How COVID-19 Changed Customer Experience Forever

Many of us may try to forget 2020 altogether, but the changes that COVID-19 brought to the world won’t disappear anytime soon. Customer experience (CX) practitioners the world over are reckoning with this challenge as they make sense of a new experience landscape. In order to fully understand the path forward, however, it’s important to take a look at what exactly happened in 2020 and how COVID changed customer experiences forever.

The Early Trends

As I discussed in my recent article on this subject, I saw a number of trends in the CX world really take off at the beginning of the pandemic. Some of these trends were already on the rise before the Coronavirus arrived, but this crisis has expedited their trajectory. This is most true of contactless payments. Digitisation had already made these the norm for many businesses and industries, but as I’m sure you can imagine, customers on high alert for virus-contaminated surfaces have propelled it to new heights.

Relatedly, many major brands introduced initiatives that further reduce physical contact between customers and frontline employees. These initiatives were already linked to increased digitisation in many respects, but social distancing and other health guidelines have really thrust them into focus. As a result, this trend of brands keeping customers and employees separate wherever possible has been humming along these last 9-10 months—and isn’t ending anytime soon.

The Homebody Economy

Quarantine and social distancing have changed customer life in ways beyond shopping. Though it probably comes as no surprise, the amount of people who commute via train here in the United Kingdom has dwindled to a tiny fraction of pre-2020 numbers. A COVID-19 vaccine is gradually being made available in this country, yes, but commuter trends aren’t likely to return to any sort of “normal” in the near future.

Closer to home, we’re seeing what I call “the homebody economy” maintain its grip on quarantined customers all over the globe. It used to be that work, personal activities, and other endeavors were clearly distinct from one another, but as the months at home have dragged on, all of these pursuits have mixed together. Additionally, we’ve seen the development of a “time soup” made of shifting shopping habits—customers are now much more likely to make purchases during the week than risk crowds on the weekend.

The Next Step

All of these strengthening and emerging trends—from increasing contactless payments to the homebody economy—have already had a profound effect on the customer experience paradigm. They present new, unanticipated challenges for CX teams and practitioners, especially as demand for some products and services across industries has fallen due to economic hardship.

The question, then, is how exactly can brands respond to these challenges, especially since they’re not going away anytime soon?

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.

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!

Take Action on Customer Feedback in 4 Simple Steps

Over the last decade or so, countless companies have fired up their own experience initiatives. These companies set out to create happier customers and employees, as well as a stronger bottom line—all through the power of experience programs! However, even after a brand’s CX practitioner(s) has gained program sponsorship, launched listening posts, and gathered data, it’s not uncommon for them to hit a wall when it comes to taking action on customer feedback

Gathering metrics is all well and good, but executing an action plan is what makes the difference between measuring and transforming your experience. Today’s conversation covers how to take action on your experience program feedback in four steps.

Four Steps to Taking Action on Customer Feedback

  1. Define Your Plan’s Stages
  2. Identify Collaborators
  3. Define Actions
  4. Create a Timeline

Step #1: Define Your Plan’s Stages

Every CX practitioner knows that taking action isn’t as simple as A-to-B. That’s why it’s important to hammer out the concrete steps you need to take toward experience improvement and brand transformation. It’s important to first consider where you are and remind yourself of the program’s end goal. Then, collaborate closely with your team to figure out which actions you need to take. This process empowers your team to prioritize what to execute on first.

Step #2: Identify Collaborators

Once your team has mapped out action plan stages, it’s time to decide who else in the organization may be needed. This isn’t necessarily the same as returning to the execs or other stakeholders and sponsors—you may need to reach out to other teams who own processes that impact the experience, such as IT or user experience. Including individuals before you take action will make the transformation process smoother.

Step #3: Define Actions

You’ve drawn a line from feedback to improvement and have the collaborators you need at the table. Now it’s time to work together to define specific actions. This step is why it’s so important to reach out to collaborators whose teams or departments you see improvement opportunities for. You’re going to need their help to figure out the best way to solve a problem in their respective parts of the organization. You can share your experience data, they can share their perspectives, and meaningful action will soon follow.

Step #4: Create a Timeline

A timeline helps ensure that the actions become reality. It’s also a great way to hold your team accountable as they begin putting those actions into motion. Creating a timeline helps ground program expectations in reality and gives your team a firm timestamp at which to start monitoring implemented changes. Indeed, all of this makes creating a timeline perhaps the most important part of an action plan.

Following these four steps will allow your organization to leverage what you’ve learned from your experience program. You can put those learnings to great effect creating a more emotional experience for customers, greater meaning for your employees’ work, and, consequently, a more robust market position for your organization.

Click here to read my full article on the importance of taking action to transform your business. I take a deeper dive into this vital process and provide additional tooltips on how to revolutionize your brand through the power of Experience Improvement (XI).

What Retail Customers Are Saying About Black Friday in 2020

We’ve all seen videos of customers flooding through retailer doors in the small hours of Black Friday. While many of us are still asleep on the day after Thanksgiving, these shoppers are getting their Holiday shopping started with doorbuster deals—but what about this year? Will those shoppers still be rushing to stores? Or will the concerns of COVID-19 encourage them to stay home and snag deals from their laptops?

Not the type to leave anything up to guesswork, our Strategic Insights Team asked 5,000 future holiday shoppers how they expect to spend their Black Friday. Here’s what they learned:

Most Customers Will Do Their Holiday Shopping in November

One of the questions our team asked customers was when they planned to do their holiday shopping. More specifically, in which month did customers expect to begin their holiday shopping? More than half (54%) responded that they would start shopping in November.

Here are some other important results to note:

  • 42% of respondents are planning to make purchases on Black Friday (in store)
  • 39% plan to purchase on Cyber Monday (online)
  • 19% plan to make purchases before Black Friday and Cyber Monday

Most Customers Will Shop the Same Ways They Did in 2019

Because 2020 is a year unlike any other, our experts wanted to know if customers would shop more, less, or about the same this year.

In a somewhat surprising twist, respondents noted that they were even more likely to shop on both Black Friday and Cyber Monday in comparison to last year. They are also more likely to save shopping until December.

Black Friday or Cyber Monday?

One of the biggest questions retailers have on their minds is whether customers be participating more in Black Friday sales or Cyber Monday specials?

Well, many retailers have expanded their online sales to be more of a Cyber Week, with the full week of Thanksgiving offering opportunities for customers to save on holiday gifts. And it’s a good thing, because the majority of shoppers say that they will be shopping both in store and online.

No matter where customers are this Black Friday, there’s no doubt that they will be grateful for the brands that prioritize their safety!

For more details about our findings on in-store versus online holiday shopping, check out this infographic! We outline:

  • How many shoppers will be in stores and online
  • What customers are saying about their experiences
  • What matters most to them in both places.

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.

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