In Uncertain Times, Customer Experience Is Even More Critical

Recently, Forrester VP, research director and customer experience thought leader Harley Manning looked at the current volatility of the global economy, referenced trends in consumer behavior, and urged a wise course of action for businesses: Keep investing in the customer experience. His article outlines a few well-backed financial points of reasoning and also dishes sound advice.

It makes economic sense—especially in uncertain times—to invest in the customer experience. But if it makes so much sense, then why does Manning worry that businesses will be tempted to do the opposite? Over the past five years, there has been a pronounced surge in companies investing in the customer experience. As top companies have increased their advantages through superior customer treatment and as the financial sense of customer-centricity has been proven, nearly everyone has taken note to at least some degree.

Know Your Existential Imperatives

Here’s where the worry comes in, though: When times turn uncertain and fear creeps in, human beings cling to what feels safe. In business, this usually means those existential imperatives like operational efficiency and reduction of costs. While a focus on these core elements may achieve savings in the short term, this limited view often comes at the expense of one of its most important assets: the customer. But those who really understand the customer experience and why it is a profitable investment will say the true existential imperatives are, in fact, customers, employees, people. And that’s the test. What’s your answer when the chips are down?

Customers have a different perspective. What matters most to them are relationships of trust established over time, regardless of the health of a company’s bottom line. So, when times and economies destabilize, you have to show customers that they matter most to you if you want to matter most to them. Frankly, consumers do not care about a company’s bottom-line. They care about how well brands are delivering on their customer experience promises. More importantly, macro-economic factors that affect business performance often have the same impact on consumers, thus, making them more concerned with the value they receive from brands.

Stay Strong. Stay Savvy.

Thankfully, recent history shows that companies are generally savvy to this reality. Through the Great Recession of 2008–2013, customer experience budgets showed resilience, and overall consumer opinion on the American Customer Satisfaction Index saw a rise that spiked in 2013. If anything, indications are that volatility presents the greatest opportunity for brands to invest in their customers—and see returns on their previous efforts.

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