How to Find and Wield New CX Data Sources

We’ve talked a lot about COVID-19’s effect on customer experience (CX) data and how that intel has been changed by the pandemic. However, while recent events have certainly changed how companies capture and use CX data, the fact that data shifts constantly hasn’t really changed at all.

This is why it’s important for brands to constantly be on the lookout for new data sources. Companies must look beyond  traditional customer listening posts and delve deep for the intelligence that can give them an edge over the competition. So, without further ado, let’s get into how organizations can capture and take action on new sources of CX data.

Listening to Employees

Many brands focus heavily on uncovering new data from current and prospective customers. That’s a good strategy, of course, but companies also need to consider an oft-overlooked source of new data: employees.

Employees can offer businesses a great deal of new data. While the most accessible of these insights may come from customer-facing employees, companies need to talk to their non-customer-facing employees as well. They too experience a brand (albeit from a different perspective), and that directly informs their productivity, brand advocacy, and other factors. Companies can find new and valuable sources of data by listening to all of their employees and getting multiple takes on the organization. Then, CX teams and functional business owners across the enterprise can use that intel to fix processes and make improvements that contribute to an improved experience.

Market Research & Pulse Studies 

The term market research gets thrown around quite a bit, but how can companies separate superficial market research from targeted analysis that can help capture actionable experience data?

There are several questions that brands can use to glean new data from the marketplace (not to mention gain a more holistic perspective of how they fit in a vertical). Brands can gather new data by ascertaining how they stack up against the competition. They can also find new data by asking why customers become or remain non-buyers, as well as for these individuals’ overall impressions of the organization.

Asking targeted and specific questions like these gives companies a good indication of where they sit in the marketplace, but they also yield valuable data that can help brands provide an improved experience. This makes market research a critical new data source that rounds out customer and employee listening. 

Putting It All Together

Brands that want to truly wield the power of new data sources can’t stop at merely uncovering them. They also need to put that new data into one place if they hope to gain actionable intelligence from it.

Organizations should always desilo their data because doing so gives  organizations a holistic view of their entire brand and all their experience efforts. This is where new data is at its most useful—when it’s combined with existing intel and operational and financial metrics, there’s no limit to what companies can learn about their customers, their employees, and themselves. That’s the true power that brands stand to gain when they capture and take action upon new sources of data.

Want to learn more about data and current events’ impact on collecting and understanding it? Click here to learn more.

How to Achieve Meaningful CX Measurement for CX-Based Compensation

The Coronavirus pandemic has left no aspect of customer experience (CX) programs unchanged, especially compensation practices tied to CX results. COVID-19 has brought about uncertainty, but it also presents a unique opportunity to reevaluate—and redesign—CX-based compensation practices that companies have long held sacred. Let’s discuss how these practices are doing in the current age and how they might fare better during and after this pandemic.

Should We Eliminate CX-Based Compensation?

Many practitioners struggle with how companies tie compensation to CX metrics across their organization. Does this mean I am advocating that CX-based compensation should be eliminated altogether?

The answer is absolutely not. Having CX front and center as a beacon metric is critical for any business that claims it cares about the customer experience. So, CX-based compensation can still be very useful. However, brands should double-check whether they’re compensating employees based on CX metrics that those individuals can actually affect.

For example, would it really be ideal if a B2B company compensated customer loyalty for its B2B partner when it’s really just an agent for a third party? What if this hypothetical brand instead compensated its frontline employees on a metric more within their control, such as level of effort? Those employees would be incentivized to create a great experience, then be rewarded for their specific contribution.

The point here is that brands should always reevaluate the metrics they compensate upon regardless of events like this pandemic. However, the current global situation is an additional reason to hit pause and conduct these evaluations in great detail. Companies and their CX leaders can both double check that their CX-based compensation is sound and make any adjustments not only  to suit this new, pandemic-driven reality, but also for when this crisis is in our rearview mirror.

Should Everyone Be Equally Compensated?

This is a question that comes up frequently within organizations that offer CX-based compensation. Additionally, this question has been magnified by the pandemic because the customer expectations and service delivery have both changed drastically these past months.

Many brands offer compensation based on one or two beacon CX metrics—CX measures that everyone within an organization can get behind and strive to impact no matter their job or department. However, while organizations should certainly have these beacon metrics in place, there’s once again something to be said for the idea of levelling compensation to suit different employees’ ability to impact a specific metric.

This idea is important because it enables organizations to create a CX-centric culture, one in which every employee has a chance to make a difference while also giving employees who are especially close to a given process the chance to truly step up. This way, the latter group of employees who can make a larger impact will also feel incentivized to actually do so. Equally important is the notion of aligning compensation to impact or creating an organizational hierarchy that employees feel is fair, not arbitrary.

Aspirational but Attainable Goals

Another element for businesses to consider as they evaluate their CX-based compensation and incentives is whether to make goals aspirational but potentially unreachable, or attainable but not a “slam dunk.”

At several points in my career as a CX practitioner, I was responsible for setting corporate CX goals on an annual basis. My job was to balance the executive demand to move ever upward with an operational desire to ensure that we weren’t setting ourselves up for failure. Adding CX-based compensation to this balancing act can make it a bit more precarious—whether I signed up for it or not, our goal-setting had  a direct impact on my coworkers’ paychecks!

The trick with this dynamic, as with almost everything customer experience, is to meet everyone in the middle. That means being unafraid to challenge operations leaders to aspire for more while also having the courage to present facts to the C-suite and help them understand this aspirational vs attainable dynamic.

CX practitioners who can pull this balancing act off will be able to create realistic CX-based compensation goals that drive everyone to strive for more, not just be satisfied with hitting a goal. Reaching a consensus between all stakeholders results in goals that employees across the business will chomp at the bit to attain, and there’s no better time to reassess that balance than right now. Finally, since having a compensation impact is a great motivator, everybody wins—especially our customers!

Want to learn more about how to create mindful, meaningful CX management in the age of COVID? Click here to learn more about COVID’s impact on CX data.

How Retail Banks Must Adapt During and After COVID-19

The Coronavirus pandemic has left no industry unscathed, especially retail banking. As banking brands reel from everything from a reduction of in-branch business to the economic crunch at large, it’s imperative that they adapt to these and other challenges if they hope to emerge from this crisis in a strong position.

As we outline in our recent white paper on this subject, Five Predictions About The Future of Retail Banking, retail banking brands can achieve this goal by asking the right questions. What follows is a quick rundown of four topics and how addressing them today can help retail banks succeed tomorrow.

The questions we’ll focus on today concern:

  • Inactivity
  • Overactivity
  • Surprises
  • Customers

Topic #1: Inactivity

The first customer experience (CX) question that banks need to ask themselves is not what banking activity COVID-19 spurred, but rather, what activity didn’t occur as a result of the pandemic. Specifically, retail banks must discover which transactions could have taken place and what accounts might have opened were it not for the Coronavirus.

There are several ways that banks can obtain a glimpse at how inactivity has hurt their bottom line. The first and most obvious step is to compare operational and financial data from the past few months against the same time period in preceding years. This tip may seem gratuitous, but it’s a simple and effective way to get an idea of how much activity COVID-19 has robbed away.

Next, banks need to understand who their customers are. This means identifying customers by their usage loyalty (i.e. identifying customers who regularly bank with a brand versus newcomers or more casual users) and compare that data to a CRM or database to gain a deeper view of what customers are and aren’t doing. Financial and operational metrics are also useful here because using them helps retail banks achieve a total, holistic understanding of their customers.

Topic #2: Overactivity

Gauging inactivity is a good way for retail banks to learn how COVID-19 has changed their customers’ behavior—so too is taking a look at any overactivity. In keeping with the customer understanding we established in the preceding section, it’s important for banks to better know their customers by learning which activities have taken place more often during this pandemic.

For example, are banking customers opening a certain type of account more often? Retail banks can keep an eye out for account overactivity in addition to, say, whether certain services or consultations were solicited more often. Overactivity is a good indicator of how banking customers are feeling during this crisis and, as with measuring inactivity, comparing it to previous customer activity and gaining a 360-degree view of who these people are is vital.

Topic #3: Surprises

Retail banks that work to understand both inactivity and overactivity will be well-equipped to spot anomalies in how their customers act. 

It’s helpful for these banks to ask themselves what about recent customer interactions has been the most surprising. Have customers present unusual questions, comments, or concerns to their local branch? Are they making requests that your bank is unprepared to accommodate?

Asking questions like these and looking for behavioral anomalies go a long way toward ensuring that retail banks are prepared to continue serving customers best they can during this pandemic. Besides, it doesn’t appear that COVID-19 is departing us anytime soon.

Topic #4: Customers

This is a big one. Banks can better understand their customers by asking the questions mentioned above, but these queries are also a useful way to learn if their audience has shifted entirely. Has your target customer-base shifted? Do some customers seem harder-hit than others? Ascertaining this information can help banks keep a lock on their audience and adapt to their changing needs and expectations.

As we said up top, banks that ask the hard questions and incorporate any findings into their digital strategies will emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic in an ideal position. They can then continue providing an optimal banking experience for customers, resulting in both happier audiences and a stronger bottom line.

Want to learn more about our predictions for the retail banking world during and beyond COVID-19? Check out our new white paper “Five Predictions About The Future of Retail Banking” by retail banking CX expert Jennifer Passini.

How to Monetize Your Customer Experience Improvements

The journey to effective customer experience (CX) includes many steps. We’ve already talked about three of those steps—listening to customers, understanding who they are and the context of their experiences, and taking action to improve those experiences—in great detail. This journey should be as rewarding for your company as it is for your customers when you successfully monetize improvements to create a positive impact on the bottom line. 

The Strongest Link

The best way for companies to effectively monetize the changes they make to customer experience(s) is to link both actions and outcomes to business metrics. CX practitioners can point to any changes that have occurred in those metrics since implementing any experience fixes and easily connect the two. Practitioners can also use these links to prove ROI to decision makers, which helps determine both which projects to prioritize and how to build a case for (more) funding.

To make the most of these initiatives and to measure just how effective brands’ experience improvement efforts truly are, companies should always view improvement monetization through the paradigm of four economic pillars: customer acquisition, customer retention, cross-sell/upsell opportunities, and lowering cost to serve.

Customer Acquisition

Experience improvement initiatives can enhance customer acquisition. Customer feedback is obviously important for fixing existing experiences, but the ideas captured by analyzing this information can also lead to new products and services, and thus to new customers.

Remember that customers are a company’s best source of marketing. Using a CX program to create promoters and then have them advocate for your brand will grow your customer base considerably.

CX practitioners can prove experience improvement’s impact on new customer acquisition by keeping a few key metrics in mind, including net new customers, new customers acquired over a certain time period, and growth of market share.

Customer Retention

Customer retention is typically one of CX programs’ primary purposes, driven mostly by closing the loop and resolving individual complaints from customers.Typically, it’s also one of the easier elements to measure from a financial standpoint.

There are several key ways to think about and measure customer retention. Brands can draw a link between experience improvement and customer retention by paying attention not only to traditional retention or churn metrics, but also increases in average customer tenure or lifetime value (LTV or CLV).

Upsell/Cross-Sell Opportunities

Voice of the Customer (VOC) and improvement programs are useful for uncovering customer acquisition opportunities, but they also reveal new opportunities to cross-sell or upsell customers. Experience improvement initiatives can help brands uncover new needs and thus market products or services of which existing customers were previously unaware.

Brands need to keep a few metrics in mind as they consider experience improvement’s impact on cross-selling to or upselling customers. Companies should pay attention to how many customers upgrade within a given time period, the amount of customers buying additional products and/or services, and any increases in average customer value. New product and service purchases will also lead to increases in customer lifetime value.

Lowering Cost to Serve

Lowering the cost to serve customers is another primary focus of CX efforts, whether it’s fixing broken processes or reducing service calls. Brands can wield experience improvement in a number of cost-lowering ways. For example, channel shift is a common means of both improving an experience and lowering cost to serve. This can be achieved by, say, moving customers to more digital or self-service options. These changes can fit well within the paradigm of experience improvement and can be measured (and proven) via lowered process costs, labor costs, and cost per call or transaction. 

Another way to think about lowering cost to serve is viewing it as lowering the cost to sell. Selling to a current customer, for instance, is much cheaper than trying to acquire a new customer. Activating promoters or brand advocates can also be used in lieu of marketing expenditures. So too is making certain sales processes automated or digitized. 

Continuous Improvement

This concludes our four-part conversation on how companies can listen, understand, improve, and monetize their way toward transformational success, a stronger bottom line, and a better experience for their customers. As we have hopefully demonstrated, the journey to effective customer experience and the corresponding benefits for a company’s success and growth is continuous one, requiring constant attention, care, adaptation, and innovation. However, if you deal effectively with the bumps and obstacles you encounter and even pave new paths when necessary, you and your customers will enjoy the journey. 

Want to learn more about creating an effective success framework for your CX program? Check out our article on the subject, written by  CX expert Eric Smuda, here.

How to Improve Customer Experiences in a Meaningful and Transformative Way

In our previous blog posts, we discussed what it means to listen effectively to customers in order to truly understand their feedback and its implications for a brand. What business leaders do with that feedback is crucial to driving significant, holistic customer experience improvement and a better financial outcome.

Data Democratization

After listening to and understanding customers by contextualizing feedback in relation to customer profiles, as well as operational and financial data, it is imperative to share that information with as many relevant stakeholders as possible. These individuals vary from company to company but may generally include marketing and operational leadership, frontline managers, and, of course, any experience teams. Every perspective and area of expertise brought to the table increases the chance of finding a better solution (and of avoiding pitfalls).

This process of sharing customer feedback, capturing ideas from across the company, and sharing with the appropriate parties is known as data democratization, and it’s critical to meaningfully improving brand experience(s). 

Governance and Prioritization

Data democratization enables breaking down organizational silos, coordinating company-wide actions, and ensuring smooth hand-offs, all of which are essential for effective customer experience governance and prioritization. There are many benefits to coordinating CX improvement efforts across a company, including creating legitimacy and sponsorship for projects, establishing the depth and breadth of support necessary for concrete improvements, and ensuring that all projects are working toward the same objectives. 

Concrete CX improvement has two components: fixing poor or broken experiences as they exist right now, and designing or redesigning new experiences. Once appropriate stakeholders have received and responded to contextualized customer data, they can contribute to a strategy to realize and implement changes. As changes are introduced, tested and measured, cohesive and effective CX governance will ensure that brands can identify, prioritize, and complete the action items that offer the biggest impact.

Closing the Loop

It’s vital that brands be especially vigilant about closing the loop(s) to achieve CX improvement. Closing the inner loop involves addressing and resolving individually submitted feedback, boosting customer retention and affinity. This process may also highlight issues that companies don’t know are occurring.

Closing the outer loop requires analyzing, testing, and fixing the root causes of any broken experiences that have broader implications beyond a unique customer. This process better enables companies to A/B test solutions and iterate the best improvements before rolling them out to customers. Brands can then collect more feedback to gauge satisfaction with changes and make adjustments as needed. Closing the outer loop ensures that a brand follows through on the changes it institutes by making the broader customer base aware of a new or redesigned experience.

Taking Improvement Further

Any improvement that results in a better experience for customers should be encouraged, but companies that seek truly transformational success also need to evaluate how changes can positively affect the bottom line.

Join us next week for the fourth and final discussion in our series to learn how to effectively monetize improvements by using a powerful paradigm that will enable your company to achieve its goals.

Want to learn more about creating an effective success framework for your CX program? Check out our article on the subject, written by  CX expert Eric Smuda, here.

5 Cost-Effective Ways to Keep Furloughed Employees Engaged

Though brands are contending with a lot of customer uncertainty at the current time, there’s another, equally important group with whom all organizations need to engage during this pandemic: furloughed employees.

Just like customers, employees are facing tremendous stress and anxiety in the era of COVID-19. Nearly 20 million of them will likely be furloughed by July. Whether it’s the prospect of becoming unemployed or the reality of being furloughed, employees have found themselves surrounded by very existential threats as the Coronavirus pandemic continues to rage worldwide. Meanwhile, many firms are facing considerable resource challenges and may be wondering how to engage furloughed employees despite those challenges.

Though concerns like these are formidable, there are still effective and cost-free ways for brands to stay engaged with their employees during any large-scale crisis. True engagement requires trust, authenticity, and are based on building relationships, all of which these strategies are aimed at helping brands achieve.

What follows is a discussion of five powerful methods that companies can use to stay connected to their furloughed employees.

Today’s conversation will cover:

  • Employee Outreach
  • HR Lifelines
  • Internal Resources
  • Social Media
  • Charity Involvement

Employee Outreach

Whether it’s via video messages or company-wide emails, it is critical for brand executives and leaders to remain as connected with their furloughed employees as possible right now. For many companies, particularly large ones, this task is easier said than done, but receiving outreach from upper management can do wonders for employee morale. Of course, these messages need to be genuine—employees will feel that management is attempting to placate them if this outreach consists of, say, generic feel-good messages, which can end up stoking resentment instead of relief.

Companies can take that outreach a step further than just sending a general, company-wide video message. For example, a leading casino was forced to furlough 95% of its employees after various quarantine guidelines were enacted. Knowing that employee morale was essential to retention and brand advocacy, the casino’s executive team reached out to each and every furloughed employee via email, phone or text to check in one-on-one and let them know that they hadn’t been forgotten.

This strategy is essential for successful employee engagement for several reasons. First and foremost, it reminds furloughed employees that the brand they’re dedicating their careers to cares about their well-being. Similarly, it lets employees know that management cares about keeping them in the loop, which in turn keeps them invested in the company. Finally, this strategy helps employees stay passionate about their work. Multiple brands are utilizing this tactic to help ensure that their workforces will return to the office as brand advocates… not detractors.

HR Lifelines

Reaching out to furloughed employees is a great way to engage with them during the pandemic, but it’s also important to give them a means of starting a conversation on their own terms.

To that end, brands should open an email inbox that employees can access and that forwards messages directly to Human Resources, an internal crisis response team, or both. With a direct line like this in place, employees no longer have to wait for management outreach if they feel the need to approach them with a concern.

This tool is an effective means of employee engagement because, as we just mentioned, it allows employees to reach out to brands about any problems on their minds, which may not always be the same as the problems on management’s minds. Thus, a direct-to-HR inbox is both a useful communication tool and a great way for companies to build trust and a sense of authenticity with their employees.

Internal Resources

Though furloughed employees may reach out with novel concerns, it’s likely that the answers to many of their questions can be found within existing resources. Companies should always dispense HR handbooks and related media as a matter of course, but it’s also a good idea to highlight those resources during this pandemic.

To do this, brands should set up a centralized communication channel if they haven’t already done so, and disperse media like newsletters and announcements to keep everyone informed. This strategy is especially useful for businesses that may temporarily suspend login privileges for internal resources during a furlough. Companies can also use these media as a go-to for additional employee outreach, but they’re also useful means of linking back to resources just like HR handbooks.

This strategy has several advantages. First, it gives furloughed employees even more means of getting their questions answered and concerns addressed on their own terms, which goes a long way toward helping them feel invested in a brand. Additionally, by opening the floor to multiple online resources, companies can help ensure that their aforementioned HR inbox doesn’t get overwhelmed, especially with concerns that HR materials may already address.

Social Media

Social media can be an excellent platform for staying in touch with furloughed employees, especially if an organization doesn’t yet have an internal, centralized communication platform. Businesses can stabilize employee morale by building a central social media channel with which to post announcements and updates. They can also create hubs that employees can use to stay in touch, post positive stories, and ask questions. Facebook and its groups tool suit these purposes particularly well.

One business put social media to more uses than just creating company updates. In fact, the company went the extra mile by leadership posting their own positive Covid-19 stories and encouraging their Team Members to post their own positive stories for all to view. This strategy helped stabilize employee morale and ensured a positive impression of the brand. Some brands may find a combination of internal communication platforms and social media to be effective as well.

Charity Involvement

As the COVID-19 pandemic has intensified, more brands have ramped up their contributions to and advocacy for charitable causes. Businesses should take any opportunities they can to get furloughed employees involved with causes like these.

Furloughed employees don’t have to be expected to contribute money, either. Whether it’s volunteering time or contributing any other available resources, donating to a common charitable cause can strengthen furloughed employees’ connection to their brand and each other, helping them retain their sense of connection, in a world that may feel isolated at times.

Plus, let it not be forgotten that assisting charitable and common causes whenever possible is more important than ever right now.

Keeping The Flame Alive

As we mention above, employees are facing uncertainty, anxiety and stress in these challenging times. But both these emotions and employees’ sense of connection to their organization can be managed by the tactics that we’ve talked about. Leadership can conquer uncertainty in their employees by reaching out directly. An HR inbox gives employees a place to express their own concerns and thus reduce anxiety. Constantly pointing these individuals toward resources and social media communication can further reduce stress.

All of these strategies can help organizations build healthy long-term relationships with their employees at little to no cost, and, as we discussed, help ensure that employees eventually return to the workplace with a positive impression of the brand they work for and greater passion for their work. These factors can help organizations regain their footing and beyond once this pandemic is behind us.

Knowing how to engage employees during this difficult time can be a challenge, so we distilled our employee experience expertise into a new webinar, “Revealing the Power of Experience Programs in a Time of Crisis,” that you can access for free here!

How to Truly Understand Customer Needs, Wants, and Expectations

Delivering an effective customer experience is a journey, not a destination. If brands want to achieve transformational success, positively affect the bottom line, and create a difference for their customers, they need to not only listen to those individuals, but also understand who they are, what they’re seeking, and the experiences they’re having.

Whereas the previous conversation in this series focused on how to effectively listen to customers, today’s discussion tackles the next step in the process—understanding them. So, let’s touch on the benefits of taking time to understand who your customers are, what they’re looking for, the operational and financial realities associated with their experiences, and how that intelligence can produce meaningful success.

Solving for X  

Listening to customers is obviously crucial to CX success, but the journey toward building a better experience doesn’t stop there. Once companies collect customer feedback via a variety of methods and sources, the next step in this process is to combine customer feedback with a database or CRM so that they can better understand who is providing feedback. Companies can also segment this feedback by loyalty or non-loyalty club members, tiers within a loyalty program,  or CLV tiers.

Put simply, the brands that take time to truly dive into understanding who their customers are and what they want makes it much easier to prioritize gathered intelligence. Understanding customers also simplifies identifying actionable intel, which in turn enables companies to give customers more personalized experiences.

Tools of The Trade  

Similarly to listening for customer stories, there are three key tools that companies should use concurrently in their journey toward better customer understanding. The first is key driver analysis.  Brands can better understand customer acquisition, retention, and churn by analyzing the key drivers affecting those movements.

Predictive analytics, meanwhile, are an effective means of discerning what customers are looking for. This tool can also be leveraged to identify what those same individuals may seek from a brand in the future or what actions they may take later on.

The final and most important tool of note here, though, is sentiment analysis. Sentiment analysis can detect how strongly customers feel about an experience (be that positive or negative sentiment). This heightened awareness of customer sentiment is vital to actually understanding them.

The Final Blend 

Customer profile information, behavioral or purchase history, and sentiment are all valuable information for companies to have close at hand, but they don’t provide a full understanding of the customer experience on their own. For that, companies need to contextualize customer feedback with financial metrics, operational metrics, and employee perspectives.

Adding these metrics and insights to a blend of customer information is vital for getting the full context underlying those individuals’ journeys. Brands that can see who their customers are and how that likeness plays out against financial and operational information will attain a full understanding of the customers’ perceptions of their experiences and why they happened that way. Adding internal context and ideas from employees also helps brands know how an experience can be improved.

Once organizations have profiles of their customers’ desires, experiences, and future intentions, they can go about applying that information to the experiences that they provide and create transformative success for both themselves and the frontline employees who sustain the brand. This allows companies to both personalize the individual experience as much as possible and to design new experiences based on their customer knowledge and segmentation.

Be sure to check out the next installment in our series to learn more about experience improvement.

Want to learn more about creating an effective success framework for your CX program? Check out our article on the subject, written by InMoment CX expert Eric Smuda, here.

How to Effectively Listen to Customers

Customer needs, wants, and expectations are changing rapidly, and brands that want to keep up need to aggressively monitor customer commentary if they hope to continue providing the experiences that those individuals seek. Though listening to customers is merely the first step in a wider, effective framework for customer experience (CX) program success, doing so enables brands to better understand what customers are looking for and to deliver real business outcomes, not just keep track of metrics.

With those in mind, let’s take a closer look at how to effectively listen to customers and how doing so enables wider CX achievement.

I Hear You

The first step companies can take toward better customer listening is to carry that function out in as many forms as possible. Surveys, for example, remain a useful means of gathering customer feedback, particularly when questions are written in an open-ended manner and encourage customers to submit information about the topics they care about, not just what the brand dispersing those surveys might. 

Though surveys remain relevant in the modern experience landscape, there are other tools that brands should also use to gather the richest feedback they can. Multimedia feedback options are a must in this day and age, especially as many customers find image and video the most ideal forms of self-expression. Options like these can be included in both surveys and in-app digital intercepts.

It’s important for brands seeking richer customer stories to insert feedback opportunities into numerous touchpoints, which is one reason why website feedback options are also handy. Customers appreciate being able to submit feedback even as they’re taking a journey with a brand, and website feedback can be an invaluable means of enabling that.

Finally, companies need to pay close attention to what customers are saying on social media and other customer service channels. Though it should come as a surprise to no one, these forms of communication can provide invaluable feedback that brands can put toward a better experience.

The Point of Better Data

It’s not enough for organizations to pick one of those aforementioned listening methods and run with it—rather, as we mentioned at the beginning of this discussion, brands need to use as many feedback methods as possible concurrently. By listening for customer stories in as many places and with as many methods as possible, companies can drastically improve the odds they’ll receive quality, actionable feedback.

It’s also important for brands to gather information like this from an oft-overlooked data source: employees. Employees are integral to providing a quality experience and are brands’ customer-facing front line, so it’s safe to assume that they also have valuable intelligence for companies to reap and make use of. Thus, brands should pay close attention to soliciting feedback from both customers and employees.

Organizations that gather all of this feedback will be best positioned to understand who their customers are, what sorts of experiences they’re seeking, and how to meet customer needs and expectations even as they evolve in real-time. Now that we’ve discussed how to better listen to customers, be sure to check out the next chat in our series, understanding the customer, to learn more about building a better experience.

Want to learn more about creating an effective success framework for your CX program? Check out our POV on the subject, written by inveterate CX expert Eric Smuda, here.

Empathy as a Commodity: Customer Experience Pivots Post-Pandemic

In the wake of COVID-19, the role of customer experience is at a crucial tipping point. Many organisations are asking, is CX a non-essential business function that gets cut when budgets are trimmed? Or does CX have an opportunity to move up the value chain in enterprise organisations? 

Since the pandemic transcended into Australia/New Zealand in early 2020, InMoment’s APAC Sales Director Simon Benns has seen an interesting shift toward an empathy economy. Brands that are able to harness empathy and work toward achieving a more authentic customer experience will reach the top of its vertical and continuously achieve meaningful improvement for itself and its customers.

Market Disruption has Exposed the Need for Experience Improvement

Years have passed since 2014 when Gartner boldly declared that “customer experience is the new battleground for businesses.” Despite most brands declaring to be customer-centric, many CX programs have failed to realise the full potential of an experience management program. According to a more recent Gartner report pre-pandemic, only 22% of CX Leaders can say that their programs exceeded customer expectations. Now in the wake of COVID-19, customer experience leaders have been forced into the spotlight and asked to prove the value of these experience management programs back to the business. 

The global pandemic has led to a shifted relationship between businesses and their customers. Globally, brands have grappled with how to navigate through these turbulent times and emerge with customer relationships intact. Marketing strategies in most organisations have quickly pivoted to adapt with advertisements and corporate communications declaring “we are here to help!” From Dove telling consumers that it’s not important which brand of soap that we use as long as we wash our hands, to QBE giving cash back to every car insurance customer, as consumers we are being told that “we’ll get through this together.”

Empathy is Now a CX Commodity  

Companies that are surviving and thriving are those that are exhibiting emotional intelligence and communicating with care, honesty, and empathy. In these emotionally testing times, many people are highly sensitive and prepared to make choices based on how much they feel a company truly understands them. Consumers are noticing when brands reach out to try and help, versus when they are being sold to. Brands are not competing over who has the best price or product, but on kindness. It feels that the battleground of the moment is empathy. 

When the pandemic first surfaced, most brands could guess the way customers were feeling. When a crisis hits, humans are immediately looking for help, support and relief – they aren’t concerned with fancy platform upgrades or product features. But what about as we move out of the crisis period?  What are customers looking for as we move into recovery? As a society, we are embarking on truly uncharted territory, and brands know they need to continue supporting, evolving and communicating with customers in a way that resonates. In the new ‘empathy economy’, the secret weapon lies within your customer feedback and your brand’s ability to turn those insights into action as quickly as possible.

Customer Feedback is Crucial in the Empathy Economy 

The definition of “empathy” is “the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.” Empathy is not about two-way communication, it is simply about listening and understanding. Thus, the ability to hear what your customers are saying, truly understand their needs, and find a solution to meet their evolving expectations is quickly becoming the most critical business function. 

We’ve seen Australian brands turn off their VoC programs after seeing NPS scores drop. At a time when businesses should be listening to customers more than ever, many brands feel overwhelmed by the seemingly negative information and stop listening to customers all together. 

On the other hand, we’ve been inspired by Australian brands like The NRMA who have used information sources across the entire business to monitor and make decisions. The VoC team has implemented a Coronavirus text analytics category and is updating senior management twice a week, calling out references to COVID-19 within VoC trackers including critical areas of the business like roadside assistance and Thrifty car rentals. The team has also built a specific “Coronavirus” dashboard to monitor comments as they come through. Overall, the tool acts as a cross-check function for business decisions to ensure that opportunities to serve the customer better during this challenging time are not missed.

For Actionable Insights, Move from Past-Tense to Forward-Thinking Survey Questions

Historically, the true value of VoC programs has remained ambiguous due to the quality of insights. We know that the most impactful insights are those that give clear direction to the business and drive a significant uplift in the customer’s experience. The best insights are those that are based in solid research that encourage C-Suite leadership teams to stand up and pay attention. Unfortunately, most programs fall short when it comes to actionable program insights. 

In order to see actionable insights, brands need to shift the mentality of CX as an indication of past performance, to a forward-thinking voice that can shape business strategy. One of the quickest ways to do this is by asking survey questions in present and future tense

In the past tense, survey questions look like “how did we do?” or “how was your experience 0-10?” Of course, there is a valuable place for types of questions by helping businesses learn from past mistakes. However, these past-tense questions can’t help your brand navigate economic uncertainty in the here and now.

Instead, transform your survey using forward-thinking questions. Instead of asking customers “how could we have served you better?” replace these with “how would you like us to serve you better in the future?” The latter question reframes the customer mindset and prompts them to feed back richer text verbatim. Using text analytics to categorise customer feedback, your business will have ideas and insights based on empirical evidence that will help drive your brand forward.

Brands can also ask customers how they plan to behave in the future. After the government announced new guidelines, we saw super funds across ANZ asked its members whether they were planning to take advantage of the $10,000 early access scheme. The insight from these forward-thinking survey questions allowed super funds to make better financial planning decisions. Ask your customers what they anticipate their needs to be, how they would like to receive brand messages and when they will need support. These kinds of actionable insights will inform your business roadmap and propel your brand forward.

Prompt Survey Respondents to Give Richer Feedback through Text Analytics

Increasing open-text verbatim is one of the most powerful ways to get actionable insights from customer feedback. The text analytics capability is an AI-driven approach that encourages respondents to expand on their survey answers. When the respondent gives feedback that is too short like “bad experience,” the platform function prompts the consumer with a message that says “can you tell us a bit more about your experience?.” The text analytics feature collects verbatim at scale, it can be overlaid with emotion and sentiment analysis, categorised into custom categories bespoke to your business and empowers your customers to answer freely.  It is through this capability that your team can discover valuable insights that can be fed back to the business – the kind of insight that  drives business strategy. These powerful customer insights are the key to running feedback from an indicator of past performance into research into future customer requirements.

Allow Your Customers to Get in Touch With You Wherever, Whenever 

The way consumers are communicating and interacting with companies has shifted and many VoC programs have not kept up pace. For example, we have seen that website intercept surveys, which traditionally had a low response rate, have in some cases tripled their response rate in the last 6 weeks.  The technology now exists to understand customer data in its native form. Move beyond calculating metrics to deriving deep meaning from the natural conversations customers are having through open-ended comments, social media channels, contact centers, video, voice and even images. 

In essence, the very premise of NPS attempts to reduce the human experience to a simplified number. And at a larger scale, structured surveys simplify feedback, often removing the human element of a complex customer experience. The future of feedback is in allowing customers and employees to communicate whenever, wherever, and however they want, preserving that data in its native form, and then applying advanced analytics to uncover the intelligence that will drive true change in the business.

In an environment where the ability to listen to and truly understand your customers has become essential, companies with a mature VoC program have the capability to not just survive, but thrive into the post-pandemic economy.  By moving your focus to the future tense, increasing open-ended response and by widening the listening posts, CX leaders can give their organisations the best chance in the new ‘empathy economy.” There is no better time for CX practitioners to reinvent their CX programs and lead their organisations forward into the unknown.

To learn more about how to evolve your CX program, check out our webinar “Now Is the Time to Assess & Reinvent Your CX Program” for free here!

Simon is Sales Director for InMoment in ANZ.  Prior to joining InMoment he spent 10 years helping CX professionals all over the world network, learn and improve as Executive Director at IQPC.  Outside of work he is a keen cyclist and squash player.

Research Shows Customer Perceptions of Businesses During the COVID-19 Crisis

Research Report Background and Introduction

InMoment (formerly MaritzCX), conducts an ongoing study, CX Standards, tracking satisfaction with customers’ interactions with over 300 companies spanning 17 industries in the United States. Beginning on March 27, we added COVID-19-related questions to this study to track how well industries and businesses are doing serving customers during this crisis. Specifically, we asked:

  • When it comes to responding to the Coronavirus (COVID-19), how would you rate [COMPANY]’s efforts to date? [1 = Very poor …10 = Excellent]
  • You rated [COMPANY] a score of [SCORE FROM QUESTION 1]. Can you give some specifics on their effort that led to this rating? [Open-Ended Comment]
  • How much will [COMPANY]’s efforts during this crisis affect your likelihood of doing business with them after the crisis? [1 = Not at all ….10 = Extremely] 

What Does the Research Say About Who is Handling the Crisis Well and Who Isn’t? 

As the research shows, restaurants, shipping, and to a lesser extent, investments are the best responding industries, and customers are most satisfied by their COVID-19 responses. And, we’d like to congratulate these businesses.

Interestingly enough, customers are least satisfied by COVID-19 responses of companies in technology (online-only retailers, mobile, and television) industries. This may be a result of increased demand for these services while people are sheltering at home, and the difficulty of meeting said demand.

How Well Are Different Industries Dealing with the COVID-19 Crisis? 

When we plot how well industries are dealing with the COVID-19 crisis (horizontal axis) by how important their response to the crisis is in terms of determining future business from customers (vertical axis), we can see that several industries like insurance, bank and credit cards, and healthcare* ranked below average in their response to the crisis, but also ranked above average in customers’ views that their response is important. Companies in these industries are in jeopardy of losing customers due to their response, or non-response, to the crisis.

Other industries showing lesser COVID performance and relatively high importance are online-only retailers, television, retail grocery, and retail gas or convenience stores.

Customers Explain What They Want and Don’t Want

Examination of respondents’ comments explaining why they gave companies high or low scores revealed what customers want from companies during this time. On the positive side, the most often-mentioned topics were enforcing social distancing, keeping a clean environment, showing an effort to address the crisis, providing personal protective gear, taking care of their customers, and providing good communication.

The reasons for lower ranking or more negative feedback included insufficient stock, no communication, not addressing the problem(s), and no social distancing. Additionally, this feedback noted lower scores for perceived poor treatment of employees.

The Worst Reaction: Inaction

Our research clearly indicates that the worst reaction companies can have to the COVID-19 crisis is inaction. Customers are appreciative of companies’ efforts to enforce and maintain social distancing rules. Unsurprisingly, they want to feel safe during this uncertain time. Customers also appreciate clear communication about what companies are doing to address the crisis.

It is important to remember that, to date, this information was collected when many businesses in the United States were shut down or working on a very limited basis. It will be interesting to see how customers’ perceptions of companies change as economies are “opened up” and more face-to-face business takes place again.

How to Effectively Desilo Data to Harmonize Your Brand

Anyone who works in customer experience (CX) has heard about the importance of desiloing data (if they’re not already leading efforts to do so). That process has become one of the most popular elements of the CX world as companies strive to integrate data sets, processes, and departments to serve a more unified experience vision.

Desiloing data is generally accepted as a great goal, but executing that goal is no small task. It’s natural for CX practitioners to wonder where to start. Which data sources should they integrate? How exactly is data desiloed? Finally, how can organizations begin using integrated data to achieve CX goals?

Taking Stock

Which data sources should organizations desilo to gain a better view of their CX efforts? The first and most obvious here is direct feedback from customers. Once brands have accrued that set of information, they can look to indirect feedback from customers and other groups. Finally, brands need to unite these sets of data with inferred feedback, descriptive data that can help organizations achieve a united, holistic picture of the customer experience.

Next, practitioners need to understand that their richest source of information about the customer experience lies in the minds of their frontline employees.  This is an often overlooked aspect of CX data and should be a priority.  Employees’ feelings about a brand are just as crucial a component of any company’s experience efforts as customers’, so it pays to include those insights in a desiloed system as well. CRM data is extremely helpful, too—organizations should desilo as much of their customer strategies, technology, and interaction analyses as possible.

There are two more sets of data here that are essential to include in a centralized data system: financial data and operational information. It’s common for organizations to assume that the only data needed for a decentralized CX system is info from customer-facing teams, but operational data is key to understanding a brand’s wider picture. Combine this info with the aforementioned customer data, and the result is a truly versatile and powerful source of knowledge.

Opening The Floodgates

Once a brand has located these data sources, it’s time to begin the process of actually desiloing them. It’s essential for CX practitioners to bear two key principles in mind as they go about this project: efficiency and accessibility.

Efficient data desiloing isn’t as simple as just dumping a bunch of files into a single folder. Organizations that desilo information can attain a cross-functional communication strategy that enables all its departments to take advantage of that data in meaningful ways. CX practitioners should thus strive to be the champions of this data and use it to demonstrate how other departments can benefit from it, not just CX and customer-facing teams.

Fortunately, brands that put their data in one place have largely achieved that cross-functionality with just that action. However, organization goes a long way toward accessibility, too. Keeping a data system in good order means making everything from data source names to file organization intuitive. Organizations that pull this off can better leverage their data to accomplish CX goals.

Executing On Desiloed Data

There are many benefits to desiloing data. Brands that unite disparate sources of information can help ensure that CX data is used throughout an entire organization. This can help brands create a culture of CX centricity (sometimes referred to as closing the outer loop) that makes the company geared toward finding feedback, resolving issues, and implementing actionable insights.

This increased unity in purpose ultimately leads to an improved customer experience. When departments share information and can draw data from one place, it’s easier to accomplish CX goals and to fix problem areas. Thus, desiloing data is a boon not just for brands and organizations, but also the customers for whom those companies seek to create memorable, compelling experiences.

Interested in learning more about making the most of your data and the tools with which you gather it? Check out our article on how to achieve meaningful customer listening here!

A Glance at The Post-COVID Retail Landscape

We’ve examined how COVID-19 is currently impacting the retail world, as well as the effects that major retail brands are suffering as a result of the ongoing pandemic. As quarantine measures and other restrictions are gradually being lifted worldwide, though, it may be prudent to discuss the post-COVID retail landscape in greater detail.

Specifically, what changes will we likely see as restrictions are lifted? How may those changes continue to affect post-pandemic retail? Finally, how might customers feel about these new developments as some semblance of “normalcy” is restored? Let’s take a closer look.

What Changes Will Retailers See As Restrictions Are Lifted?

Let’s begin by swiftly recapping what changes retailers have already seen as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic. Contactless payments have become more common, customer-employee contact has diminished, and the surge of online transactions we’ve seen in recent years has only strengthened. Customers’ demand for goods and services has also fallen as many of them face unemployment or being furloughed.

That last point, demand, is where retailers will see some marked changes as quarantine measures are rolled back. While some customers may spend high sums as a means of releasing pent-up demand (also known as “shoptimism”), those individuals’ appetites for retail goods, particularly luxury items, will remain overall cool to the touch for quite some time (probably well into 2021). Retailers shouldn’t count on that aforementioned pent-up demand to salvage their bottom line.

It probably comes as little surprise that this pandemic has also heightened customer interest in self-sufficiency, and retailers can expect to see that interest impact their post-pandemic landscape as well. For example, customers are now more likely to buy yeast instead of processed bread, a trend that retailers can expect to provide both marketing opportunities and obstacles.

Listening to Retail Customers in A Post-Pandemic World

Customer experience (CX) programmes will be more crucial than ever for brands to implement and adhere to as quarantine measures are eased. With that in mind, let’s briefly examine how the pandemic has likely forever changed customer expectations, what those expectations are, and why it will pay for brands to listen to them carefully.

First, customers will emerge from quarantine hoping that brands take precautions against additional COVID outbreaks. As such, these organisations need to listen carefully to what those individuals hope to see when they return to physical storefronts. Brands can help assuage customer worries by maintaining cleanliness standards contrived during the outbreak, such as wider aisles that allow for more personal space.

Listening to customers and maintaining a safety standard they’re comfortable with plays into a wider strategy of building and maintaining long-term relationships with those individuals. Retailers that make it apparent that their customers are being listened to will have a considerable advantage over brands that don’t. 

Finally, customers will also pay close attention to how retailers treat their employees and factor that relationship into their decision to resume shopping with a given brand… or not. Brands should be listening to employees anyway, and not solely for the sake of accommodating their concerns and making them feel cared about. Listening to employees also helps ensure that they return to the workplace advocating for their brand, not against it.

The bottom line here is that the pandemic has spurred customers to scrutinise retailers more now than perhaps ever before, and that brand success in a post-COVID world means rolling with both customers’ new realities (reduced spending power, new/upended interests) and still listening for what those individuals want to see as restrictions are lifted. Retailers that can pull this delicate balancing act off will be posed for meaningful success in a post-COVID world.

COVID-19 presents a formidable challenge to retailers of all stripes, but they needn’t’ navigate it alone. To learn more about how to succeed in the era of Coronavirus, read our article on the subject here.

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