How Closing The Loop Helps Companies Keep Promises

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

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

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

Closing the Inner Loop

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

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

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

Closing The Outer Loop

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

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

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

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

How COVID-19 Has and Will Impact Credit—Permanently

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Three Research-Backed EX Trends for Your Evolving Workplace

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

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

Trend #1: Employees Are Missing Connection

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

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

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

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

Trend #2: New Stressors Are Emerging

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

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

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

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

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

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

So What’s Next?

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

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

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

About the Study:

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

How to Craft Deliverable Brand Promises

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

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

Know Your Customer

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

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

Delivering The Goods

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

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

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

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

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? 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.

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.

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