What Business Leaders Can Learn From Speedcubers

This article was originally posted on Forbes.com

My son and I just solved our first Rubik’s Cube together. Admittedly, it took a number of visits to YouTube and countless restarts.

So, I was mesmerized when I watched The Speed Cubers on Netflix — a fascinating and moving documentary about the relatively unknown world of competitive Rubik’s Cube solving. To me, solving a Rubik’s Cube is an astonishing feat. Solving it in less than seven seconds? Unfathomable.

Did I mention these speedcubers are teenagers? Sometimes even younger.

The documentary got me thinking about problem-solving and decision making in business. Just as every turn of a Rubik’s Cube affects each of the 26 miniature cubes (called “cubies” or “cubelets”), any decision a business makes impacts every department, team, employee, customer, shareholder and outcome the business cares about.

It wasn’t always this way. Business used to be simple, mainly because competition and choices were limited. To increase profitability, all brands had to do was adjust the price, introduce a new model or provide better service. Business metrics were all that mattered; there was little to no notion of customer experience or employee satisfaction.

But the prominent rise of “the age of customer experience” brings a new variable to the equation. Brands can no longer make business decisions at the expense of customers and employees — and get away with it. Customer experience (and employee satisfaction) has become the new battlefield for business. And still, businesses have to remain accountable to boards and shareholders.

There has to be a balance.

Finding Intersections Of Value

Today, brands can’t onlybe customer-obsessed. They can’t only be employee-obsessed. And they certainly will not survive if they’re blindly driven by financial outcomes.

So, how do you know where customer, employee and business needs meet? How do you identify and prioritize the intersection of value between these critical variables?

Ask yourself these three simple questions every time you make a decision:

• How will this impact our customers?

 How will this impact our employees?

• How will this impact our business?

The tricky part? The value equation is different for every industry and every business. Today, businesses need to ask themselves these questions with more rigor than ever. Many companies are fighting not to thrive, but to simply survive. 

Take airlines and middle seats. If customers had it their way, middle seats would disappear forever, right? The extra space would likely make for a more pleasant customer experience and, in turn, more satisfied employees. However, losing a third of its potential revenue could hurt an airline’s bottom line, meaning lower wages and fewer job opportunities (obviously bad for employees). And fewer available seats could make booking the flight you want more difficult and, due to supply and demand, more expensive as well (not great for customers). 

With customers’ hesitancy to travel, employees’ desire to return to work and an airline’s mandate to keep both groups safe, you introduce a whole new world of variables. 

The same happens with technology purchases. When the world’s workforce went remote, many traditional butts-in-seats companies quickly purchased Slack or Microsoft Teams to help remote workers connect. Of course, this is essential for employee communication, but may not be great for business productivity or customer response times due to employees managing another communication system. Like any technology decision that’s forward-thinking, it should balance customer, employee and business needs — and deliver value to all three.

Like I said: It’s a Rubik’s Cube.

Solving The Rubik’s Cube

While there are different methods to solve a Rubik’s Cube, one thing is for certain: You need to perform the right combination of moves to ensure alignment on all sides. You can’t get one side right and leave the others a rainbow-colored mess.

The good news? Businesses can solve their metaphorical cubes. But just like solving a real cube, it takes time, diligence and focus. Businesses need comprehensive data, the right technology to make sense of it and human expertise to identify the correct path forward. Getting it right on the first try is rare, which makes the eventual success that much more satisfying.

When it comes to the value equation, many brands do one element well. And a select few might nail two. But the top brands — those enviable entities that seemingly cannot get things wrong — have their Rubik’s Cube solved. They consistently and dynamically move the complex pieces in near-perfect harmony to achieve positive results for customers, employees and their business. That’s something the speedcubers would be proud of.

Tons of CX Data? Here’s How to Make Sense of It

If there’s anything organizations aren’t hurting for these days, it’s CX data. Brands may have been avidly searching for it once upon a time, but nowadays, they face the opposite dilemma: having more data than they might know what to do with. This is particularly true for experience program data—a few listening posts here and there can quickly inundate even larger organizations with a ton of customer intel.

Today, I’m going to talk you through how to make sense of your data. Using the tips below will help you isolate signals, cut through all the white noise, and ultimately leave your organization more CX savvy.

All Data, No Decisions

Having a lot of data is not a bad thing in and of itself, but it is more challenging for brands to make data-driven business decisions when they’re not sure where to start. Should companies dive directly into customer feedback? What about employee surveys and financial metrics? The sheer amount of disparate data sources at play within most companies can make gleaning actionable intelligence feel overwhelming (if not flat-out impossible).

The first step toward overcoming this challenge is to take all of your data and pour it into one place. This includes customer feedback, employee intel, financial data, operational data, and other sources. Why? Because siloing data makes understanding your customers and their experiences much more difficult because it obscures the context needed to fully understand both of these business problems. Putting all your data together will help your company not only contextualize what is broken, but also illuminate the path toward solving those challenges.

Finding The “Why”

Desiloing data gives companies the chance to holistically understand their customers’ perceptions and experiences. This is important not just for making data-driven decisions, but also understanding the root of broken or underwhelming experiences. When brands connect experience data with financial and operational information, it becomes much easier to see where things might be going wrong and how badly.

Once brands gain this holistic view, it’s time to dive deeper with key driver analysis. This doesn’t mean sit back and watch your NPS—it means rolling up your sleeves and getting into exploratory analysis and customer profiling. These processes allow companies to learn exactly why their customers behave the way they do. Even more, they identify what experience strengths and weaknesses drive that behavior.

Don’t forget to ask your employees for their experience feedback as well! A lot of brands mistakenly overlook this step because the employee and customer experiences drive one another. There’s no better way to make an employee feel valued than to ask for their feedback. Moreover, it encourages employees to feel involved in and take ownership of customer experience.

The Next Step

Brands can make sense of their experience data by desiloing it, analyzing it within the context of additional data, and hearing employees’ side of the story. These are the first steps toward becoming a more data-driven (and customer-centric) organization, an endeavor that can make any company a leader in its vertical.

Click here to read my full article on the importance of understanding customers to transform your brand. I take a deeper dive and provide additional tips on how to revolutionize your brand through the power of Experience Improvement (XI).

The Doctor is (Virtually) In: COVID and Telemedicine Experience

I recently talked about COVID-19’s effects on hospital visits and how the pandemic has reshaped patients’ healthcare facility expectations. But this isn’t the only experience arena that the Coronavirus is impacting.

Many patients—especially those at high risk—prefer virtual visits and consultations with their doctors. As a result, there’s been a sharp uptick in telemedicine over the course of this year.

Of course, just like hospitals themselves, virtual consultations face new experience challenges amid COVID. Therefore, healthcare brands must address those challenges directly in order to build trust with their patients. Those challenges, and their solutions, are the focus of this article.

Consultation Considerations

The telemedicine experience is dramatically different from a walk-in visit, especially when it comes to collecting feedback. A virtual visit presents more immediate opportunities to collect feedback from patients, though this poses a new challenge: healthcare brands need to avoid inundating patients with countless questions.

The best approach for hospitals and providers to take here is to provide feedback opportunities at the beginning and end of virtual visits. This gives patients an opportunity to voice their expectations at the start of the consultation and follow up on how well those expectations were met. This one-two strategy strikes a careful balance between survey frequency and patient comfort (which is obviously key to building a great experience for them).

Telemedicine Experience Checkup 

It’s important to remember that anyone who submits feedback expects brands to act on it. This is especially true for hospitals, which means it’s vital that healthcare brands parse through virtual visit feedback carefully. An experience platform that can ingest and analyze feedback, especially unstructured data, is key to this end. Hospitals can succeed by considering their audiences, designing their listening programs around those audiences, then executing an action plan.

Taking action on patient feedback is especially important these days. Healthcare customers have always expected providers to act on their concerns, but the pandemic has sent that expectation into the stratosphere. Thus, patients are paying especially close attention to their virtual visits—and how hospitals respond.

To recap, hospitals can ensure that their patients are receiving the best telemedicine possible by:

  1. Designing their listening program around tangible goals and important audiences
  2. Listening carefully to those audiences
  3. Ingesting feedback, especially unstructured data, to heighten patient understanding
  4. Applying subsequent learnings to the wider organization
  5. Achieving a better virtual experience for patients

Healthcare providers that stick to this strategy will not only make it out the other side of this pandemic, but also do so in a far better position for themselves and the patients for whom they provide quality care.

To learn more about the lasting effects of Coronavirus on the patient experience, check out this full article by Jason Macedonia here.

How COVID-19 Has Impacted Patients’ Hospital Perceptions

The Coronavirus has upended patient experience (PX) as we know it, infusing the world of hospitals and healthcare brands with just as much (if not more) uncertainty than that currently facing restaurants, brick-and-mortar storefronts, and other types of businesses. More specifically, the pandemic has altered patients’ perceptions of everything about hospitals, including how they move through the facility and interact with its employees.

Today, we’re going to quickly review how exactly COVID-19 has impacted patients’ hospital perceptions. We’ll also review what healthcare brands can do to accommodate and overcome the challenges associated with these changes, especially as the virus’s spread continues to accelerate.

Keeping Things Clean

COVID-19 has put patients on high alert when it comes to hospital and healthcare facility cleanliness. Hospital hygiene has always been important to most patients, of course (especially those who were already anxious about doctors’ appointments), but even healthcare customers who are usually more relaxed are now closely scrutinizing hospitals’ adherence to cleanliness guidelines. How well healthcare brands stick to those guidelines may very well determine whether they make it out the other side of this crisis.

Because of this acute awareness, hospitals and clinics must not only adhere to the most stringent cleanliness guidelines and CDC guidance, but also make that dedication visible for all patients to see. This means that hospital staff must continually (and visually) reassure patience that hygiene is being taken seriously. Signage, protocol reminders, and other visual cues are vital to maintaining patients’ trust in their healthcare experience and that their facility is ensuring safety in the age of COVID.

Beyond Clean Surfaces

Healthcare customers’ heightened scrutiny of cleanliness goes beyond wiping down counters and doorknobs (though that’s certainly important as well). COVID-19 concerns run much deeper than that—many patients are now paying much greater attention to their every physical move in a hospital. Whether it’s entering the facility, moving through it toward a doctor’s office, or picking up a prescription, healthcare customers are paying close attention to how their movements within hospitals may present any sort of COVID-19 risk.

Hospitals and other healthcare facilities must respond to this acute concern for physical wellbeing the same way they do concerns over cleanliness: aggressive visual cues. As I mentioned earlier, signage and other visual reminders are a huge help here, but the next step is for staff to physically carry out cleanliness measures in front of customers. This approach has been adopted by every business from restaurants to grocery stores over the course of the pandemic, and it’s a proven tactic for reassuring customers that your healthcare brand is taking COVID-19 seriously.

Continuous Assurance

One of the biggest challenges with measures like these is making sure that employees are continuously carrying them out. Many of these strategies, especially carrying out facility hygiene in front of employees, can’t just be set and forgotten. Hospitals must take care to keep these strategies going and keep them highly visible. Perhaps more importantly, they must use PX listening programs to tune into their customers’ safety concerns and how those concerns evolve over time. This tactic empowers hospitals to continuously demonstrate their commitment to patient safety, achieve meaningful improvement, and be in a much stronger position than the competition when this pandemic finally ends.

Click here to read my full Point of View article on how COVID-19 has forever changed patient experience. I take a deeper dive into the pandemic’s full effects on patient experience and how healthcare brands can respond in these unprecedented times.

3 Ways an Improvement Success Framework Can Supercharge Your Experience Program

These days, it’s not uncommon for brands to take the term “listening program” to mean a series of listening posts set up across multiple channels.

Yes, those posts are an important part of listening, but experience programs can be so much more (and do so much more for your business). They can go far beyond listening in across channels and reacting to customer comments only as they come in.

Listening for, reacting to, and measuring customer sentiment in this manner is what’s commonly known as experience management. And honestly, it rarely moves the needle for brands or creates a better experience for customers. Experience improvement (XI), by contrast, allows companies to achieve both of those goals by connecting to customers in a very human way. Essentially, it pays for brands to have an experience improvement success framework.

Today, we’re going to touch on three ways a success framework can add unbridled power to any improvement effort:

  1. Proving ROI
  2. Listening Purposefully
  3. Owning The Moments That Matter

Key #1: Proving ROI

ROI has been a notoriously fickle element of experience programs for years—but it doesn’t have to be. In fact, the difficulty of proving ROI stems less from experience programs being a financially elusive unicorn than many companies not tying their program to a quantifiable objective.

This is why it is crucial that brands establish hard, specific goals for their experience program. An objective like “be more customer-centric” isn’t going to cut it, especially when it comes to proving ROI. Rather, experience practitioners and stakeholders need to work together to hash out program objectives that can be tied to financial goals.

Whether it’s acquiring X amount of new customers or lowering cost to serve by Y percent, creating goals like these and gearing your program toward them will make establishing ROI much, much easier.

Key #2: Listening Purposefully

ROI isn’t the only area a success framework can help companies stencil in. This setup can also help brands better identify who to listen to and why.

Conventional wisdom holds that companies should listen for feedback from anyone, but that isn’t necessarily true. Callous as it may sound to some, the truth is that some audiences are just more worth listening to than others. A success framework can help companies identify which audiences they need to listen to to achieve program goals.

This approach is also handy for cutting through the mountains and mountains of data that experience programs inevitably rake in. They also help programs get to the heart of providing a great experience, which leads us to our final topic:

Key #3: Owning The Moments That Matter

The moments that matter are the instances in which the needs of customers, employees, and businesses all connect. They’re the moments in which a customer journey transcends a transaction and becomes a profound emotional connection. Owning the moments that matter is vital to creating connections and inspiring transformational success across your business.

This final key is a culmination of establishing financial goals, listening purposefully, and taking action—ultimately creating meaning for customers. That capacity to create meaning is what sets the best brands apart from the competition and carries them to the top of their verticals. And it all starts with building an experience improvement success framework.

Click here to learn more about how to create a success framework and why doing so at the very start of your experience improvement journey will guarantee success for you, your customers, and your employees.

The Shortcomings of Comment-Based Surveys

Comment-based surveys can be effective for immediately gathering feedback from customers. And when it comes to customer experience (CX), timeliness can make or break an organization’s ability to act on that feedback.

However, there are several arenas in which brands use comment-based surveys when another survey type would yield better intelligence. Today, I’d like to dive into several shortcomings that can make using comment-based surveys challenging for brands, as well as a few potential solutions for those challenges. Let’s get started.

Outlet-Level Analysis

As I discussed in my recent article on this subject, comment-based surveys are often less effective than other survey types for conducting outlet-level analysis. In other words, while brands can see how well stores, bank branches, and the like are performing generally, they usually can’t determine where individual outlets need to improve .

The reason for this has as much to do with the feedback customers leave as the survey design itself. From what I’ve seen across decades of research, customers rarely discuss more than 1-2 topics in their comments. Yes, customers may touch upon many topics as a group, but rarely are most or even a lot of those topics covered by singular comments.

What all of this ultimately means for brands using comment-based surveys to gauge outlet effectiveness is that the feedback they receive is almost always spread thin. The intelligence customers submit via this route can potentially cover many performance categories, but there’s usually not that much depth to it, making it difficult for brands to identify the deep-rooted problems or process breakages that they need to address at the unit level if they want to improve experiences.

(Un)helpful Feedback

Another reason that brands can only glean so much from comment-based surveys at the outlet level is that, much of the time, customers only provide superficial comments like:“good job”, “it was terrible”, and the immortally useless “no comment.” In other words, comment-based surveys can be where specificity goes to die.

Obviously, there’s not a whole lot that the team(s) running a brand’s experience improvement program can do with information that vague. Comments like these contain no helpful observations about what went right (or wrong) with the experience that the customer is referring to. The only solution to this problem is for brands to be more direct with their surveys and ask for feedback on one process or another directly.

How to Improve Comment-Based Surveys

These shortcomings are among the biggest reasons brands should be careful about trying to use comment-based surveys to diagnose processes, identify employee coaching opportunities, and seeing how well outlets are adhering to organization-wide policies and procedures. However, none of this means that comment-based surveys should be abandoned. In fact, there’s a solution to these surveys’ relative lack of specificity.

Brands can encourage their customers to provide better intelligence via multimedia feedback. Options like video and image feedback enable customers to express themselves in their own terms while also giving organizations much more to work with than comment-based surveys can typically yield. Multimedia feedback can thus better allow brands to see how their regional outlets are performing, diagnose processes, and provide a meaningfully improved experience for their customers.

Click here to read my Point of View article on comment-based surveys. I take a deeper dive into when they’re effective, when they’re not, and how to use them to achieve transformational success.

3 Ways COVID-19 Has Already Changed Wealth Management

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on many working- and middle-class families’ finances. However, these are not the only groups whose income, savings, and assets have come under threat from this crisis. As I discussed in my recent Point of View article on this subject, many affluent families and audiences have also seen their own financial ecosystems gravely affected. 

Based on a recent poll conducted by InMoment, most affluent consumers expect the market to be quite volatile throughout 2021.  While most are not planning to change their investment style or their firms, COVID-19 has influenced or changed what wealth management clients expect of their advisers, as well as how their financial institutions must manage their business and relationships for the foreseeable future.

Here are the three biggest changes I’ve seen COVID-19 force upon the world of wealth management, as well as some advice and insights on how these firms and consultancies can rise above them.

  1. Hungry for Advice
  2. More Frequent and Proactive Interaction
  3. A Heightened Need for Protection

Change #1: Hungry for Advice

This tip may seem gratuitous, especially since every wealth adviser has that client who talks their ear off after hours, but COVID-19’s impact on these customers’ desire for financial advice cannot be understated. If the data I’ve studied is any indication, the Coronavirus’s penchant for disrupting normalcy has worked its way into affluent clients’ financial fears. So, wealth management firms should be prepared for an ongoing influx of questions about everything from investments to retirement.

Because of this, wealth advisers should tune their experience programs toward opportunities for providing more advice on these and other topics. Unfortunately, it seems the pandemic will be with us for quite some time, and so wealth management firms can count on this influx to sustain itself for about as long. Advisers who continuously focus their listening efforts on the topics customers have questions on and why, though, will be able to keep their heads above water.

Change #2: More Frequent and Proactive Interaction

Because COVID-19 has brought about rapid, large-scale change, wealth management clients have come to expect their advisers to react to new developments with 2008-level speed. This means that wealth advisers can expect their customers to both demand quick responsive action and to be proactive before new changes can adversely affect them.

This demand for faster action has manifested itself in two ways already—first, COVID has made clients much more hawkish when it comes to demanding fast, flexible account management. Additionally, these clients now expect wealth management firms to be much quicker when it comes to business and financial reviews, among other advice. Wealth management companies can rise to these challenges by making fast, proactive action a hallmark of their overall brand experience. Getting to and maintaining that level of reactiveness is no small task, but COVID-19 has made that responsiveness a dealbreaker for many clients.

Change #3: A Heightened Need for Protection

Coronavirus has thrown massive uncertainty into our society, which has many wealth management clients keen to protect their assets against any additional loss. This point meshes with both of the changes I talked about earlier, but the need to aggressively protect assets is worthy of its own mention—as is clients’ expectation that that be front-and-center in any wealth management firm they do business with.

Wealth advisers have always protected their clients’ assets and sought to minimize losses. That’s a given. What hasn’t been a given until COVID, though, is clients’ strong desire for more direct access to their managed wealth than ever before, as well as a relatively newfound need for any resources that make them feel more self-reliant. This is why wealth management advisers must make asset protection as prominent a cornerstone of their provided experience as possible, lest clients think that the competition offers stronger defenses and is thus worth going to instead.

The common theme that threads all of these changes together is clients’ urgently heightened need for a wealth management firm that is both proactive and reactive. Whether it’s speedy account management or ambitious loss prevention, the consultancies that can act fast and make that quick action the bedrock of their customer experience will win out against their peers. More than that, though, clients are seeking reassurance on a human level, which means that those aforementioned late nights on the phone have taken on a renewed importance not just as a source of wealth management expertise, but of meaningful connection in uncertain times.

Want to learn more about how COVID-19 has changed and will continue to change financial services? Click here to read my in-depth Point of View article on the subject.

3 Simple Steps That Make Your CX Program Actually Move The Needle

It’s no secret that many companies’ experience initiatives aren’t delivering the results that those brands expect and, frankly, need. Too many customer experience (CX) programs are stuck solely on giving companies metrics, which by themselves cannot deliver a meaningfully improved experience and thus a stronger bottom line.

However, there is a solution. Companies don’t have to stay stuck merely “managing” their experiences. We’ve put together three proven steps that companies can follow to take their program, and thus their brand, to the top:

  1. Determining Business Objectives
  2. Gathering The Right Data
  3. Taking Intelligent Action

Step #1: Determining Business Objectives

Traditionally, many firms have been in such a hurry to start listening in on their customers’ tastes and preferences. And while this eagerness is admirable, it often results in wantonly turning listening posts on everywhere and waiting for insights to roll in. Listening is important, yes, but listening passively is worlds different than listening intently. The former focuses on gathering metrics, feeding those metrics into a piece-by-piece reactive strategy, and calling it a day. The latter calls for businesses to firmly establish what they want to achieve with their experience program before turning any ears on.

There are several merits to determining business objectives before listening to customers, and they all have to do with looking before leaping. First, companies need to decide what business problems they want their experience program to solve. Foregoing this step and listening for the sake of listening is why so many programs either fail or provide ROI that’s murky at best.

Additionally, companies can take considering objectives as an opportunity to tie their experience programs to financial goals. Like we just said, it’s hard to prove a CX initiative’s ROI if it has no clear objective beyond just listening to customers. Spelling your program’s goals out in financial terms gives CX teams a hard number to work toward—then, when that number is achieved, those teams will have a much easier time using that achievement to leverage additional funding in the boardroom.

Step #2: Gathering The Right Data

There’s another reason why it pays to stop and think before turning listening posts on in every channel: some customer segments are more worth listening to than others. This idea may sound a bit callous, but think about it—a listening program geared toward evaluating a loyalty program is going to be much more useful if it hones in on long-term customers instead of casting a net all over the place.

This notion is also known as the concept of gathering the right data. It’s okay for brands to use different listening posts for different audiences—in fact, this strategy is much more likely to garner useful intelligence. Thus, it’s just as important for companies to consider their audiences as it is concrete financial goals when it comes to experience programs. The right data can yield the right intelligence, which can enable brands to take the right steps toward transformational success.

Step #3: Taking Intelligent Action

Much of the work in this step will already have been done if companies follow the previous two steps correctly. Like we said, it’s a good idea for brands to look before they leap and carefully consider what they hope to accomplish with a listening program. Yes, the goal of “listening” is all well and good, but the problem with experience management is that the buck stops there. Take your CX aspirations further than gathering metrics and decide what that listening is meant to accomplish. More customer acquisition? Retention? Lowering cost to serve? Set those goals and attach dollar amounts to them.

Then, take some time to consider which audiences you need to listen to in order to achieve those goals. Arming yourself with concrete goals and intelligence from the right audiences will enable your organization to take the meaningful action it needs to reach the top of its vertical, make a stronger bottom line, and create an emotional, connective experience for both customers and employees. Companies can use these steps to move the needle and take their program from experience management to something far more profound: experience improvement.

Want to learn more about how CX programs can move the needle and create lasting success for businesses, customers, and employees? Check out our new POV article on the subject, written by EVP Brian Clark, here.

How Closing The Loop Helps Companies Keep Promises

Keeping promises is absolutely essential to brand success. You’d think a statement like that would go without saying, but I’m sure you can also recall many times throughout your life that a company broke its promise to you—and how that made you feel about the experience that the brand was trying to provide.

Making and keeping promises can be a tricky business for companies. Organizations oftentimes end up overpromising, underdelivering, or both. Couple that with customers having more means than ever before of telling their friends about a negative experience, and the result is broken promises that scar, not just smear, a brand’s reputation.

Today, we’re going to touch on a point I talked about in a recent POV on the impact of broken brand promises: implementing a strong loop-closing process that can help companies keep their promises and keep at-risk customers from becoming powerful brand detractors.

Closing the Inner Loop

Closing the inner loop means addressing and solving individual customer complaints. This process is crucial to making customers feel heard and can often make the difference between promises kept and promises broken. Closing the inner loop is an essential component of any experience improvement strategy because it helps brands not only know what customers expect of an organization, but also enables companies to intercept and deal with threats to brand promises.

Companies can tackle closing the inner loop by, well, looping employees into the process as much as possible. Customers enjoy a personalized experience, especially when they’re frustrated with an impending broken promise, and an employee who cares is the best way to make those individuals feel empathized with. Brands can also use this tactic to learn about pain points they may not even be aware of.

Listening is an important piece of keeping brand promises, but it’s only half the battle. After fielding concerns from a dissatisfied customer, brands must work quickly to take action on that feedback or else risk both losing the customer and breaking a brand promise. Brands can help ensure that departments take action on relevant feedback by sharing data across the organization rather than keep it siloed with a customer experience (CX) practitioner or team.

Closing The Outer Loop

A brand’s success is built upon many instances of closing the inner loop, and when the enthusiasm for listening to and solving customer problems is diffused across an organization, that brand will have closed the outer loop. The outer loop is a company culture that espouses fixing pain points and keeping promises wherever possible. A company committed to keeping the outer loop closed is a company that democratizes data, shares feedback throughout the organization, and uses that unity to take effective action. Naturally, this is a must for brands that want to keep their promises.

These reasons and more are why a strong loop-closing process is essential to listening to customers, resolving issues, and leaving those individuals feeling like the brand has both taken them seriously and resolved to keep a commitment (as it happens, I also wrote a POV on this and other reasons to close the loop, which you can check out here).

As I said earlier, making and keeping promises is tricky. But closing the loop can save at-risk customers, identify pain points, and give companies the opportunity to both keep promises and create a stronger bottom line for themselves.

Interested in learning more about brand promises and their far-reaching impact? You can check out more in my article on the subject here.

How COVID-19 Has and Will Impact Credit—Permanently

The COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on financial health has been just as if not more concerning to many customers as its effects on literal health. Many individuals, families, and businesses have struggled financially over the last 5-6 months, and unfortunately, it’s looking like these struggles will reverberate across the credit and loan repayment world in big—and unprecedented—ways.

While it’s true that government assistance has somewhat helped some customers bide their time, many financial institutions still anticipate that the Coronavirus has created long-term problems when it comes to credit payments and paying back loans. This is especially true for credit, which many customers have had to rely on to tide them over until they can return to work or find a new job.

The point here is that the pandemic has fundamentally changed why customers seek out credit cards. It used to be that customers typically considered the perks when it came to choosing a credit card: travel rewards, hotel rewards, club access, and the like.

Now, though, customers are less concerned with fun perks for tomorrow than benefits that can fit their needs right now. Today. The result has been a shift in customer taste toward credit cards that offer:

  • Cashback rewards for groceries, gasoline, utilities, and other necessities
  • Cards that offer discounts on or savings for necessity shopping
  • Consumer rewards that can be spent immediately

Though it can be said that customers are also less interested in travel perks because of the pandemic’s effect on vacationing and airlines, the primary reason that they’re shifting toward credit cards that offer cashback and immediate reward perks remains because of the aforementioned economic woes that this crisis has brought with it. This brings us back to the long-term credit payment problems I mentioned earlier, and what card providers can expect customers to want for the foreseeable future.

For a start, and perhaps to no one’s great surprise, customers are currently gravitating toward the cards that offer the most generous forgiveness for missed payments and deferrals. The COVID-19 pandemic has afforded many customers almost no flexibility in that area, which has many of them on the lookout for perks like this.

Similarly, customers are looking for cards that are forgiving when it comes to late payments, as well as that have low minimum payment requirements and interest rates. To many customers, especially individuals who have been laid off, these benefits are a must because they afford a great deal of flexibility at less cost. As we mentioned earlier, these perks have become far more attractive than travel or leisure benefits in a remarkably short time.

Finally, customers have also become far more attracted to credit cards that do not punish or inhibit frequent balance transfers. The pandemic has forced many customers to move their money around in order for lower interest rates, promotional interest rates, etc., and so transfers like these have become much more common recently. A card that can accommodate that need will be a winner among pandemic-era customers.

In short, COVID-19 has had a far-reaching, perhaps permanent, effect on credit and how customers see it. Customers have become less concerned with the extravagance that some credit cards can provide and more interested in cards that can help tide them over until a new job arrives or the day-to-day challenges of living amid a pandemic subside. The financial brands and card lenders that can adapt to this shift will set themselves up for short- and long-term advantages over their competitors, and for the opportunity to provide a meaningful, difference-making experience for customers.

Want to learn more about how COVID-19 has perhaps forever changed financial services and what they mean to customers? Check out my recent article on how financial services can thrive, not just survive, during and after the pandemic here.

Three Research-Backed EX Trends for Your Evolving Workplace

If you’re looking for reasons why employee experience (EX) is crucial to the success of your brand, all you need to do is count the hours. The truth is that most of us spend the majority of our lives at work; in many cases, we spend more time chatting with our co-workers than some of our family members. Therefore, the employee experience has a major impact on our overall health and well-being, leading us to look for jobs that both engage and fulfill us. This may be especially true now, as COVID-19 continues to change the way we work, and how our personal and professional lives continue to overlap. 

It is this fact that led InMoment experts to get curious about the effect rapidly changing workplace conditions was having on employees. In true InMoment fashion, we surveyed thousands of employees globally to find the answers. The results led us to three eye-opening trends that all organizations should keep in mind as they continue to evolve their practices to keep up with the changing environment.

Trend #1: Employees Are Missing Connection

Adjusting to a remote working environment poses many challenges—especially when it comes to staying connected to colleagues. You can no longer pop by someone’s desk to ask about their weekend, or convene in the kitchen for a debrief on last night’s episode of a popular show. Yes, you can shoot someone a quick online message, but it’s just not the same as in-person discussions.

It is not surprising, then, that our survey found only 30% of remote workers felt a connection with coworkers. This is compared to the 36% of those who worked remotely prior to the pandemic—indicating that even in the best of times, remote work poses some challenges to personal connections. And the connection levels vary by age: the cohort that felt the highest levels of connection were the 18-24 yr olds, whereas the 25-44 age cohort scored the lowest on connection. There could be many reasons for this, not the least of which being that many in the older age group are more accustomed to fostering connections in-person, given that is likely the way they have always done it.

With the challenges to connecting, plus the fact that we are socially distanced in our personal lives as well, it’s no wonder that “isolation” was the highest endorsed negative emotion in the study.

There is a key opportunity here for companies to do more to help their employees feel connected to their coworkers. At InMoment, our teams have started hosting virtual trivia nights, happy hours, and coffee breaks to foster that connection despite being at a distance. Another idea is to organize virtual activities, such as running scavenger hunts, baking challenges, or book clubs. Sometimes, it’s simply just starting a discussion with team members on a topic unrelated to work, such as what people have been watching or how people are connecting with friends and family. 

Trend #2: New Stressors Are Emerging

It’s no secret that integrating work and life pre-pandemic was already a struggle. Add in the lack of in-person schooling for kids,  the inability to disconnect on a vacation, or simply the added stress inherent in a global health scare, and your employees are buried in stress. Our research showed that across all industries, employees were feeling the pressure of finding more ways to balance their personal and professional lives. 

To help address these new stressors, it’s first important to acknowledge them. Encourage employees to share their concerns, and share your own. By listening to employees, you’ll understand each specific person’s situation better and be able to determine how best to address their challenges. Be flexible and willing to adapt, and your employees will appreciate the support—now and in the future. 

Trend #3: Fear, Anxiety, and Loneliness Are Looming

Perhaps surprisingly, our initial study found emotional sentiment to be fairly positive for our respondents. Given that our initial research was conducted when the pandemic was in the early stages and people were still adjusting to remote working conditions, it makes sense that there was a novel sense of acceptance, calm, and even optimism.

However, below the surface of those emotions were deep concerns, as indicated in the qualitative responses. More negative emotions could be emerging and develop to primary emotions as the pandemic continues. While these rankings were similar across all demographics and working conditions, it will be interesting to see how this evolves as time goes on. 

As leaders in an organization, you should keep these results in mind. While employees may at times seem positive and accepting, it’s important to still inquire regularly about their emotional well-being. It’s okay to allow employees to vent a little bit or share their concerns—in the long run, this will help you proactively address any issues or concerns. 

So What’s Next?

It’s important to note the findings summarized here are from earlier in the pandemic. Now, 5 months in, sentiment and feelings will likely have changed slightly. People may be getting used to their new working environments and schedules, and they may have new ways to connect with coworkers.

However, as we’ve seen, this pandemic continues to throw many of us for a loop. There are even bigger decisions to be made in the coming weeks and months, and it’s hard to know how new developments will impact us personally and professionally. Using this report to understand employees’ initial sentiment on how organizations are handling the pandemic provides a baseline and roadmap you can reference to move forward. 

It’s safe to assume stress and loneliness will continue to evolve. Employees need your support more than ever!

Are you looking for a way to assess your employees’ current situation, their feelings on the pandemic, and how your organization as a whole is coping? InMoment is offering a few different pro-bono survey solutions to help you understand your employees’ current needs—whether you are transitioning back into the office or remaining full-time remote. For more information, visit https://get.inmoment.com/inmoment-cares-na/

About the Study:

Over 2700 employees across 17 organizations participated in the remote worker survey. 61% of the respondents were new to working from home. 89% were from north america, with the majority (54%) in the 25-44 yr old age range. The population had a mix of individuals who were with their company for 10 or more years (23%), and new employees (<3yrs) represented 20%.

How to Craft Deliverable Brand Promises

Delivering promises is one of the most important things a brand must do for its customers. Keeping commitments is much easier said than done, but customer loyalty lives and dies by companies’ ability to follow through. Succeed, and the brand generates loyalty and retention. Fail, and the organization ends up burning bridges—potentially permanently.

So, how can brands avoid breaking promises? Well, as I outline in my recent POV on this subject, one of the ways that companies can ensure that they consistently fulfill customer obligations is to create realistic brand promises in the first place. Here’s how brands can do that.

Know Your Customer

Brands should always evaluate the promises they make through a customer’s lens. That means knowing who their customers are, what they consider to be important, what they’re looking for in an experience, and why they come to you for it. This notion is sometimes referred to as the customer’s “moment of truth” and a brand has fulfilled a promise in their eyes when it delivers that moment consistently.

To many customers, the difference between failing to keep a promise and failing to deliver on a moment of truth is miniscule. In my aforementioned POV, I talk about how a colleague of mine experienced an especially brutal broken promise: an airline flight that didn’t uphold its promised anti-COVID safety measures. Not understanding the moments of truth is one thing; understanding and then failing to deliver can be a deal breaker. Additionally, depending on the severity of the problem, some customers will not give brands a second chance.

Delivering The Goods

Companies need to clearly understand what their customers want so they can both rise to the challenge and ensure that they deliver flawlessly on that desire. Brands can increase their likelihood to succeed by building a customer experience (CX) program as part of their business operation. A decent CX program can make brands aware of customers’ wants and needs—a great CX program unites customer, employee, and marketplace perspectives to give companies a continuous, 360-degree view of the experience(s) they provide.

This approach gives brands the opportunity to know what their customers value, so they can create grounded, realistic promises that can be delivered every time. If nothing else, it’s always better to underpromise and overdeliver than to overpromise and underdeliver.

Brands that take this tack will be positioned to create not just good promises for their customers, but the right promises. Companies that pick the right brand promises and deliver at the moments of truth create customer loyalty and a  stronger bottom line for themselves.

Want to learn more about the importance of creating and keeping effective brand promises? Take a look at my article on the subject here.

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