Businesses throughout the world are busy revising sales projections, staffing costs, even entire strategic plans in response to COVID-19.
For many, the future remains extremely uncertain. For most, one thing remains abundantly clear: survival of the brand will hinge on its ability to retain customer retention. But as companies explore what it will take to keep – and build on – their current customer relationships, many are face-to-face with some ugly realizations.
Turns out, those customer relationships aren’t as strong or impermeable as many company leaders believed they were before the pandemic. But as tempting as it may be to blame the coronavirus for wobbly customer experience (CX), that’s a misguided response. In fact, a number of studies conducted over the years by companies including Bain & Company, to Capgemini, to Acquia have repeatedly underscored a persistent perception gap between what brand leaders believe about their own customer-centricity (they score themselves very high) and what their own customers describe (scoring their experiences markedly lower). Let’s take a closer look at the underlying causes of poor CX that threaten to cause far greater harm in COVID’s wake.
Misalignment of CX Priorities at the C-Suite Level
How was your CX Strategy initially defined? How was it planned? Who was – and is – involved in running CX initiatives and programs? Can every single member of your management team, from the mid-level trenches to the executive offices, describe your CX goals, KPI’s, successes and challenges? Or is CX “owned” by one person or department? You’re not running a customer-centric organization until every member of your leadership team can tell you what that means to your customers, to your employees, and to your bottom line – and how that definition shapes their own departmental priorities. You get my point but to sharpen it further, these department visions must converge, not compete, with each other. If you find that your CX priorities are in conflict with other key organizational priorities, it’s time to pull the team together and realign.
Failure to Communicate Creates Failure to Commit
Sure, your customer service job descriptions might declare the importance of CX. But how does your marketing department see CX? How do your front line supervisors and managers perceive CX, talk about CX, and coach to it? CX is not a campaign or a methodology. It’s a way of life. It starts with your vision, weaves through every job posting and performance appraisal, and is measured with specificity by using multiple data points, including customer input. While your delivery methods may evolve to better achieve your CX vision, the vision itself should change very little over time. When in doubt, measure your organization’s CX clarity against the old story from NASA in the early 1960’s. If you haven’t heard the story before, I’ll share it here. When President Kennedy asked a man in the hallway what he did at NASA, the man, who served as a janitor, replied that he was helping to put a man on the moon. If your employees aren’t 100% on board with – and proud of – serving your goals, you’ve got some communicating to do.
Empathy Gaps Punch Holes in Customer Experience
Those CX goals you’re chasing are based on human emotions. The ones your customers are feeling – and the ones your employees are conveying. And they’re a lot harder to measure, report, and improve. Customers reach out to your customer care platforms when they need information, solutions to a problem, or other kinds of help from you. They make purchasing decisions based on how they’re treated and how they feel about that experience. They might forgive you for a longer hold time under today’s circumstances. But they probably won’t forgive you if, once their call is answered, they’re treated like just another ticket in the queue. Worse, if you pester them afterward with a robotically written survey – and then fail to follow up when they take the time to respond with a complaint – you’ve just sent one clear message: we don’t know you, we don’t have time for you, and we don’t care about you.
In your race to correct these issues, don’t limit your efforts to improving your hiring models. Contrary to what you may believe, a customer’s perceived lack of empathy may have nothing to do with the actual empathy of your front-line customer care agents. It may have everything to do with outdated beliefs, processes, and again – technology – that make it impossible for agents to solve the problem on the spot. Agent powerlessness to do the right thing is often perceived by the customer as agent apathy.
Your CX strategy can’t save your customer relationships until it moves off the written plan and into the everyday beliefs, practices – and investments – of your entire organization. It starts with putting your customers first and empowering your team to put their needs and expectations above all other performance expectations. If you would like to know more about how Skybridge Americas can help you deliver superior customer experience, please reach out. We would love to talk!
Senior Vice President, Sales and Marketing
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