The global pandemic has rapidly altered the way in which customers interact with brands and brought in the need for innovation in turbulent times.

In-person interactions have been largely replaced by digital, telephone, and other contactless interactions. Significantly, instead of being able to choose how to interact, these changes have been forced upon customers, who have had to adapt.

As customers make the transition to contactless channels, they are expecting more from brands in terms of quality and speed. Businesses need to meet customer expectations by ensuring their online experiences are frictionless and easy. Customer support teams have to work quickly to reduce long wait times and resolve issues – or customers will go elsewhere. Most of all, the goal for brands right now is to make customers feel safe and protected.

Furthermore, it’s not just customer support teams who have had to adapt to working remotely – every employee who now has to work from home has faced challenges. For example, they may not have access to the tools or systems they need to serve customers to the best of their abilities. they might even need more training to adapt to new technologies that have been introduced, and mental health and productivity may have been impacted due to stress or lack of contact with colleagues and customers.

Now is not the time to ignore what customers and employees need

Consumers are making super fast decisions about who they want to remain loyal to or move away from. This means organisations will have to adapt even more rapidly to win the confidence of these customers. The stakes are high and innovation in turbulent times is essential.

The challenge is that customer journeys were once quite straightforward but have become much more complex. There are more ways than ever for customers to interact with brands and consequently more areas where companies might not meet expectations.

To keep pace, businesses are looking for a 360-degree view of the customer experience (across all channels they interact with) to uncover rich insights, make the best business decisions and remove friction at every point along the journey. They are using these insights to act with speed and adapt as fast as the world around us is changing. For example, a major retailer was able to react swiftly to a spike in concerns identified through text analytics around hygiene related to signing a touchscreen to accept curbside pickup. The process could quickly be adapted to ensure customers would be confident purchasing again.

To drive customer loyalty and retention, organisations should focus on two key areas when implementing innovation in turbulent times: signals and rapid innovation


Direct feedback is not the only way companies capture rich customer experience insights – in fact, only looking at direct feedback doesn’t deliver the whole picture. Every time a customer interacts with a company, they are sharing data and emanating signals that can tell a lot about who they are, what they are experiencing, and what they do (and do not) care about.

A chart shows 360-degree view of the customer.

Relying on direct feedback in the form of surveys is no longer enough to truly understand what customers want and need and to stay competitive, particularly in the current climate where things are changing so quickly.

To obtain the whole picture and act swiftly, with confidence, it’s critical for organisations to have a more comprehensive view of their customers along their more complex journeys, using indirect feedback, operational data and observed behaviour. According to Medallia’s research 2018, businesses that integrate four or more feedback channels have NPS scores that are 14 points higher than those that use only one.

What experience data can you leverage to truly understand your customers and drive innovation in turbulent times?

Video and Voice are two key areas of direct feedback where Medallia currently sees the growing interest that organisations might not have considered previously. Video is fast becoming a popular way in which consumers can engage with businesses, as it is rich with meaningful and emotional insights. Similarly, with customers calling contact centres more than ever, companies who can translate calls into text for analysis have a richer data set to help better understand their customers. Do you have vast amounts of contact centre or support calls that you can translate to text and analyse to inform business decisions?

Consider also what opportunities you have to learn from indirect feedback. As well as customer experience data collected from social media channels, you can harness employee feedback, both to help solve issues which are impacting the customer experience such as lack of training or processes that are affecting productivity or morale, but also to give you insights on customers they interact with. For example, a retail client uses a simple feedback survey from their store teams to quickly pass barriers to purchase, such as stock issues and fit or quality requests, to their Head Office team. Finally, chat logs also provide a great set of indirect feedback to mine for information about your customers and their sentiment. These enable you to uncover customer needs in real-time.

Operational data from your CRM and other business systems such as contact centre or point of sale software is another great source of insight. For example, call handling times, hold times, number of times a customer is transferred, point of sale data or delivery speeds can all reveal weak spots in customer engagement and interactions when studied alongside feedback data

Finally, observed behaviour. This is data and events that reflect customer and employee actions or behaviours that are either observed or inferred. This might be visit patterns or event data, for online businesses the inability to complete a task, for telecommunications companies data like customer broadband speeds, for retailers purchasing or returns behaviour, or for investment companies, clients selling or switching investments. 

Looking at your customers’ entire lifecycles and journeys will help to uncover all engagement points and map out all customer signals. Brands that rely only on direct feedback are missing 80 per cent of the picture. By building a fuller picture, you can detect patterns and predict behaviour, identify risks and opportunities and prioritise action where it matters most. While COVID-19 has certainly accelerated this need, even in normal times this 360-degree view should be the foundation of every CX strategy in order for brands to remain competitive. 

In this article, we have focused on practical steps you can take to understand your customer’s interactions with your brand and drive innovation in turbulent times with the help of signals. Next week, we will discuss how you can set yourselves up to quickly adapt and act through ideation (crowdsourcing) and micro innovations.

Talk to an Expert to uncover the different types of signals in your business.

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