many a brand through adverse times before, which is why companies must think outside the technological box as much as their resources will allow.

My favorite example of COVID-era innovation right now is Tesco, which has sought to address the rise in contactless payments by piloting its own drone programme. With this initiative, the grocer is using a fleet of drones to deliver groceries to customers in Ireland, satisfying those individuals’ desire for contactless payments and personal safety all at once. Tesco may very well continue the programme even after the pandemic subsides—after all, the innovations minted during crises rarely just go away after the fact.

A New World

That last idea is something that brands should bear in mind going forward. Not to sound indelicate, but crises come and go. Innovation, however, is forever. Organisations should remember that the tools they’re developing to combat COVID-19 now will likely serve as the foundation of a post-pandemic world. Fighting change with change is not just a stopgap measure; it provides a map for what brands can expect from their customers (and what customers will expect of them) going forward.

Click here to learn more about my take on this subject, the obstacles brands face in the age of COVID, and how they might find success for themselves and their customers as we transition to 2021.

5 Steps to Improve—Not Just Manage—Your Experience

Since the inception of customer experience (CX), the conversation about feedback and listening tools has largely revolved around data collection. Many brands have emphasized turning listening programs on immediately, gathering feedback from everyone, and using that feedback to inform both metrics and strictly reactive experience management.

Is there not a deeper layer to experience, though? Top-tier analyst firms like Forrester certainly seem to think so. That conversation about gathering feedback, about experience management, is being taken a step further to a new paradigm: Experience Improvement (XI).

Rather than being about reactive management and just watching metrics like NPS, experience improvement encourages brands to amp things up by creating meaningful, emotionally connective experiences for each and every customer. What follows are five steps to getting your program to that level.

Five Steps to Improve Experiences

  1. Design
  2. Listen
  3. Understand
  4. Transform
  5. Realize

Step #1: Design

Until now, most experience program frameworks encourage brands to turn listening posts on immediately and use gathered feedback to shape eventual goals. However, with experience improvement, this model is inverted to great effect. Rather than getting feedback first, forming goals later, brands should carefully think about what objectives they want their program to accomplish and design their listening efforts around those goals.

For example, does your brand want to reduce customer churn by a given percentage? What about increasing retention or acquisition? Whatever your company’s goal, your experience program can help you get much further toward it if you spell out concrete, numbers-driven goals before turning any listening posts on. Frankly, some audiences are also more worth listening to than others, and completing this step can help your brand better decide where to tune in and why.

Step #2: Listen

Once you’ve established your experience program’s goals and audiences, you can then turn your aforementioned listening posts on. Having determined which audiences to listen to before doing so can help your brand consolidate experience program resources toward much more helpful groups. For example, if you’re looking to boost customer retention, it makes more sense to focus on your established customer base than anyone who interacts with your brand in any context. This approach saves your brand time and resources hunting down helpful intel.

Step #3: Understand

After gathering more focused, relevant feedback through your program, take time to carefully digest it and sort out what might need improvement. An experience platform armed with capabilities like sentiment analysis can be a huge help here.  Additionally, it bears repeating that understanding your feedback means more than scoreboard-watching NPS—it means diving deep into customer feedback to understand common themes, praises, problems, and possible solutions.

Step #4: Transform

Understanding your customer feedback is one thing; using it to meaningfully transform the business is another. This is arguably the most work-intensive step of the experience improvement framework… and one of the most important. Meaningful transformation means sharing CX intelligence with leaders across the business (especially in the departments most relevant to the feedback) and working closely with them to outline and implement process improvements. Desiloing data is always a good idea because it gives employees a holistic view of the brand’s purpose.

Step #5: Realize

Realizing experience improvement means circling back to the goals you set forth in the design stage to ascertain how things shook out. Did you meet your program numbers? Perhaps more importantly, have the improvements implemented as a result of your program resulted in positive cultural changes? Having an initial goal to compare your outcome to is vital to realizing experience improvement… and simplifies proving ROI to request more resources for additional efforts.

By following these steps, organizations can transcend managing experiences and start meaningfully improving them. As we mentioned up top, Experience Improvement leads to the sorts of deeply connective experiences that keep customers coming back no matter what, leading to fundamental brand success.

To read more about these five steps—and brands who have found success with them—check out this article for free today!

3 Ways to Supercharge Your Employee Experience Program

We recently touched on the importance of employee experience (EX) programs and how your brand can get a powerful, effective EX initiative off the ground (or dust off an existing one). Starting your EX program is a big deal, but how can companies keep the momentum going once they’ve turned on the listening posts and gotten the first bits of employee feedback?

Today, we’re going to go over three ways to supercharge your EX program (and keep it that way) to help your brand’s experience be the best it can be:

  • Method 1: Stick to The Plan
  • Method 2: Lead Across Teams
  • Method 3: Take Action

Method #1: Stick to The Plan

It’s important to design your program with the end in mind before you even activate any listening posts. Designing with the end in mind means taking the time to consider which goals you want your program to accomplish—reducing employee churn by a given percentage, for example.

However, it’s just as important to make sure your team sticks to that plan after you activate your program. This isn’t to say you can’t consider new goals or aspirations if your feedback points to them; it just means checking in regularly to make sure your program is hitting KPIs, financial goals, and other hard numbers. That way, you can quantify your program’s success, which makes asking the ELT for additional resources much simpler.

Method #2: Lead Across Teams

It’s common for brands to leave EX programs solely in the hands of a dedicated team or the HR department. Both of those groups should be included, of course, but true EX success comes from sharing program ownership and leadership opportunities across the company. Encourage business unit leaders across your organization to collaborate with their teams and each other. This makes meaningfully acting on employee feedback much, much easier.

Effective program leadership also means continuing to involve the people to whom you reached out at the very beginning. Every experience program requires executive sponsorship, employee buy-in, and keeping those folks in the loop as your program matures. That responsibility can’t fade into the background once your initiative takes off.

Method #3: Take Action

Sticking to your program plan and encouraging your organization to collaborate on it are both powerful means of ensuring one thing: that action is taken upon your initiative’s gathered intelligence. When everyone is working together and your plan is hitting milestones at a steady drumbeat, your brand can create a meaningfully improved workplace culture and thus a better experience for all.

Successful EX Program = Successful CX Program

That better employee experience correlates directly with an improved customer experience. Although seamless transactions are important, customers seek emotion and human connections with their experiences. Employees who feel passionate and driven about their work can provide that, and it all begins with adhering to your plan, desiloing it across the organization, and taking action to transform your experience into something wonderful.

Want to read more about the importance of employee experience programs? Our expert Stacy Bolger has a new article out walking you through the foundations of a world-class program. You can read it here!

Why Your Brand Should Start (or Dust Off) an EX Program

A customer experience (CX) program is the best way to collect feedback from your audiences, glean useful learnings, and use that knowledge to meaningfully improve your brand experience. Initiatives like these usually determine whether your business is a leader within your vertical, or a follower. As such, they’ve become commonplace over the last decade or so.

What about employee experience (EX) programs, though? What value do they provide, why should your brand have one if it doesn’t already, and how can they help you improve your customer experience? Today, we’re going to briefly walk you through these and other questions within the EX world.

Creating Considerable Cultures

The first (and most obvious) case for starting an EX program is the benefit it provides workplace culture. Your brand needs to recruit and retain the best employee talent out there if it hopes to become a vertical leader—an EX program can help your organization identify its cultural strengths and fix breakages that might be repelling new employees or leaving current ones feeling disengaged.

On a more fundamental level, EX programs help employees find meaning in their work. We all want to be good at our jobs and to find them fulfilling, which is why it’s important to give employees a chance to speak up. Moreover, employees must be given an opportunity to make a difference, and meaningfully applying EX program learnings sparks that very phenomenon.

Saving Up

There’s another benefit that comes with using an EX program to positively affect your company’s workplace culture: saving money. Whether it’s recruiting a new employee, dealing with absenteeism, or contending with churn, there’s no aspect of employment that doesn’t come with a price tag. Employees are a company’s greatest resource, but they’re also usually the greatest expense.

This is why EX tools like voice of employee (VoE) and employee engagement (EE), among others, are vital to the success of your brand. Identifying improvement opportunities in your workplace culture helps employees find more meaning in their work, as we said, but it also helps your brand avoid some pretty substantial costs. With an EX program, you can better retain your workforce, avoid costly churn, and save a big chunk of change all the while.

Connecting with CX

It’s not uncommon for brands to think of CX and EX programs as wholly separate entities, but that’s not the case. If your employee has an improved experience with your brand—takes more pride in their work, feels that their feedback is valued—that positivity is highly contagious. A happier employee translates directly to a happier customer, even if that employee doesn’t interact with customers face-to-face.

In essence, EX programs create a more meaningful workplace culture for employees, and that passion improves the customer experience. Everyone wins with an EX initiative, and brands can ride the changes these programs help bring about to the very top of their verticals.

Click here to read our full article by EX expert Stacy Bolger on these programs’ benefits, including solutions and strategies you can start applying to your own organization today!

Text Analytics Terms You Need to Know

Whether you’re a seasoned pro or just getting started in the world of customer experience (CX) and employee experience (EX), you need to be fluent in the language of text analytics.

However, that’s more easily said than done. With technology evolving so quickly, it’s hard to keep up with the latest and greatest. That’s why we’ve put together this quick text analytics glossary. Check it out below!

Top Terms

Accuracy: The combination of precision and recall for a given tag or model. 

Emotion: A measure of positive/negative feelings. Must be strong and clear-cut enough to be categorized as a specific emotion.

Human Translation: This translation method has a human translate each comment individually as the customer submits it.

Intent: Intent identifies what the customer is trying to achieve based on their response.

Keyword: A word or term that occurs in unstructured customer feedback data.

Machine Translation: Translation done by a machine that has been trained by humans.

Native Language Model: A text analytics model that is purposely built for a specific spoken language.

Natural Language Processing: A field of computer science and artificial intelligence that draws intelligence from unstructured data.

Precision: Correctness; represents how often a given concept is correctly captured by a specific tag. 

Recall: Coverage; refers to how thoroughly the topics or ideas within a given tag are captured. 

Sentiment: The expressed feeling or attitude behind a customer’s feedback. Categorized as positive, negative, or neutral.

Sentiment Phrase: Also referred to as a Sentiment Bearing Phrase or SBP. A phrase or sentence identified with positive, negative, or neutral sentiment.

Sentiment Score: A measure for both the polarity and intensity of the sentiment within a given comment.

Tag: A label generated from text analytics that groups together similar customer comments around a specific concept or topic.

Text Analytics: The methods and processes used for obtaining insights from unstructured data.

Text Analytics Model: A natural language processing engine that uses tags to label and organize unstructured data.

Theme: A dynamically extracted concept from a collection of comments, generated by an unsupervised machine learning algorithm.

Unstructured Data: Qualitative data or information that is not organized according to an easily recognizable structure. Can include comments, social data, images, or audio recordings

Making the Difference with Text Analytics

We hope this quick glossary helped you on your journey to find the best solution for your business. After all, text analytics make the difference between getting a meaningless score from your data and getting actionable intelligence. And without that intelligence, you can’t make experience improvements in the moments that matter. That’s why it’s so important to get your text analytics right!

If you want to learn more about world-class text analytics solutions, including new approaches like custom layered models and adaptive sentiment engines, you can check out our full eBook on the subject here!

What Customers Say the 2020 Holiday Retail Season Will Look Like with COVID-19

Summer has passed, school is back in session, and Halloween is just around the corner. You know what typically comes up next: the holiday shopping season.

The only thing is that 2020 is anything but typical. There were very few summer road trips, kids are wearing masks or taking classes from home, and trick-or-treating might be off the menu to limit COVID-19 spread. So what can retailers expect—if anything—from the holiday shopping season?

Well, at InMoment, we believe that asking customers is the best way to understand their expectations and perceptions, so our Strategic Insights Team is here with the answers! Enter our brand new report, “What Retailers Can Expect from Customers in the 2020 Holiday Season.”

In this study, we asked over 5,000 North American customers all about the 2020 holiday shopping season, including:

  • When they will shop
  • What they will be shopping for
  • Whether they will be shopping in store or online
  • If they expect to attend Black Friday doorbusters
  • And more!

Typically, you’d need to download the full report to access the findings, but we’ve decided to give you a sneak peek into our findings! Keep reading for insights that will get you prepared for the upcoming season.

How Will the State of the Pandemic Affect Shoppers Feelings and Habits?

If it’s one lesson we’ve learned so far this year, it’s that we need to expect the unexpected. When many of us started working from home at InMoment in March, we never imagined that we wouldn’t be able to work in the office for months. Customers know this, but they are still feeling optimistic that circumstances with the pandemic will improve in the next few months according to our research.

In the unstructured data accompanying these questions, customers went into their feelings in more detail:

  • “I don’t think it will get better until 2021…but that will not stop my [upcoming holiday shopping].”
  • “I think things will remain the same for a while…we just have to get used to this [new normal].”

Though we all hope that we will see improvement in the next few months, we have to face the reality that there is a possibility COVID-19 will be with us through the new year. With that in mind, we asked how this possibility would affect likelihood to switch from in-store shopping to online.

In this case, customers were especially wary of their personal safety and health if the pandemic is still among us in the holidays, with the majority (65%) stating they are more likely to shop online. Still, 35% said they would still shop in stores; these customers described:

  • “I think [brands] are doing enough right now to make sure I’m safe when in their stores.”
  • “As long as the [COVID measures] are still in place, I will be going to the stores.”

It should definitely give retail brands a boost to know that they are making their customers feel safe, and that the in-store experience is so important in the eyes of their customers. 

Looking Forward

Preparation is key, especially in such a busy season. But add in a global pandemic and being prepared seems to be almost impossible. 

However, if retailers are armed with information directly about their customers about what they will do in the event that the pandemic worsens, whether they’ll be shopping in store or online, and more, they will know where they need to dedicate their time and resources to succeed. 

Looking for even more detailers on what your customers are expecting this holiday shopping season? You can download the full report for free here!

The Importance of Employee Loyalty in the Workplace

We all know that employee loyalty is important, but oftentimes we forget how employee loyalty is connected with customer loyalty and how loyal employees contribute to the success of the entire business.

“Profit and growth are stimulated primarily by customer loyalty. Loyalty is a direct result of customer satisfaction. Satisfaction is largely influenced by the value of services provided to customers. Value is created by satisfied, loyal, and productive employees. Employee satisfaction, in turn, results primarily from high-quality support services and policies that enable employees to deliver results to customers.” (Putting the Service-Profit Chain to Work, Harvard Business Review, 1994)

Leadership and Loyalty

There is a strong relationship between employee satisfaction and employee loyalty and between employee loyalty and customer loyalty and, ultimately, profitability. So what is the secret to fostering employee loyalty and preventing employee turnover? Effective leadership.

In fact, according to a survey conducted by Korn Ferry, 33% of employees plan to look for a new job due to being bored and needing a new challenge.

Leaders who genuinely care about their people—who are “plugged in” to their organizations and listen to their employees for suggestions on how to improve—will develop corporate cultures that naturally support the concept of the Service-Profit Chain. By no surprise, employees who trust and respect the leadership of an organization often feel more empowered and motivated to do their best, which reduces employee turnover and its costs.

Those costs, particularly when layoffs are involved, can include low morale among stressed employees, and widespread distrust of the company by employees, according to the American Psychological Association’s 2014 Work and Well-Being Survey.

Metlife had similar findings in its 2011 Annual U.S. Employee Benefit Trends Study, which reported that employee loyalty was  at a 3-year low. However, the study’s 2017 findings, titled “Work Redefined: A New Age” focused  on what companies can do to inspire loyalty: “With so much change, employees are looking for more stability, protection, and a safeguard against disruption. If they can find it in their employer, they’ll show their appreciation through loyalty.”

Much of the report examines what kind of benefits inspire loyalty in the workplace, but even great benefits can’t make up for a poor work environment, so it’s more important than ever for leaders to embrace and implement changes that encourage loyal employees who uphold your brand’s values.

Tips for Fostering Employee Loyalty

These tips, which are drawn largely from the experience of customer service reps (CSRs), are widely applicable since in the end we all ultimately serve the customer.

1. Give Employees the Tools They Need

Develop tools that allow employees to quickly look up the answers to common problems, share best practices and solutions with each other, and contribute to the company’s knowledge base. Train employees in soft skills as well, like de-escalating a situation, and feeling and expressing empathy.

2. Give Employees the Time They Need

Think about voice of the customer (VoC) for a moment, and how often feedback comes from a post-interaction customer satisfaction survey, whether it’s an automated phone call or email.

Now think about how much customer service is outsourced to call centers, which work effectively in keeping calls short. One call center explained the need for time limits this way:  “Companies account for customer service as a cost center, not a profit center, and companies need to keep costs down.” Talented, hard-working employees with great people skills might be forgiven for hearing this as, “You cost us, and the only value you have is your ability to keep costs down.”

This is hardly a way to build loyalty, and the pressure to keep calls short contributes to the call center industry having the highest turnover of industries worldwide. (In a 2016 post Talkdesk, a provider of call center solutions, reported the yearly turnover as 30-45%, double or triple that of all U.S. industries in 2013.)

3. Change How You Account for Customer Service

A better way to think about customer service and build employee loyalty is to think about how many customers your employees talk with and interact with each day. That gives them valuable perspective on customer wants, needs, frustrations, and satisfaction. Think about ways to record and gather that perspective, and how you can use the data to improve your services, products, offerings, and, especially, profits.

4. Measure the Right Things

Remember that not all projects take the same amount of time. Strict time limits or quotas may discourage talented employees from taking on difficult tasks. Quality Assurance and Training Connection (QATC) reported that one company saw a significant increase in retention by designating more resources and adjusting performance expectations a little for a particularly stressful call type. Think about the knowledge and experience the company held onto by keeping those employees. (Not to mention the cost savings.) QATC’s article ends with a table breaking out the line items behind the oft-quoted cost of about $6,500 to replace a non-supervisory employee.

5. Solicit Employee Feedback

ATB Financial, which has appeared repeatedly on Achievers’ 50 Most Engaged Workplaces list (and most recently as one of The Elite 8), encourages its employees to logon to the recruiting site Glassdoor and leave anonymous reviews of the company. The chief people officer’s response to fears that employees might leave nasty reviews? “Then we’d better get a hell of a lot better,” Lorne Rubis told the Financial Post. “I’d much rather know and have the courage, strength, and conviction to allow for the data to be free-flowing than to worry about what kind of governance we put on that.”

6. Study What Other Companies Are Doing To Build Employee Loyalty

Achievers compile an annual list of 50 Most Engaged Workplaces by looking at eight categories: Leadership, Communication, Culture, Rewards and Recognition, Accountability and Performance, Vision and Values, and Corporate Social Responsibility. A good place to discover what other companies are doing is the citations for The Elite 8, the top companies in each category.

InMoment was honored to appear as one of the 50 in 2011 as Mindshare Technologies, and we’re tremendously proud to have employees who are engaged, passionate about their work, creative, and committed to providing the highest quality of internal and external service. At the heart of our company is a phenomenal leadership team that has created a culture where people work hard, care about each other, are innovative, and fun to be around.

By constantly improving from our employee feedback, we were recently awarded the Top 50 Most Engaged Workplaces in the United States.

Ready to improve employee satisfaction in your company? See how InMoment can help you increase employee loyalty in the workplace and boost business success.

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