What Does Customer Experience Look Like in the World of Coronavirus?

We’re getting lots of emails these days from airlines, restaurants, schools, and grocery stores—and they’re not survey invitations! Rather, these messages are about what these organizations are doing to prevent the spread of the coronavirus (and how they can attempt to put their customers at ease during this pandemic).

As CX professionals, we help our clients leverage our technology to garner insights they can use to drive business outcomes. However, with this pandemic on the rise, the singular business outcome many companies are seeking (particularly small businesses) is simply survival. The same holds true for countless non-salaried workers. 

Between the NCAA announcing that no fans will be allowed to watch the upcoming March Madness games in person (if the tournaments are not already canceled by the time you read this), and the NBA and NHL suspending their seasons until further notice, it’s important to consider the stadium workers, parking lot attendants, and others who have been temporarily furloughed.  Additionally, with business travel shrinking daily, Uber and Lyft drivers are likely to see their income cut, too. This phenomenon is impacting nearly every sector of the economy.

So, how can companies leverage CX during this challenging time? We have a few ideas.

Tip #1: Keep Listening 

Customers are going to continue to consume products and services, so don’t turn off your listening programs. Pay special attention to unstructured feedback and use those themes to train customer-facing teams in empathy and flexibility. 

If you use text analytics technology, set up alerts on keywords associated with the coronavirus so you can recognize trends quickly and respond accordingly. 

Tip #2: Provide Reassurance 

While some companies are using this opportunity to confirm the steps they have always taken to protect their customers from diseases, other brands are leading with stating their own business travel policies. While these communications are nice to hear, we do not think they resonate with customers as effectively as specific plans for maintaining safe environments.

The best messaging we have seen during this pandemic comes from companies that acknowledge the coronavirus threat and simply tell their customers—candidly, not in vague corporate-speak—what they are doing to mitigate inevitable risks. 

A great example of corona-era customer experience comes from Starbucks in a letter from their CEO and President, Kevin Johnson. Starbucks specifically mentioned that the coffee chain has learned from its Chinese operations, and mentions concrete next steps that the brand may take. This strategy conveys a sense of security because the company has presented a solid plan that can be implemented immediately—versus developing a plan on the fly. TGI Fridays and Lyft are also doing a great job laying out concise, specific safety steps.

Tip #3: Be Flexible

Now is not the time for call centers to “play by the book” and enforce rigid corporate policies. We encourage our clients to empower their teams to over-index on consumers and their specific circumstances, and respond in a situation-appropriate manner.  

In times like these, it’s important for brands to be flexible rather than follow hard-and-fast procedures when it comes to service-level agreements and expectations. 

Tip #4: Put Customers First, Not Profits

Companies shouldn’t focus on Q1 profits or particularly fee-driven bad profits right now. Instead, they should focus on the medium-term, long-term, and lifetime value of their customers. How? By proving to customers that they care.

Brands should treat customers with empathy and recognize the struggles that business travelers, hourly and contingent workers, and spring break vacationers are experiencing right now by waiving change fees, late payment fees, overdrafts, and other charges that would prove a serious nuisance to those individuals.

Doing so will generate tremendous customer goodwill and foster long-term loyalty. Companies that engage their customers with acts of goodwill will recover faster from the inherent economic slowdown brought about by this pandemic. Even better, they will secure their long-term financial health by creating brand advocates in a time of need.

Tip #5: Don’t Forget Your Employees

We cannot underscore the need to keep an employee experience perspective during this time. Employees own another level of stress in situations like this. 

Beyond the real potential economic impact, we all have other issues to deal with. Who will watch our kids when schools close? How can consumer-facing employees keep themselves safe and healthy? 

Companies need to do more than just empathize—they need to execute programs that truly ensure safety, financial security, and confidence for their employees. The last thing we need right now is tone-deaf employers, so leverage your employee listening tools and step up support for your team members.

The Bottom Line

These are truly uncharted waters for us, but one thing is abundantly clear: the companies that provide excellent customer and employee experiences today will come out much stronger than their counterparts when this pandemic is over. 

While we recommend that firms continue to be proactive and leverage voice of customer and voice of employee tools, we also strongly encourage companies to treat both groups of individuals with empathy and understanding in this challenging time.

Looking for more CX tips and advice from our experts? Check out eBooks, case studies, and more on www.inmoment.com/resources today!

About Author

Jim Katzman and Eric Smuda Principals. XI Strategy & Enablement

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