Last week we invited a cross-industry team of CX and EX professionals to talk to us about what they are finding so far. Our QoE online discussed focused on four questions:
- How are different industries being affected?
- What are we doing now that we know will be temporary?
- What do we think will become a permanent change?
- To what extent do we think that customer and employee expectations will return to ‘normal’?
- Stewart Bromley, Chief Operating Officer, Financial Services
- Jonathan Cann, Customer Relationship Management, Technology
- Jo Kennedy, Customer Service, Health Insurance
- Carl Lyon, Managing Director, The QoE
- Katy Pearce, Head of Customer Experience, Telecoms
- Rob Phillips, Customer Experience, Construction
- Tony Reeves, Digital Lead, The QoE
Reflections from the discussion and related conversations
“We are a group function so we can continue doing our jobs, but there is a huge weight on the shoulders of many employees. This can make it more difficult to talk about next year’s strategy and campaigns, as well as other aspects of a business that would normally be important but now seem less so.”
“What we’re experiencing is likely to be the ‘new normal’ for at least six months, perhaps longer. Once people have got used to working from home, the next big challenge will be supporting staff mental health.”
“People are making extra efforts to be productive and keep going, but there are questions as to how sustainable this will be as time goes on. We’re already having difficulty in contacting some smaller business customers to evaluate their changing needs.”
“We’re having to make the difficult decision to let staff go where aspects of a business have dried up, but making use of government schemes to sustain employment wherever possible.”
“Flexibility is paramount. We’re sustaining business as usual but from our front room. We have to expect kids walking into meetings, we have to be flexible around working hours so people can work in the evenings.”
“Companies are taking a temporarily different stance to their customer, eg from a sales to a support company. Some businesses are realising that they can’t sell their core product so are switching to a more service-orientated model, eg offering deliveries.”
“Everyone is feeling the change in their personal lives and witnessing the effect on others. But you also get a sense that some business sectors are still insulated from the full impact and that this will come as a shock in the coming weeks.“
The overriding view at the end of the second week of official work at home shows that companies are in survival mode. It will be interesting to see if this has changed when we have our next session on Thursday 16 April.
Employees are under a highly visible mix of pressures, personal, professional and financial. Many companies are responding to the situation with a variety of positive actions that were unthinkable only a few weeks ago. The next few weeks, possibly months, will be crucial as stress increases on frontline managers, and leaders will be tested to the limit. But so will the employees. We’re already witnessing a marked difference in performance between natural problem solvers and those needing constant support and advice. We are seeing companies setting up a Whatapp groups for teams that are specifically not work-related to provide an outlet for office banter. Will this usher in a new coaching management style that companies have been desiring for so long?
Inevitably employee expectation will change and there is already a healthy debate on how the future of work will look and feel. But at present the new ways of working are, on the whole, harder and more stressful, so the desire to get back to normal is strong.
From a broader perspective so many good things are happening around the world in terms of enhancing communities that people may not want to return to normal and go back to the daily grind.
Increased volumes of stressed customers, combined with reduced capacity to service their needs has been described as the perfect customer experience storm. Customers are, on the most part, aware of the challenges companies are facing and acting with restraint or even compassion, particularly towards call centre staff. The scale and visibility of the issues is a huge mitigating factor.
Businesses are taking different approaches to customer measures such as NPS. Some have suspended them, others are celebrating an uplift in the crisis. Some have the view that they will take a nose-dive because people are a bit depressed, or they might rise because customers are impressed with the service provided at a difficult time ….‘If it wasn’t for you…’ It will be interesting to see if measures fluctuate as much as is predicted, and what they might mean for customer experience in the future.
All are witnessing changes in customer behaviours. An increased use of voice channel is inevitable. But we mustn’t ignore customers who are finding new ways to use their digital devices. Video calls, online ordering, bill payment, education and social sharing will become the new norm. This could present companies with the perfect opportunity to nail self and assisted service.
The basics of customer experience are still the same. If you have customer loyalty to a company, and that company does something great, customers will talk about it. And more conversation could well drive more sales. ‘Will it last?’ is likely to depend on your next action as a business.
The future for businesses
Most businesses are very much in a here and now mode. The few that are talking about the future are also looking at driving change now. Different ways of working are demonstrating advantages and how problems can be overcome. As the weeks pass, people will be finding new ways to solve existing problems. Processes can be reviewed and modified, technologies adopted, and others dropped. Companies will be looking at using employees in different ways, and for different tasks. New skills and capabilities will be uncovered and put to work.