Unless you're living under a rock or completely living off grid, you've been affected by the coronavirus already. You don't have to even walk out of your house to feel the effect. And although there could be an entire article written (and probably is) about how what is true, exaggerated, motivated by fear, or motivated by safety, instead I was encouraged today to write about how this is definitely an opportunity to see which companies are customer-centric and which aren't. Here's a few observations I've made over the last few days:
Customer-centric focused companies care about informing their customers during potential crisis.
The travel and hospitality industry is getting slammed right now. Cancellations, changes, and so much fear for the traveler. Leaders are stepping up and addressing it head-on. I've seen airlines waive change fees. I've seen a cruise line proactively send information about what they are doing to keep passengers safe. I've watched conferences post notices about where they stand today and how they will continue to keep attendees informed. I've been impressed by these outbound statements to do their best to allay fears and support customers in this decision-making times. My loyalty to these brands has increased with these actions. Crisis situations aren't always on a customer's journey map. But I can say - how a company deals with its customers to either prevent crisis or in the midst of crisis tells me a whole lot about how much they care about their customers.
CX Leaders care about their employees who will in turn care about their customers.
Customer-centric companies know that happy employees make happy customers. When employees are given the ability to have a flexible work arrangements they will continue to deliver great customer experiences. In this crisis - smart CX leaders are giving their employees the ability to work from home to prevent the spread of germs and exposure. What a simple solution to allow employees to feel comfortable where they work and not add to the fear. I'm proud to work for a company that recognizes that it is my choice whether or not to travel and there is no pressure being placed on me to continue if I don't feel safe.
CX leaders are innovating new and better experiences for customers.
This quote by Gandhi is one of my all-time favorites as it reminds me to stay focused on today and what's in front of me, in order to create a better tomorrow. And CX Leaders don't miss opportunities to innovate and create better experiences today! When a problem is well-defined, some of the best innovation can occur. And the coronavirus is creating a lot of problems for customers. Experiences that create new ways to address the fear and provide new options for customers that truly bring value to a customer, not put them in a situation where they are losing, will bring business in the future. I love the companies that are providing masks and hand sanitizers to customers. Intentionally designed experiences to meet a customer's needs reduce effort and increase loyalty which will bring future spending.
And finally, CX leaders bring the human to the experience in times of crisis.
I firmly believe there is a time and place for bots. But when a customer is looking at making a costly adjustment or change based on fear, they don't only want the facts. They want the facts with empathy. I had the privilege yesterday of sitting in on several calls in a contact center for a life insurance company. I was reminded of how the death of a loved one is a crisis in a person's life. Kind words and extra time to listen from an agent is an experience that is like salve for a wound. The last thing we need in today's fear-based world is more horrible customer experiences that make the wound even bigger.
Be a force for good in the midst of this time of crisis. Be intentional and see the coronavirus as an opportunity to create unexpected positive experiences for your customers.
Michelle Morris, CCXP, is Customer Experience Design Partner at Verizon and Member, Board of Directors at CXPA.