Ensuring post-crisis success

Riccardo Pasto

  • senior analyst, Forrester
Riccardo’s research focuses on CX management, customer service, co-creation and design thinking. He has over 10 years of experience in Asia-Pacific. Prior joining Forrester, Riccardo worked with Lenovo as a customer service strategist, where he led strategic planning and market intelligence with a long-term focus on experience improvements. At Lenovo, he also drove global post-merger communications between the Lenovo and Motorola service teams. Before Lenovo, Riccardo worked with GCS Business Capital, where he led research activities for Chaotics, a strategic business framework for dealing with economic turbulence.

The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed brands’ CX shortcomings and a lack of customer understanding. Given ongoing disruption, customer needs, wants and expectations are continually changing, also causing customers to behave in different ways. Just look at hoarding toilet paper, staple and canned food, medicinal and cleaning products.

Resilient organisations help employees better understand customers in this context, recalibrate customer experience (CX) efforts in response, and promptly deliver value to them. Demonstrating empathy helps create a memorable and positive emotional connection with customers. Here are four strategies to grow customer empathy within your organisation during and after the current pandemic.  

1. Share insights as they are uncovered

Employees can’t have empathy for customers if they are in the dark about what customers think, do and feel. To understand them better in the context of a pandemic, organisations must augment survey-based insights by including more data sources into their voice of the customer (VOC) programs. 

For most organisations, the contact centre is a great listening post for unstructured, unsolicited customer feedback. Officeworks transcribes customer service calls, for instance, and makes them available to relevant teams to review best practices and foster customer centricity. Invest in having live conversations with customers now.

A call from a customer in a moment of need is an opportunity like no other to observe and grasp what they care about most. So share real-time customer feedback to employees, such as survey findings, social media comments, and quotes from customer service calls.  

2. Build a Customer worldview

To humanise insights and amplify their impact, bring employees closer to customers. Have them listen to customer service calls, spend time on the frontline of servicing customers, participate in storytelling exercises, and watch customer videos. At ING Bank, for example, stakeholders across the organisation take customer calls.

You could also involve employees in the research analysis process and co-create deliverables like journey maps to develop a deeper sense of ownership of research findings. One community service provider in Australia did this, conducting storytelling, co-creation and journey mapping exercises with senior leaders and actual customers.

Savvy CX professionals also visualise customer insights from qualitative research, such as diary studies and observations, onto journey maps and display them in immersive experience rooms for all staff to see. For sustained change, turn activities and behaviours that further customer-centric cultural change into rituals.  

3. Have a Decision-making centre

Activate customer empathy when making business decisions and designing experiences by putting customers at the centre of your decision making. Just look at Bendigo Bank, which engages with more than 5000 members via online community platform, miVoice, to capture customer feedback, opinions and ideas. Bendigo uses these insights to continue to improve the banking experience.

Many Australian neobanks also put customers at the centre of their experience design. For example, 86 400 has a transparent and accessible product and services roadmap where they let customers upvote or downvote listed initiatives. The brand also provides an overview of what’s being planned, in progress and what’s done.  

4. Show staff contributions

Ensure employees feel a strong sense of purpose by illustrating how their job impacts CX quality, no matter how far removed they are from the customer. Run journey and ecosystem mapping sessions with customers and stakeholders across the organisation to link the employee journey to the customer journey.

And consider how effective you are in providing clarity to employees on what’s expected of your staff during and after the pandemic. 


Tags: Forrester Research, customer experience management, covid-19

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