How Customer Aggression in the Workplace Has Forever Changed Employee Experience

We know that everyone is sick of talking about COVID, but the pandemic has had far-reaching effects on customer experience (CX) and employee experience (EX) that will persist long after the virus is finally contained. Staying on top of these effects is hugely important to continuous Experience Improvement (XI), which is why today we want to take you through one of the biggest elements we noticed in our recent experience trends report: customer aggression in the workplace.

Even if aggressive customers haven’t been a problem for your brand specifically, you’ve no doubt heard all the horror stories about employees and brands for whom they have been. The problem has become widespread enough that it’s changed many employees’ workplace expectations, and it’s in that context that we all need to consider a few questions. Why has this become so much more common, and how has that problem changed employee experience?

The Roots of Heightened Customer Aggression

Figuring out how best to respond to aggressive customers begins with finding out why this problem is ramping up to begin with. The answer probably won’t surprise you: the pandemic has been, to put it lightly, an extremely stressful time. Our research and that of many other organizations have found a direct correlation between that stress and the customer aggression we’re seeing in workplaces around the world.

As you might expect, this aggression has resulted in big changes when it comes to employee expectations. Whether it’s diffusing unruly airline passengers or a fight over Pokemon cards (not even kidding), many employees are experiencing enforcement fatigue from attempting to uphold COVID regulations in the face of hostile customers. As a result, many employees are expecting brands to make some pretty big changes in the post-pandemic era.

How Customers and Employees View This Problem

Another factor critical to addressing aggressive customers is understanding how experience stakeholders view the problem. That was another element to all of this that we closely researched, evaluating both customers and employees across a few different demographics. What these folks had to say might surprise you!

For example, when asked “what would you think if you witnessed a customer acting aggressively toward an employee at a place of business?” only 48% of customers said they’d perceive that behavior negatively. 6% of customers would develop a negative perception of the employee and the brand. Finally, when we looked at this data against a more generational backdrop, it became clear immediately that Generation Z shoppers would be the most likely to feel empathetic toward the employee.

Impact of Customer Aggression on Employee Experience and Brand Perception
Image #1: Customer responses to the question,“What would you think if you witnessed a customer acting aggressively toward an employee at a place of business?”

To be clear, this question was asked under the assumption that the employee remained calm while the customer was being aggressive. But what happens when we change the scenario to both parties being aggressive toward each other? With that change thrown into the mix, 24% of customers had a negative perception of all customer behavior, Generation Z shoppers became less empathetic toward the employee, and negative sentiment toward the brand among all customers skyrocketed from 6% to a whopping 35%.

Customer Aggression and Employee Aggression
Image #2: Responses if the employee was aggressive in return

Clearly, mutually assured aggression isn’t the solution. What is

Employee Commitment 

The conventional wisdom for a lot of brands here is to closely support employees as incidents like these occur. That’s certainly important, but as The Great Resignation is demonstrating, strictly reactive support is insufficient for employee Experience Improvement (XI).

The answer, then, is for brands to dig much deeper in their employee support, going from reactive employee advocacy to something more fundamental and progressive: employee commitment. You can achieve employee commitment by working hard to drive trust, transparency, and communication, with the end goal being to help employees feel a human, emotional connection to their work. Taking this proactive tack with your employees won’t ‘just’ empower them to deal with aggressive customers; it will help your organization retain talent amid all this unprecedented churn.

Defining how exactly to go about employee commitment is going to look different from company to company. The work isn’t easy and can take some initial time, especially as you identify the end goals your commitment initiative needs to fulfill and then design that program around them. But that guiding ethos of trust, transparency, and communication makes a world of difference for employees who are feeling fatigued from aggressive customers. It’s an approach that will make them feel truly supported instead of just patronized, which will inspire them to handle these situations gracefully and create Experience Improvement for themselves.

Understanding and dealing with customer aggression is extremely important, but there’s a lot more to this experience universe for brands to consider. Want to learn more about the trends we’re seeing amid employees and customers in 2022? Click here to read our full-length trends report for this year, where we take a deep dive into everything brands need to know for their experience initiatives!

How to Maintain Your CX Program’s Effectiveness in Uncertain Times

It’s no joke to say that we live in uncertain times. We’re hopefully turning the page on a pandemic, but steep inflation and unrest both at home and abroad are making many customers nervous about what’s around the corner. Unfortunately, this attitude and the events precipitating it have a big impact on customer experience (CX), which means that CX professionals like you face the daunting task of keeping your CX program effective in the face of multiple challenges. As a perennially “glass half full” person. I prefer to see this “daunting task” as a great opportunity!

Where to start, though? Whether you’re running an existing program or looking to start a new initiative, what steps can you take to ensure that your effective CX program gets off on the right foot? Today’s discussion focuses on achieving that start and ensuring that your CX program will bring you business value that helps you stay ahead of the competition. More specifically, we’re going to cover the first two steps in our success improvement framework:

  1. Step 1: Design
  2. Step 2: Listen

Step 1: Design

Unfortunately, we see far too many clients start a CX program by just turning on some listening posts (social media, review sites, survey feedback, etc) and hoping for relevant insights to come to the surface. However, as the old adage goes, hope is not a plan. Listening is certainly an important part of the process, but if you want your CX program to truly succeed for you in uncertain times, it’s important to actually begin a step before hitting the lights and focus on a more foundational program element: design. I often tell my clients to design with the end in mind—it’s an approach aimed at helping you first understand what you need your CX program to accomplish in specific and quantifiable business terms, then keeping that guiding ethos front of mind as you execute the rest of your program.

So, what does the end goal look like for you? Do you need to pivot to new, post-pandemic messaging with a certain audience segment? Are you a finserv brand that needs to reassure clients rattled by inflation? Whatever the case, identifying your goals before you activate your CX program is critical to ensure your program is successful. It’s always better to begin with concrete, quantifiable objectives than to listen first and try to work backwards from there.

Step 2: Listen

Taking a step back to define your program’s goals makes the next step in the process, listening, a lot easier than trying to turn all your signal sources on first. When you design with the end in mind, you give yourself an opportunity not just to define your program’s goals, but also to identify the audience segments most relevant to those goals, as well as the channels that those individuals tend to prefer. The end result of all that legwork? Much better, much cleaner, and much more relevant data.

Now you’ve reached the point where you can actually turn your listening posts on, and with this target profile handy, you’ll begin to receive data that will contain much more effective and actionable insights. This is a foundational way to keep your CX program effective, and it’ll also help you get an idea of what messaging you need to issue and what actions you need to take to keep customers feeling happy and connected to in uncertain times. It’s critical to look beyond just the survey. I believe there are three data sources to “listen” to: direct data (from surveys), indirect data (from outside sources like social media) and inferred data (operational non-customer data that can be overlayed with the other sources). 

The Next Level

To recap: it’s important to consider what you need your CX program to accomplish for your brand (especially in times like these), and to design your program with those end goals in mind before activating any listening posts. Using this strategy makes the listening stage of this process much easier, as you will have already set your program up to collect only the data most relevant to your organization’s goals and needs. 

What comes after that, though? Once you’ve completed the design legwork and gathered this ultra-pertinent data, how best can you scour it for actionable insights and meaningfully transform your brand in a way customers will appreciate? To learn more, click here for my full-length point of view document on how to apply what you’ve listened for to effective transformation, especially as it pertains to the current inflation crisis.

The Cost of Deprioritising Customer Experience During Tough Times

It’s no secret that the Head Of Operations and the Head Of Customer Experience often have differing priorities. This happens because each party, due to their experience, sees the business through a different lens. In fact, COVID-19 has further encouraged most businesses to prioritise a more operational lens, decreasing their focus on the customer experience. As things begin to open up, however, this lack of emphasis on creating positive customer experiences could prove to be problematic as the care a company has put into CX initiatives during this pandemic will surely affect their business post-pandemic.

My name is Justin Rehayem, Head of APAC Solution Designer at InMoment, and I’ve seen this first-hand. To be clear, I do not believe that businesses prioritising operations over customer experience the past few years means that they do not care about the customer experience. However, decreasing CX initiatives in the short term can truly cause some long term effects, especially when it comes to customer churn. 

We can’t change the past, but what we can do is learn from it. When future times of crisis present themselves (as they’re sure to do) we as CX professionals can carry forward this lesson: that both operations and customer experience need to be prioritised in order to make it through hard times. 

Balancing Operations and Customer Experience: A Case Study

To get a better look at this concept, let’s analyse a policy at an ANZ airline.

First, some context for our international readers. New Zealand’s international border remains closed to the world until at least April 30th 2022, with arrivals having to undergo a 14 day hotel quarantine. In April 2021 however, New Zealand entered into a quarantine free travel agreement with Australia leading to a surge of flight bookings throughout 2021 and into 2022. Unfortunately, due to the rise of the Delta variant, this quarantine free travel agreement was short lived. With quarantine back on the table, as you would expect, airlines had to cancel their international flights and offer credits or refunds to their customers. 

But what about domestic flights within New Zealand? You would expect those to be converted into a credit as well since the international visitors cannot enter the country and board the plane. Well, not all airlines agree. Some airlines took a stance that since domestic borders are open, and since the domestic flight can take off, then ‘normal fare rules apply.’

An operations leader might view this situation as the customer’s fault since the international visitor chose not to purchase a flexi fare. Therefore, they should not be entitled to a credit, and must pay the change fee of $50 if they wish to move their flight.

What complicates the policy above is the fact that now there is no certainty when New Zealand’s international borders will open quarantine free, what with the rise of the Omicron variant and nations reverting back to lockdown measures. So what does an international visitor do? Do they change their flight to a future date and pay $50? And risk paying another $50 if the borders are not opened, or just forfeit their airline ticket all together?

Whatever they choose, I can tell you with certainty that when customers have a negative experience, they develop a negative perception of the brand. And this negative perception doesn’t stop with one person, research indicates that an individual’s negative experience with a brand is shared with at least five other people. 

A customer-focused policy will view the long term impact this policy can have on a customer’s lifetime value and compare it against the financial impact that a customer centric policy will have on the business. This must be at the root of their reasoning as they advocate for the customer, showing the financial impact of both operations-focused and customer-focused policies side by side. Why? Numbers are the universal cross-functional language spoken by the CEO, CFO, and COO. 

What Is the Financial Impact of Customer Churn?

As an example, let’s quantify the possible financial impact to an airline with a less customer-focused policy.

You probably will have gathered by now that I am one of those unlucky customers that have been impacted by the policy having lost $260 on two economy tickets. My partner and I fly at least twice a year to visit family, and you probably can guess by now that I won’t be flying with an airline that doesn’t have customer-focused policies in place. And at $600 a return flight per person, that equates to $2400 in lost revenue per year I choose to fly with a competitor. 

Remember how I said that an individual’s negative experience with a brand is shared with at least five other people? Well in my case that number is around 100—since I have around 100 international guests flying overseas for my wedding. With airline tickets so competitively priced, who do you think they will be flying with? So assuming that all my guests follow through on their promise to book a customer-focused airline, then that’s already $60,000 in lost revenue. 

So what did this airline gain from deprioritising the customer experience? In my specific circumstances, they may have gained back my forfeited economy flights for $260, but they also forfeited $62,400 in lost revenue over the next 12 months. If the business had offered its international visitors a flight credit for their domestic flight, what would they have lost? The answer is not much, especially compared to the cost of a disgruntled customer.

Wrapping Up: Customer Churn Is Always Costly to Businesses

It’s important for businesses to take into account customer stories like this one when designing policies. A policy focusing that deprioritises customer experience has the potential to cost your business big time when it comes to recurring revenue.  

To learn more about customer churn and its impact to your business, check out this article, “Understanding the “Why” Behind Customer Churn”

Customer Service During COVID-19: Three Tips For Navigating Sky-High Customer Expectations

Delivering customer service during COVID-19 was a challenge across the board-— but perhaps no industry was hit harder than travel and hospitality.

Hemant Chawla, Sofitel Wellington’s Guest Customer Experience Manager, saw this effect up close. When the pandemic settled in and everyone was adjusting to the ‘new normal’, customers were happy to give hotel staff a grace period as they tried to figure out new policies and ways of working. Yet, as the months went on and New Zealand hotels began booking out again, customer expectations seemed to slowly shift back to normal. Even as customer expectations began to normalize, there were many external factors (like lack of staff members) that meant it was going to be tricky to meet customer needs. 

So, how do you balance customers’ sky-high expectations and these ongoing business challenges? Here are three tips for helping you navigate post-COVID consumer feedback:

  1. Be Honest and Up Front With Your Brand’s Shortcomings
  2. Carefully Listen to What Your Customers Are Telling You
  3. Make Sure Your Customers See Your Business Acting on Feedback and Owning Mistakes 

Tip #1: Be Honest and Up Front With Your Brand’s Shortcomings 

Many of your customers would have had strong, positive perceptions of your brand based on earlier experiences. So, when you know that you’ll be falling short of their expectations, it’s best to get in front of it before customers become disappointed. 

In the case of luxury hotels, COVID-19 meant that some services were intentionally modified to meet AccorHotels ALL Safe standards. When hotels started to go back to maximum capacity, guests started to expect 5 star service again, yet businesses were still struggling to recover from the impact of the pandemic.

Hemant’s team learned that it’s best to be open and honest with guests through transparent communication. Sofitel made an effort to communicate which services were scaled back, and more importantly, why they were scaled back. This type of up-front communication helped to frame guest expectations before they were let down by paired back services.  

Guests responded positively to the transparent communication. Almost all customers were appreciative and responsive to the brand’s honesty and detailed explanation as to the sacrifices that were made to adjust to the post-pandemic environment. It’s important that hotels and service providers are not perceived to hide behind the “excuse” of COVID-19 when managing customer service; but instead, educate the customer about the reality and challenges that the business is facing. 

Tip #2: Carefully Listen to What Your Customers Are Telling You 

Hotel brands found a shift in guest demographics as a result of COVID-19. For example, Sofitel was used to seeing a high volume of business travelers. Then, as the pandemic hit, a larger volume of leisure guests visited the hotel, and these guests required a different type of experience. 

Be sure to gauge your new customers’ experiences and listen to what they are telling you. If needed, work with your CX partner when making changes to your survey. They can provide best practice advice around the revised survey structure, suggest new question wording and ensure any potential changes to historic survey data (due to survey changes) is well managed.

After analysing customer feedback, focus on gathering insights into the current situation and taking appropriate action. These themes may provide new closed loop feedback alerts (customers that need to be contacted) or provide insights into new, post-pandemic opportunities.

Tip #3: Make Sure Your Customers See Your Business Acting on Feedback and Owning Mistakes

If there is a mistake, a shortfall in service or a failed deliverable, it’s important to take ownership and try and correct it through a tailored solution for each guest. After all, guests made an effort to support your brand through a difficult time, and their loyalty should be recognised and celebrated.

While guests were initially sympathetic of the pandemic impact to businesses, we know from customer feedback that their expectations have slowly edged closer to normality. From the data, it seems like guests are happy to accommodate changing amenities and services, yet they want to be sure their voices are heard and their feedback is actioned. 

Customer feedback is valuable, no matter if it’s positive or negative. By embracing the negative feedback, or customer pain points, businesses like Sofitel have been able to adapt services to ensure it met the true needs of guests, whilst still managing the business in a sustainable manner. 

To read more about how COVID-19 continues to impact the customer experience, check out this report!  

COVID Changed Workplaces. Here’s How Yours Must Adapt

COVID-19 may finally be receding from many parts of the world, but the changes the pandemic left behind aren’t going away anytime soon. The workplace, for example, changed virtually overnight, as many employees suddenly found themselves working from home and under strict lockdown. This shift in the Post-COVID workplace created a number of paradigm changes that a lot of organizations are still trying to catch up to.

If your brand is one of those organizations, we have you covered! What follows is a brief discussion about the post-COVID workplace. We’ll set the stage by going a bit more in-depth on those changes we mentioned earlier, and end by leaving you a few ideas on how your brand, workplace, and culture can adapt!

The Work-from-Home Paradigm Shift

For a lot of people, starting to work from home wasn’t as simple as setting up a laptop in the living room. Concurrent school closures meant that many employees had to balance homeschooling their kids with work responsibilities in real time. Childcare wasn’t the only home responsibility to blend into work, either—errands, laundry, and the like came together with work to create a previously unthinkable new paradigm. Couple that with waiting for lockdowns to end, and you have what one of our thought leaders fittingly calls “time soup,” a home reality in which everything is stirred together.

Working from home brought about some macro-level changes, too. It’s more difficult for employees to create connections when they’re physically separated, and this poses new challenges for brands that want to create cohesive cultures. Every company that wants to succeed needs a good workplace culture, so the question must be asked: how can brands like yours navigate this new work-life balance and this new culture landscape to find success and Experience Improvement (XI)? Don’t worry; we have a few ideas on that!

How to Adapt

The first key to adapting to the post-COVID workplace isn’t just to accept that working from home is the new normal—it’s figuring out how to make that new normal work for your organization. Think about the work factors unique to your organization—office footprint, nature of work, local COVID restrictions, and your employees’ current setups—without being afraid to try new things. Leaders at the messaging service Slack have said they want to take this time to question everything they thought they knew about the workplace… and that’s a great attitude! Challenge long-held assumptions as you establish what the new normal looks like for you.

Additionally, always be on the lookout for ways to create human connectivity at a time where physical contact is still a relative rarity. Your teams have already probably had Zoom happy hours and the like for the last 18 years, but don’t stop there! Get teams who don’t usually interact with each other into the same chat if you can. Connecting people whose paths don’t normally cross helps create that workplace culture that is so important to brand success. It also gives you a chance to sync different teams’ perceptions of your customer, which is vital for consistent experiences.

The overarching theme here is that adapting to this new workplace the right way isn’t ‘just’ good for employees; it can help you meaningfully transform your workplace culture and positively impact customer experiences, too! To learn more, click here to read the full-length point of view on this subject by our CHRO, Wendy Rand, who can show you more on how to not just adapt to this new normal, but thrive in it.

How Business Leaders Can Navigate Staffing Challenges in a Post-COVID World

COVID vaccines have finally arrived after a year of anxiety and uncertainty, which means that businesses can begin to seriously think about the post-COVID employee landscape. Of course, the reality is that that landscape is already here, and it brought with it a host of challenging changes. Today’s conversation provides a quick rundown of staffing challenges and other employee related obstacles, as well as what brands can do to overcome them.

Why Many Employees Aren’t Returning

One of the biggest trends we’ve seen these last few weeks is employees’ seeming reluctance to return to pre-COVID careers. This is especially true for verticals whose turnover rates were high even before COVID, like hospitality and retail. Turning to our experts, we have discovered a few reasons for this reluctance to return.

First, from what we’ve been seeing and hearing, a lot of employees who were laid off at the start of the pandemic have spent the last year cultivating side gigs into sustainable (and profitable) sources of income. These side hustles are more personally rewarding for these folks than their old jobs, which is why they’re hesitating to come back even if a conventional position offers more income and benefits.

Second, a lot of employees across many industries have become accustomed to the COVID-era work/life balance, a phenomenon that one of our experts calls “time soup.” In other words, employees have gotten used to work and home life responsibilities mixing together; a lifestyle that is not so easily untangled. Thus, many employees are only seeking out companies whose positions allow that flexibility, a paradigm shift that many employers are struggling to contend with. 

It’s also important to note that some employees are reluctant to go out into the world because they or members of their family are not vaccinated. Though numbers are lower in the US, we aren’t quite out of the woods according to the CDC (or globally for that matter).

How Brands Can Respond to Staffing Challenges

Many organizations are having a hard time pivoting to this new employee reality, especially in industries where working from home is difficult or flat-out impossible. However, the post-COVID employee landscape is not a loss for brands; it’s a new set of conditions. Adapting to change isn’t easy, but we have a few ideas for tackling this challenge and being able to hire the talent you need to deliver meaningful experiences.

The first and most immediate thing brands can do here is to survey their employees. Conventional wisdom says to survey everyone, but we believe that this problem is best addressed by surveying new hires who’ve been with your organization 90 days or less. Ask your newer employees not just the usual questions, like how things are going so far, but what drove them to your brand so recently. If they’ve joined you as COVID is subsiding, that means your brand must be doing something correctly to attract new employees, right?

Once you have that intel handy, apply it to your hiring and messaging as soon as possible. Identifying your newer employees’ key drivers and values will give you a good idea of who else to look out for as you regrow your workforce. This tactic will also help you hone in on employees who will be great fits for your brand. Hiring the right people and delivering on the values that encouraged them to apply to your organization is a true win-win.

Another factor that brands should bear in mind about this new workplace reality is how much we’ve learned about remote work; specifically, that more jobs can be performed from afar than anyone thought before COVID. Your organization can take advantage here by hiring the best talent wherever they’re located. Sure, it’s nice when people can get together in person, but after the last year, it’s become clear that some teams can function effectively even when they’re entire time zones apart.

The Customer Element

If you’re reading this, it’s probably because the current staffing and labor issues we’re seeing are having an impact on your brand and, ultimately, its customer experience (CX). Fewer employees means that organizations are stretched thinner, which unfortunately increases the chance that customers will have longer wait times or other adverse interactions with your brand. We believe that time and additional research will yield other tools you can use to bridge this employment gap—until then, though, short-term methods like our survey suggestion are the best means of mitigating this issue.

The post-COVID employment landscape is challenging, and adjusting to it is no small task. But the brands that arm themselves with insights and feedback from newer employees will be better-positioned to not only adjust to this new world, but also to find the best talent for their organization and thus provide Experience Improvement (XI). 

In the meantime, you can be sure we’ll continue to monitor these changes and provide brands like yours with the best employee experience (EX) advice out there. Follow the InMoment XI Blog to stay connected and to take this post-COVID journey with us!

New Report: How Brands Have Delivered on COVID-19 Customer Experience

Over this past pandemic-ridden year, companies have been in a state of constant uncertainty as they’ve tried to deliver positive COVID-19 customer experiences. Businesses were forced to rework themselves into the digital landscape and prioritize customer safety. 

According to CX Standards, our ongoing customer experience study, businesses somehow defied the odds and succeeded in providing a satisfactory customer experience despite the barriers of the pandemic. Looking for proof? It’s in the numbers!

What CX Standards Had to Say About COVID-19 Experiences

COVID-19 Customer Experience

CX Standards tracks thousands of customer interactions with over 300 companies across 17 industries in the United States and found that, in 2020, most industries’ Net Promoter Score (NPS) increased in comparison to 2019, when more experiences were still in person.

The chart above summarizes our findings on how consumers ranked each industry in 2019 and 2020 according to their overall customer experience, which in turn gave us a big-picture look at how satisfied the general public is. For example, if you compare the spring and fall seasons for the technology, utilities, and professional services industries to non-pandemic periods, you can see how median customer satisfaction scores have improved. 

In the spring of 2020, median satisfaction scores were 9% higher than the months leading up to the pandemic. Similarly, the scores for the fall of 2020 increased 4% from the same time in 2019.  

You would think that overall customer satisfaction would have decreased drastically in 2020 because of all the obstacles that come with a virtual world, but instead, customers were generally more satisfied than when the world was “normal.” The question to ask, then, is what can we learn from how the customer experience has evolved during the pandemic?

Three Insights from COVID-19’s Impact on Customer Experience

  1. CX programs are essential to keeping your business afloat
  2. Online experiences make or break a consumer’s opinion of your brand
  3. CX will still hold weight in a post-pandemic world

Insight #1: CX Programs Keep Your Business Afloat

Businesses have had to respond quickly to the changes COVID-19 created: shifting from in-store to digital-only interactions, going to extreme lengths to make sure customers know that their products are sanitary and safe, and taking care of all their employees so they can do their work at home when possible. In order to survive, many brands employed new digital frameworks to continue to sell their products and services. For instance, the restaurant industry experienced one of the highest NPS increases in 2020 by integrating features like QR code menus to enhance outdoor dining experiences or partnering with third-party services for a smoother pick up/delivery.

The idea of so many businesses operating solely online seemed unimaginable just a year ago, but the pandemic forced that to become reality, teaching us that a solid CX program is the first step in successfully adapting to the digital consumer environment. People’s attention spans are shorter online, websites are just not the same as talking to a human being in a store, and customers’ problems can be hard to fix when they’re displayed on a computer screen.

The world will only transform more into a digitalized landscape, which has many advantages but also a fair share of challenges. The challenge for customer experience lies in still supplying the attentive customer service someone should receive in a store when that customer is interacting online.

Insight #2: Online experiences Make or Break a Consumer’s Opinion of Your Brand

It’s no secret that people barely take time to sift through a website—you probably don’t either. The consensus from several studies is that viewers spend less than a minute scrolling before they leave a website, which means that it takes just a few seconds for them to form an opinion. Even if a customer has never spoken to anyone in your company, your website speaks for you and it can easily communicate the wrong ideas.

One of InMoment’s customers had to face this issue when the pandemic hit. This major home goods retailer depended on in-person interactions to make sales, but with customers only being able to browse products online due to restrictions, it needed to circle back. 

With consultation from InMoment customer experience experts, the retailer transformed its website to include new digital listening posts like live chat, which allowed online salespeople to inform customers which products were more suited to their needs, just as they would in store! With these adaptations, the retailer was able to guide the online experience rather than risk customers leaving after having to scroll through endless pages of products.

Another factor to take into account is how brand reputation relies heavily on your online presence, which is not solely made up of your company website. It also consists of your social media posts and advertisements. A customer’s entire opinion of your business can be swayed with just a few clicks, so it’s imperative that your online customer experience be viewed as crucially as the in-person experience.

Insight #3: In a Post-Pandemic World, Customer Expectations Will Not Go Back to Normal

Now that customers are used to the benefits of digital, they might not want to go back to the same customer experiences they had before the pandemic. It’s not so crazy to think that customers will still want kiosk ordering at a restaurant instead of having to talk to the cashier, or to order a pair of shoes online and pick them up in store. After restrictions are lifted, customers will likely prefer a more hybrid approach and expect businesses to continue a strong online presence. 

If the past year has taught us anything, it’s that it’s nearly impossible to predict the future. We may not be able to guarantee the status of customer satisfaction after businesses adapt, but what’s certain is that CX programs need to refine their digital and in-person strategies so companies can thrive moving forward. 

To read more about what we found out in our CX Standards study and how COVID-19 continues to impact the customer experience, check out this report!  

Fight Change with Change: How Brands Can Overcome COVID

We’ve explored how COVID-19 has changed customer experience (CX) and behaviour in prior conversations, and how those changes are likely to leave the CX landscape altered for the foreseeable future. While the announcement and gradual deployment of a COVID vaccine is certainly cause for hope, it’s important to remember that the pandemic will be with the majority of us a while longer.

This is not the most welcome of news, especially for brands in hard-hit verticals like non-grocery retail and food service, but those organisations still have recourse for keeping their heads above water and thriving in the post-COVID world. Here’s how brands can stay ahead—how they can fight change with change.

Choose Your Transaction

Customers have enjoyed being able to choose how to transact with brands, but the rise of COVID-19 has put most of them on high alert in this regard. Customers are now especially wary of any threats to their health or personal safety, and take these factors into account when considering everything from in-person interactions with employees to touching a self-service kiosk.

As I mentioned in a previous discussion, contactless payments have skyrocketed during COVID-19 and will certainly remain the norm even after this pandemic concludes. There’s a more abstract shift underlying this trend, though, and it’s that customers are expecting brands to deliver greater transaction choice whatever its form. Foot Locker, for example, has continued to offer contactless payments, but has also begun offering Klarna as an online option. Customers have also come to expect these changes at a quicker pace thanks to COVID, and will continue to do so.

Tech’s Time to Shine

As difficult as this pandemic has been for many organisations, it also presents an opportunity to create new, oftentimes unorthodox solutions to the virus and other business challenges. Innovation has gotten many a brand through adverse times before, which is why companies must think outside the technological box as much as their resources will allow.

My favorite example of COVID-era innovation right now is Tesco, which has sought to address the rise in contactless payments by piloting its own drone programme. With this initiative, the grocer is using a fleet of drones to deliver groceries to customers in Ireland, satisfying those individuals’ desire for contactless payments and personal safety all at once. Tesco may very well continue the programme even after the pandemic subsides—after all, the innovations minted during crises rarely just go away after the fact.

A New World

That last idea is something that brands should bear in mind going forward. Not to sound indelicate, but crises come and go. Innovation, however, is forever. Organisations should remember that the tools they’re developing to combat COVID-19 now will likely serve as the foundation of a post-pandemic world. Fighting change with change is not just a stopgap measure; it provides a map for what brands can expect from their customers (and what customers will expect of them) going forward.

Click here to learn more about my take on this subject, the obstacles brands face in the age of COVID, and how they might find success for themselves and their customers as we transition to 2021.

Top 5 Game-Changing Experience Improvement Blogs from 2020

2020 asked us to step up our game—a lot. In fact, it seems as if the last year actually consisted of multiple years, with January and February feeling like they were light-years ago. Organizations have had to pivot multiple times since March in order to navigate the Coronavirus, but savvy brands have found a secret weapon: Experience Improvement (XI) initiatives.

XI initiatives provide a pathway for brands to not only listen to how customers are feeling about specific experiences (like COVID-19 specific policies, curbside pickup, etc.), but also to understand what actions they need to take to improve those experiences in a timely manner. In a way, a well-designed program serves as a roadmap in uncharted territory.

But how do you successfully set up such a program? Well, you’ve come to the right place for the answer. The InMoment XI Blog is your go-to place for everything Experience Improvement, from how-to’s, to what’s next, and even stories of rockstar brands.

Here are a few of our favorite blogs from 2020 at a glance:

Top Five 2020 Blogs for Experience Improvement

  1. What Does Customer Experience Look Like in the World of Coronavirus
  2. How to Ensure Successful Survey Design during a Pandemic
  3. 3 Powerful Ways to Create Engaging Transactional Customer Surveys
  4. How to Truly Understand Customer Needs, Wants, and Expectations
  5. Why Market Research is Vital to Your CX Program in Times of Crisis (and Beyond!)

What Does Customer Experience Look Like in the World of Coronavirus

This was our flagship piece of thought leadership on Coronavirus best practices. Though our experts Jim Katzman and Eric Smuda authored this piece in March, these best practices are still incredibly vital for brands going into 2021. After all, we still have a few more months until the vaccine can be distributed widely enough!

Click here to get the low-down on the top five ways brands can leverage their experience programs in their COVI-19 strategy.

How to Ensure Successful Survey Design during a Pandemic

One of the most common questions clients asked our expert practitioners in 2020 was, “should we alter our survey because of Coronavirus precautions?”

Their answer: it depends. More specifically, there are three factors brands should consider before making changes to their survey. You can read about them here.

3 Powerful Ways to Create Engaging Transactional Customer Surveys

A successful listening approach has multiple surveys with specific purposes. One of the most necessary for understanding the experience at different touchpoints is the transactional survey.

But as it goes with everything, there are best practices, and there are practices that can stop productivity in its tracks. In this blog, we have three specific strategies you can employ for engaging, intelligence-gathering, action-inspiring transactional surveys. Check it out here!

How to Truly Understand Customer Needs, Wants, and Expectations

How do you deliver incredible experiences that make customers eager to come back for more? You first need to understand what customers expect from your brand. This is one of the fundamental functions of an Experience Improvement initiative; it is also one of the most powerful ways your program can positively impact your bottom line.

In this article on the XI InMoment Blog, strategist Eric Smuda walks you through the process he employs to help our clients understand their customers. Read more here.

Why Market Research is Vital to Your CX Program in Times of Crisis (and Beyond!)

The thing about unprecedented situations is that the information you need to guide your efforts will not be in your existing data. That means that times of crisis are the best time to turn to a market research solution.

In this article, Strategic Insights Team expert Radi Hindawi discusses the power of market research and three rules for brands looking to weave it into their strategy. You can find it here.

We hope you have enjoyed the content on the XI InMoment Blog this year, and our team is looking forward to bringing you even more thought leadership, best practices, and customer stories in 2021!

How COVID-19 Changed Customer Experience Forever

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

The Early Trends

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

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

The Homebody Economy

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

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

The Next Step

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

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

Click here to learn more about my take on this subject, the obstacles brands face in the age of COVID, and how they might find success for themselves and their customers as we transition to 2021.

What Customers Say the 2020 Holiday Retail Season Will Look Like with COVID-19

Summer has passed, school is back in session, and Halloween is just around the corner. You know what typically comes up next: the holiday shopping season.

The only thing is that 2020 is anything but typical. There were very few summer road trips, kids are wearing masks or taking classes from home, and trick-or-treating might be off the menu to limit COVID-19 spread. So what can retailers expect—if anything—from the holiday shopping season?

Well, at InMoment, we believe that asking customers is the best way to understand their expectations and perceptions, so our Strategic Insights Team is here with the answers! Enter our brand new report, “What Retailers Can Expect from Customers in the 2020 Holiday Season.”

In this study, we asked over 5,000 North American customers all about the 2020 holiday shopping season, including:

  • When they will shop
  • What they will be shopping for
  • Whether they will be shopping in store or online
  • If they expect to attend Black Friday doorbusters
  • And more!

Typically, you’d need to download the full report to access the findings, but we’ve decided to give you a sneak peek into our findings! Keep reading for insights that will get you prepared for the upcoming season.

How Will the State of the Pandemic Affect Shoppers Feelings and Habits?

If it’s one lesson we’ve learned so far this year, it’s that we need to expect the unexpected. When many of us started working from home at InMoment in March, we never imagined that we wouldn’t be able to work in the office for months. Customers know this, but they are still feeling optimistic that circumstances with the pandemic will improve in the next few months according to our research.

In the unstructured data accompanying these questions, customers went into their feelings in more detail:

  • “I don’t think it will get better until 2021…but that will not stop my [upcoming holiday shopping].”
  • “I think things will remain the same for a while…we just have to get used to this [new normal].”

Though we all hope that we will see improvement in the next few months, we have to face the reality that there is a possibility COVID-19 will be with us through the new year. With that in mind, we asked how this possibility would affect likelihood to switch from in-store shopping to online.

In this case, customers were especially wary of their personal safety and health if the pandemic is still among us in the holidays, with the majority (65%) stating they are more likely to shop online. Still, 35% said they would still shop in stores; these customers described:

  • “I think [brands] are doing enough right now to make sure I’m safe when in their stores.”
  • “As long as the [COVID measures] are still in place, I will be going to the stores.”

It should definitely give retail brands a boost to know that they are making their customers feel safe, and that the in-store experience is so important in the eyes of their customers. 

Looking Forward

Preparation is key, especially in such a busy season. But add in a global pandemic and being prepared seems to be almost impossible. 

However, if retailers are armed with information directly about their customers about what they will do in the event that the pandemic worsens, whether they’ll be shopping in store or online, and more, they will know where they need to dedicate their time and resources to succeed. 

Looking for even more detailers on what your customers are expecting this holiday shopping season? You can download the full report for free here!

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