Wait and See: Four Ways To Keep The Customer Experience Going When Uncertainty Looms

Stephanie Thum, CCXP

Part 4 of the “2020 Strategies and Insights for Midsize Companies” series

“Wait and see.”

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That phrase can be like a huge, red stop light for businesses of all sizes when uncertainty looms. No matter if that uncertainty springs from the political landscape like the upcoming 2020 U.S. presidential election, or company leadership is changing, or a merger is happening, companies oftentimes pause on making big decisions around big technology purchases, staffing, and business initiatives until after the change.

Sometimes “wait and see” is just part of business when uncertainty looms. But that self-inflicted pause rarely, if ever, flies with customers. Customer needs, demands, and expectations don’t wait for elections, mergers, budgets, or internal onboarding to conclude.

So, as we face this new decade, how can you keep customer experience (CX) improvement efforts moving if you feel stuck on “wait and see?” Because you may not have a choice about following high-level directives to hold off on big purchases and decisions. But it doesn’t make good business sense to put customers on the back burner, either.

One idea: focus on what you can do. This could be the perfect time to revisit the CX basics at your company. Because customer experience is about much more than tech, initiatives, and big projects. It’s a mindset, or a way of doing things, to be interwoven into the fabric of your company’s culture.

Here are some things you can focus on to keep the company’s CX mindset flowing in times of uncertainty.

Are the basics really under control?

I’m going to get really basic for just a moment. When I say, “the basics,” I mean, are the phones being answered, and answered effectively? While the focus today may be on perfecting digital and online communication, the phone is still customers’ most preferred channel when it comes to contacting the companies where they do business.

Fifty-seven percent of consumers used the phone to address a service problem last year. Seventy-five percent of companies believe they’re doing a good job with telephone communication, but only 48% of customers agree.

Flames fly every day on social media from angry customers who can’t get a call answered, or when they encounter phone agents who simply don’t seem to care. Getting the phones right is a CX basic. Use :wait and see: time to secret shop your company’s phone systems or contact center. Assess, advocate for, and improve on the phone basics.

Is your website communicating well?

You probably already know website design is important to winning and retaining customers. But a customer’s experience with your site goes well beyond aesthetics. Bad, inconsistent, and confusing content leads to friction with customers. Two out of three customers in one recent study regularly had trouble finding answers on company websites.

Here’s an example:

I recently visited the website of a company where I had made a purchase and found that the customer service number posted on their site wasn’t correct. Their site invited me to chat online with agents “right now.” When I clicked to enter the chat, the page changed and said chat was closed, but I could feel free to e-mail them. I felt like a digital hot potato—passed around from source to source without getting anywhere. In the end, it felt like the company had deliberately wasted my time.

So, secret shop your company website. Ask some communication-savvy colleagues to do the same. You probably don’t need a big budget or to wait for an election to pass in order to get the basics squared away.

How about a customer experience metrics and measurements refresh?

By now, companies who are more customer experience mature should have CX operational and experience metrics in place. Along with your senior team, you’re likely monitoring and triaging customers’ experiences with your application processes, customer wait times, website, and in your contact center, for example. But how long has it been since you challenged what you were measuring, how you were measuring it, and if those were the things that really mattered to customers?

What mattered two years ago may not be what matters now. Most small and midsize companies don’t need a big budget to shift what they’re measuring and when. And if you’re not measuring, monitoring, and triaging data surrounding customers’ experiences yet, 2020 is a good time to get started, using systems and resources you already have in place.

Expand your thinking on customer feedback

No matter what size company you run, collecting feedback should be part of your business model. And hopefully by now you’re well on your way to collecting and reviewing feedback on a regular basis.

If you get stuck in “wait and see” mode, go back and take another dive back into feedback you’ve collected. Challenge whether you’re acting feedback everywhere possible in your business. Sixty-three percent of companies that collect feedback don’t do a good job of using it holistically in their business.

Think about using feedback in your policy and rule-making work, risk management activities, marketing and public relations work. In the coming decade, you will want to maximize your current business processes, including how and where you use the customer feedback you’re already collecting.

“Wait and see” is oftentimes just part of the normal course of doing business. But that doesn’t mean your focus on CX needs to take a huge pause.

With an entrepreneurial spirit and mindset, you can face the 2020s intuitively knowing what it takes to advance the customer experience dialogue, even if big projects go on hold. Small and midsize businesses have an opportunity to be nimble in ways where many large organizations struggle. Embrace and expand on the basics of customer experience management during periods of “wait and see,” and you will be embracing competitive opportunity.

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See IDC’s list of top trends for small and midsize businesses in the 2020s. Download the IDC infographic, sponsored by SAP, “The Roaring 2020s – Six Trends Midsize Companies in the Next Decade.”

And we invite you join our upcoming webinar for a deeper dive into each of these trends and what you can do now to take advantage of them.  Register for “Winning in the 2020s:  Six Trends Every Midsize Company Needs to Know.”

Stephanie Thum, CCXP

About Stephanie Thum, CCXP

Stephanie is a Certified Customer Experience Professional (CCXP) who got her start in the customer experience profession working with the Big Four accounting firm of EY. She eventually became one of the U.S. federal government's first agency-level heads of customer experience. Her background also includes work as Qualtrics' Chief Advisor for Federal Customer Experience, where she counseled governments around the world on experience management strategies and tactics. She also spent time on SAP's Catalyst team counseling SAP's small and mid-sized audiences on security and CX, digital transformation, and modern-day voice of the customer practices via videos, blogs, and podcasts. She is a published writer, panelist, facilitator, presenter, and speaker.