“Never make predictions, especially about the future.” Casey Stengel
Given the quote, I won’t say how CX will pan out over the next year to 18 months. Instead, I’ll consider companies whose response to the coronavirus crisis has shown grace and intelligence. These businesses confirm the advantages of customer centricity.
Customer communications took a fresh turn with the onset of the pandemic. A gentle trickle of emails turned into a tsunami as businesses described their response to the virus and lockdown.
The emails have a range of messages:
- Most express empathy and concern for the safety of customers and staff, and described changes in service levels.
- Bricks and mortar businesses talk about the steps taken to address the safety, social and emotional needs of customers, colleagues and communities.
- Online businesses reduce prices or offer free services.
- Some marketing folk contact everyone whose details they have on file, and others select only regular customers.
- A few make tenuous connections between their services and assumed customer needs (CV or LinkedIn profile rewrites anyone?).
My new favourite CEO is Mike Coupe at Sainsbury’s. His weekly emails are empathetic yet practical; they use a humble, positive tone. He describes the actions his team has taken, apologises for inconvenience and asks for support. Sainsbury’s is cementing its position in the lives of millions, which is the outcome we seek when we manage Customer Experience.
Death to Stock (an artist-owned co-operative which creates original stock images) has an innovative approach. This month, rather than take photos, they set aside funds to buy from other creatives. They asked their clients to nominate artists and companies who deserve support. In one master stroke, they are helping their community and engaging customers with an action both will remember for a long time.
Prime Group is a Nottinghamshire based printing firm. The MD’s wife is an NHS critical care practitioner worried about diminishing stocks of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). She suggested her husband make visors. After an all-night prototyping session and on-site approvals, the business produced 100 visors just 24 hours after the initial idea. Prime aims to produce 10,000 units a day and is using GoFundMe to raise funds to scale up. Many people will remember this act of generosity and the opportunity to contribute to the life-saving work of the NHS.
So much for the near-term. Obviously, any company open for business has a better chance of surviving. But have these organisations built a stronger foundation for the recovery period? Have they even helped define the new normal?
By putting their customers, colleagues and communities first, each business has tested and grown behaviours, skills and capabilities.
Flexibility. Teams turned challenges into solutions and practiced their skills of change. Their confidence will help their businesses respond to recovery conditions.
Customer first thinking. The examples went beyond the delivery of direct value to existing customers. They built practices and opportunities that meet social and emotional needs. They learnt putting the customer first stokes business performance.
Employee engagement. These organisations faced up to a rapid, scary journey of change. They are building shared identities and values; they are achieving the impossible together. They will continue challenging business norms and delivering ever-better customer experiences.
When the crisis phase of coronavirus ends, we must build a new normal. Let’s learn from our successes and build on them as we move into the future.
Find out more about Michelle’s CX consultancy at this link.