Real-time customer feedback is crucial in times of uncertainty

Ultimately, the success of a company is decided by its customers. So how can businesses ensure their front-line staff are empowered to meet changing needs?
19 June 2020
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manfred maier

Global Platform Solutions Lead, Customer Experience, Insights Division

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As Customer Experience professionals, one of the things we say most often to clients is, “Every customer experience has the potential to make or break a relationship. And everyday interactions are an opportunity to fulfil customers’ needs, deliver on your service promise, and excel.”

Indeed, in recent years the vast majority of organizations have internalized this insight. Independent of what you try to tell your customers via your marketing messages, ultimately the success of a company is decided in the daily interactions with its customers – for better or for worse.

But still, in times of COVID-19 and an imminent global economic meltdown many companies are suddenly struggling to see the short-term value of their CX initiatives. Their focus is currently clearly on cost saving and business continuity initiatives. As an immediate reaction to a new business reality this reaction is certainly relatable. Some companies (like car manufacturers) face dramatically reduced sales volumes, and others (like airlines) have even lost almost their entire business. In such situations of economic pressure, it is in a way a natural reaction to fall back to an inside-out business habit – prioritizing short-term business requirements over longer-term customer needs.

Nevertheless, especially in economically challenging times companies are well advised to focus on those stakeholders who contribute most to the financial success of the business: the customers.

Companies should not forget that their customers feel equally uneasy in this new reality. Customers had to switch to online touchpoints for customer missions they would normally have accomplished in-store. Some customers were even forced to use online channels for the first time in their life. Other customers fear a potential health hazard when getting in touch with businesses face-to-face. And yet others just want to experience a small fraction of their ‘old normal’ when interacting with a brand.

Organizations must quickly adapt to the new business reality. In the few minutes it has taken you to read this article, thousands of employees around the globe have made decisions on how to serve their customers in the best possible way. And many of them have to make those decisions without the support of detailed company guidelines and customer service scripts – because in fast-moving times like now, there is hardly enough time for lengthy strategic decision-making processes in headquarters and for writing new call-center scripts for times of pandemic.

To be able to make the best possible decisions, frontline organizations require quick and frequent input:

  • What is our customers’ feedback on the changes in the customer journey and touchpoints?
  • How are our customers feeling?
  • Where do we need to adjust our offer and our processes?
  • How can we create positive customer memories – even (or especially!) in these uncertain times?

A vital building block of such real-time customer feedback & information systems are CX Feedback Platforms. Only with the support of such IT platforms it is possible to disseminate relevant and timely customer feedback to all employees who are in direct (or indirect) contact with customers.

But software packages alone are certainly not sufficient for creating or re-inventing a customer-centric organisation. Especially in today’s fast-changing world, frontline teams regularly have to discuss customer feedback and changing customer needs as part of a structured close-the-loop process (“The inner loop”). Those feedback-huddles (as these short meetings are called) within the frontline-team serve as an ideal knowledge sharing and experience ideation platform for service organizations.

The fact that many decisions are nowadays made at the front-line should not undermine the role that central units and headquarters play – specifically in these critical times. Only when changing customer needs, customer feedback, and improved local processes are communicated from lower organizational levels upwards (“the outer loop”), are headquarters able to adapt customer guidelines and align their brand frameworks to the new reality.

As mentioned in the beginning, there are valid reasons for companies to cut costs right now. But cutting back on customer feedback programs feels a bit like closing your eyes while driving an unknown road for the first time.

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