Bill Staikos, Senior Vice President, Evangelist and Head of Community Engagement at Medallia, talks to us about the steps CX leaders can take to successfully get their business through times of economic turbulence.
The last few years have been challenging in more ways than one and our economy has certainly taken a hit. With a constantly fluctuating GDP, soaring inflation rates and increasing interest rates in the United Kingdom, it is evident that a financial downturn may not be far – and if organisations want to successfully get through it, they must prepare adequately. If done well, financial downturns can also present an opportunity for organisations to pivot operations in such a way that they win customers’ trust and emerge stronger on the other side.
Customer experience (CX) leaders play a crucial role in this and can take various steps to strengthen their organisation’s resilience during times of financial turbulence. Let’s look at the four actions they should prioritise.
1. Identify new ways to listen and speak to customers
The reason financial downturns tend to be so unpredictable for organisations is that they are also unpredictable for customers. It is important, in such times, to understand what exactly customers expect and need, but organisations can be hesitant to outright ask for feedback so as not to burden them further. This is a great opportunity to try something different.
As a workaround to surveying their customer base, organisations can explore new ways to listen to customers – from capturing social media commentary to transcribing contact centre calls to be analysed for themes and sentiments through text analytics. At times of crisis, emotions can run high and solutions are wanted imminently. By being able to identify distress signals from customers at scale and pairing these insights with other operational data in real-time, organisations can act quickly to solve problems for customers – and do so in the way that is most helpful for the customer at that moment.
The power of these ‘customer experience signals’ is undeniable. During the Great Recession, a financial institution leveraged customer insights alongside operational data to quickly identify and put in place processes that allowed homeowners to avoid foreclosure. Organisations that can capture, analyse and act on customer insight will always be well-placed to drive customer loyalty – even through recessions.
2. Be proactive within the organisation
During times of economic turbulence, proactivity pays dividends – and this is true on an organisational level, too. CX professionals have a responsibility to align thinking on customer-centricity, from top management to the executive level and there are many ways to do this.
Engage the C-suite in frequent conversations and create a few use cases to show the role of customer experience in helping the business achieve its goals.
If the C-suite is out of reach, ask direct line managers to escalate the use cases that give the C-suite much-needed insight into what is happening in the marketplace.
Take the lead in creating executive dashboards that can highlight trends in operational, financial and customer data.
Re-engage partners on CX improvements that the business may have previously identified but never had reason enough to implement, such as a newer version of a product customers frequently use.
Provide product teams with the customer insights they need to improve user stories without accruing technical debt – a hallmark of rushed decision-making at times of crisis, as shown during the pandemic.
Look for efficiencies. Are there tools that are outdated or underutilised? Are there areas where teams have to rely on manual processes? Keep in mind that the speed of insight is what makes the decision-making process faster and more accurate, so the technology stack shouldn’t be an obstacle. If a technology upgrade is in order, make sure the return on investment is clearly stated and can be achieved within a timeframe aligned with the business strategy for managing through the downturn.
The common thread between all these action points is data. Data is everywhere and it’s not getting any simpler to decipher, with more customer touch points across multiple disparate systems. Leveraging Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning can make a real difference at every one of these critical decision points, by magnifying the impact of every customer interaction and providing data-driven guidance.
3. Communicate frequently
Remain communicative with employees and customers at all times. Employees may be understandably worried about potential changes within the company. During such times, it is important to over-share so that their morale and motivation remain high. CX leaders can also create new opportunities where teams can feel helpful and valued, for example, by including them in special projects to support the business through the recession.
Another group organisations should regularly communicate with is the customer base. Sharing regular updates about the various changes being implemented and what to look out for helps reassure customers of the strength of the relationship they have with the organisation. It also reassures them that the company has their best interests at heart.
Some customers may need more attention than others. Identify these customer segments and align the organisation behind their needs. Creating company-wide dashboards for these groups is a great way to democratise insights so that teams can act quickly and engage meaningfully.
4. Ask for help freely
Nobody likes to admit they need help, but we all do from time to time and it’s especially important to speak up when times are tough. CX professionals should look to create opportunities to regularly meet up with colleagues to discuss problems and brainstorm solutions. These can be powerful forums for ideation – and in the ‘worst case scenario’, they can still provide teams and peers with advice and a listening ear.
Do not be afraid to expressly ask for help and escalate matters. Raising a hand when nobody else displays both courage and strong leadership – not to mention it also breaks down any awkward barriers for others.
Stay afloat in turbulent waters with a reliable CX strategy
There is no way to predict the future, but there is a way to future-proof areas of the business for uncertainty – and customer-centricity must be at the heart of these considerations. By listening to customers and efficiently gathering feedback, being more proactive and breaking down the barriers to communication and insight, organisations can
emerge from economic downturns stronger than before.
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