It is not often in life that you get the opportunity to reset things. However, as the COVID-19 vaccine rolls out, we have a chance that is, dare I say, unprecedented to reimagine Customer Experience. We have been through a shocking year of change. Now, we can decide what parts of the change we want to keep to respond to what customers want now.
We’ve been doing some work with one of our clients recently who will be doing some research. We encountered an interesting question that I shared on a recent podcast, and I thought I’d ask it here as well. We’re starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. When we can return to a pre-pandemic way of life, what happens with your Customer Experience? Do you go back to how it was pre-pandemic and effectively ignore everything that’s happened over the past year, do you carry on the way that you’re operating now, or is there a hybrid of both?
We are looking at ringing in 2021 with pleasure. How about you? Chances are you are ready to call this year last year, too. Although this year has been anything but usual, we typically look back at this time of year to review what we have learned. So, for better or worse, we shall do that for 2020 as well.
The pandemic has presented an opportunity to participate in a forced-perspective taking exercise for all of us. We shared both personal and business things that 2020 has taught us on a recent podcast. I thought I would share them here as well.
We have a renewed appreciation for human resilience. Much has been thrown at people this year, often compounding tragedy upon difficulty, and many are still recovering. However, we also see that people roll with things; we adjust and make the best of what we can. It’s been heartening, as tricky as it has been for everybody. Sure, there are also examples of people not coping well with these things, too, but on the whole, it’s been affirming. Human resilience is incredible.
People can do amazing things in a crisis. It’s surprising what we can accomplish when the opportunity presents itself. At the beginning of the pandemic, I was talking to a client who moved a 500-person call center to work from home in only 15 days. I mean, consider the logistics of that! Moreover, the impossible was happening all over the place every day. When push comes to shove, somehow we find a way to happen. Consider the scientific community and the haste with which they developed a vaccine for SARS-CoV-2. We have these processes that are in place to test and maximize safety for a vaccine. In this instance, however, we needed things to happen faster, and, by golly, everyone worked together to make things happen more quickly.
The most important things are not things at all. I enjoy a wonderful life. I fly between England and the states and have all the trappings of enjoying myself. However, in the first lockdown we had, I didn’t miss stuff; I missed hugging my grandchildren. All the things are the icing on the cake. We are social animals, and we need other people. Family and friends are an essential thing in your life.
Businesses can benefit from showing empathy for customers. From the business side of things, we learned even more about the power of proper business actions in your customers’ time of need. These actions can manifest in increased accommodation, flexibility, and anticipation of what people want and will need under unusual circumstances. Many companies have bent over backward and earned a lot of goodwill from customers when they needed it. Businesses that didn’t will probably pay a long-term price for that. Also, empathy is essential within a company, too, for colleagues and teams and their burden during this time. Organizations have adapted to the new environment, bringing compassion to the fore. Some grocery stores in the UK, Tesco, and Sainsbury’s gave the relief money they received back to the government because they didn’t need it. People will remember that, and these stores will benefit from the goodwill their actions generated.
The idea of Customer Science will continue to change how we approach business. We did a podcast about Customer Science a few weeks ago, describing how the concept is the next wave of change. Customer Science is the fusion between digital technology, artificial intelligence (AI), behavioral science to increase understanding of what customers want and what they do to get it. Perhaps most importantly, Customer Science makes it easier to anticipate customers’ needs and ensure you have what they want when they want it in personalized interaction. Customer Science is where it all fits together, and it will be a massive growth area in the future. The technology exists already, but we are hitting an inflection point with several of them simultaneously. Moreover, there is a different way of thinking about customers facilitated by these new technologies and approaches. We know there’s a ton of data that we can use to analyze things and predict outcomes. Infusing what we know about the behavioral sciences and machine learning, and other AI creates this inflection point. We’re getting to the point now where there’s more experience with all of these elements and people are more confident of what’s possible with them. Also, there are more tools available so that people can seamlessly integrate the various elements into what they’re doing. It means that things might change rapidly at this point in the area of Customer Science.
Crises also present an opportunity to learn, grow, and develop yourself personally. My corporate life experience progressed from the shop floor through to a senior executive position, and then I started my own successful business. Throughout that time we had crises, many of them (although none like a global pandemic, to be sure). How did I get through it? Excellent leadership and mentorship. Furthermore, I believe in giving back with coaching for leaders that need an extra set of hands to manage the crises they face.
Finally, 2020 has taught me gratitude for you, my readers. I would like to thank you all for subscribing to this newsletter. I am hopefully coming to you with some wisdom and maybe a few jokes as well. Have a great New Year, everyone, and I look forward to talking to you next year. Cheers!
A few years ago, when speaking in Singapore, I asked my audience questions during my presentation, like I always do. To my surprise, nobody answered, and the presentation suffered for it. Later I learned that in Asia, standing up and answering a question in front of 100 people during a presentation was, from a cultural perspective, was considered rude. Now, I adapt my presentations based on where I am speaking.
It occurred to me that perhaps some of you have had something similar to your Customer Experiences in a different culture. Today, we will discuss how you can design a country’s culture into your global experience.
I have a new book called Happy Employees Make Happy Customers. To summarize it, the book is about how Customer Experience exists within an ecosystem, and policies and procedures to manage it are not enough. If you want to have great experiences, you need to look out for your employees. If employees are happier, then they will provide better experiences for your customers. To have happy employees, you need to manage stress, whether it’s yours or theirs.
That is easy to say but not easy to do. Moreover, we are living in exceptionally stressful times right now. Today, I am sharing the advice of an expert in dealing with stress that we hosted on a recent podcast.
Stress is a significant part of our lives, with or without a global pandemic. We feel pressure about our jobs, job performance, and relying on technology in new ways (and managing it) to get work done. We also have anxiety from our personal lives. Moreover, this year, we stress about COVID-19, stay-at-home orders, and the related economic fallout we all face.
Carmen Mohan, MD, FACP, is a doctor of internal medicine in the Atlanta area and founder of Hello Health, a comprehensive executive health and wellbeing program. Dr. Mohan and the team at Hello Health take care of leaders and their team and work within the intersection of health and wellness and leadership. Dr. Mohan coaches leaders and mentors about their health, as well as the health of their teams. She spoke with us about how we can manage our stress and then our teams’ stress to the best possible outcome in these difficult times.
When I was in corporate life, my boss asked me to improve the Customer Experience and do it for the least cost. I remember thinking, “Ok. Sure, but….what is a Customer Experience?” Nobody knew back then. I defined it for myself as the mix of rational and emotional parts of an interaction with a customer, which later became my first book, Building Great Customer Experiences (Palgrave Macmillan, 2002). This idea was revolutionary in that day, but today, the business world has more or less accepted that emotions are a significant part of interactions with customers.
Once you realize that emotions are a significant part of the process, it is time to work them into your business strategy. Today, I will talk about five rules for measuring and managing customer emotions that we shared on a recent podcast.
The 5 Rules for Measuring and Managing Customer Emotions
Define which emotions drive the most value for you.
Measure the specific emotions across the customer journey.
Everyone is saying that the pandemic will be the death of retail. I don’t see it this way, but I think the pandemic will accelerate change and reshape the way customers do retail, both physically and digitally. Organizations that recognize and anticipate this shift will benefit most from the pandemic-inspired modifications in customer behavior.
For example, I bought a sixty-five-inch television a little while ago. I researched a fair amount of detail online, from discovering the brands’ differences in screen quality and other information. Then, I went into local stores and looked at the one I wanted to buy to ensure it met my expectations. By contrast, three weeks before this larger TV purchase, I purchased a twenty-four-inch television online to go in the kitchen. So, click, click, click, and Amazon delivered the TV the next day. These contrasting experiences summarize what’s happening in the retail sector.
I have two lists we shared from a recent podcast about the future of retail. The first is theoretical explanations for how customers decide on retail experiences and how the decision process and behavior will change when shifting from physical to digital purchasing. The second is an exploration of how the various buying circumstances affect customers’ behavior. Hopefully, if you put these things together, the lists will be informative and instructional.