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Customer Experience

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There shall be no return to normal: Focal points for the post-COVID customer experience strategy

Many people think that as soon as this crisis is over, they will rapidly return to life before COVID-19. Unfortunately, life after COVID-19 will not be the same. The COVID period is a harsh transformation period for all organizations. The very foundations on which the existing business strategies were developed have changed. This crisis has marked a sharp change in most business trends. It has changed customer values and expectations, necessitating new customer experience strategies in the post-COVID-19 era.

Drawing inspiration from publications and reports by some of the world’s most authoritative sources, this write up seeks to demonstrate the effect that COVID-19 has had on the economy, and propose a framework for post-COVID customer experience.

The impact of COVID-19 on the economy.

From December 2019 – 16th October 2020 the world has recorded 38,984,808 cases of COVID-19 with 1,099,184 deaths.  4,14% of corona cases have been reported from Africa, 31,1% from Asia, 47.4% from America, 17,1% from Europe (ECDPC, 2020).

COVID-19 has plunged the world economy into the worst recession in eight decades. While it is projected that growth will recover in 2021, the pace of the recovery is still very uncertain and will largely depend on the availability of a vaccine and the rate of improvements in trade and investments. (WBG, 2020). Some of the shocks to the global economy as revealed in an April 2020 world bank study include a 3% drop in unemployment below the base level, an increase of 25% in the cost of imports and exports in international trade, a sharp drop of 20-32% in international tourism, and a drop in household demand for services requiring closer human interactions by 15%. (WBG, 2020).

The global economy’s return to the pre-COVID 19 levels of activity remains prone to setbacks. The global growth is projected at –4,4% for 2020 and 5,2% for 2021. These trends imply high unemployment rates this year and next year for both emerging and advanced economies. It is projected that social distancing will continue into 2021 though it shall fade over time with improvements in treatment and the use of a vaccine. (IMF, 2020)

A September 2020 McKinsey Global Survey, however, suggests a positive shift in economic sentiment as executives are becoming more hopeful about the global economy and their company performance as things are slowly getting back under control compared to the perceptions at the start of the crises.

Focal points for post-COVID customer experience strategy

Given the amplitude of the disruptions COVID-19 has had on the economy, we really cannot talk of a return to normal anymore. Businesses would have to play by new rules, set new visions and review their current operational models. Some business trends that were forecasted before the crisis has accelerated due to the crisis while others have drastically slowed down. Three strategic post-COVID customer experience focal areas include: digital transformation, employee experience and reengineering customer touchpoints.

1. Digital Transformation

Accelerated by social distancing and the adoption of remote working, there could be no better time for engaging in digital transformation projects. The crisis has facilitated the acceptance of technologies that were resisted and ignored before. These new technologies have taught us an alternative way of holding meetings, working and learning.

Digital transformation has also greatly affected marketing processes. The lockdowns and social distancing have pushed people to connect more within online communities, changing drastically the ball game for marketing, and placing the digital marketer at the center of marketing efforts. This trend may not change after the crises and could become the new normal.

The increased online presence and shift to digital channels is reshaping e-commerce. This presents a great opportunity for technology companies. The spillover effect is also beneficial to organizations as these increased innovations and supply of digital services are leading to free and low-cost access to digital services and technologies.

Many companies used this lockdown to transform their business models completely and now operate 100% virtual companies with employees working from home.

2. Employee Experience

Employees are increasingly working from home. Travelling and business trips are reducing, and there are major changes happening in the internal customer service environment. The approach to work is changing, the tools used for work are changing, the approach to service delivery is changing, workflows are being altered, the business operational guides are being adjusted, vacation scheduling is being reviewed and the dynamics that exert external influence on employees such as family, social groups and lifestyle are changing.

The employee is undergoing a 360-degree transformation and many will become obsolete due to the rapid and massive nature of the change.  New talent will evolve and new competencies will be needed. Many performance reviews may not happen in 2020, and for those that take place, many would not be based on the objectives that were set at the beginning of the year. This also means new performance trends will emerge.

The COVID global pandemic has made it easy to differentiate companies with great employee experience from those without it. The approach that has been used by the management of companies to sail through this crisis has shown where most companies stand when it comes to customer and employee care. Some companies have shown no care or responsibility for their workers during this pandemic. The effect on employee motivation and performance will show in the 2020 performance.

Employees are becoming more mindful of personal hygiene and expect the workplace to keep them safe. Companies need to put in place structures and equipment that ensure not only the hygiene of the customers but also that of employees.

With increased unemployment, the shutdown of schools and other activities, the financial burden on workers has increased. Though they may be paid the same salary, much will be needed to keep them sufficiently motivated as their hierarchy of needs has changed. Employee access to health and safety is more valuable to them now.

3. Reengineering customer touchpoints

One evident consequence of the corona pandemic is a total disruption of existing customer journeys. A lot has changed about the customer persona: their taste, motivations, social groups, and preferred channels among others.

Companies need new data to create new user and customer personas. Organizations need to re-engineer their customer touchpoints. They must identify what has changed in the way customers interact with them, customer needs and expectations. Organizations need to design and deploy new customer experiences.

Organizations will need to review and identify changes that have happened in their operations and how these changes are affecting customers. They will need to review their customer touchpoints in order to understand which contact points have become pain points and redefine their strategy. The new journey maps will be subjected to 3 dominant forces. Alignment to the World Health Organization’s recommendations, the organizational changes and the new customer needs.

Conclusion.

Certainly, we will overcome this pandemic but nothing will ever be the same again. The post-COVID economy will be one marked by deep-rooted changes that will affect even the vision and mission of most organizations. Leveraging technology and customer experience management will be the new playground for competitive advantage. There shall be no return to normal. The new normal begins now.

By MBINKAR Kpunsa Fomunyuy |Author | Customer Experience Expert |

employee experience

How to improve Employee Experience

Employee experience is neglected and relegated to the background in many organizations. Think of a machine with several parts. For the machine to be fully operational and enable us to have the output we desire, all its parts need to be fully functional. Let us consider the case of a car. The tyres, the engines, the fuel pumps, and all other parts must be in good shape and fully functional for the car to take us around. While our desired output is great products and the delivery of good customer service, the employee is an integral part of the machine that needs to be fully functional for us to achieve this output.

Customer service is divided into two main parts. Internal customer service; which has to do mostly with employees and external customer service which focuses on buyers and users. Though so much emphasis has been put on external customer experience, internal customer experience is as important.

Why the increased concern about employee experience?

The following points explain why there is increased focus on customer experience nowadays:

  • Organizations now realize that ‘people’ are, a resource that needs to be valorized and not cost to be minimized.
  • Talent and people have become an important differentiating factor and a key tool to achieve a long-term competitive advantage.
  • The role of the corporate culture of an organization has never been this evident. Companies now recruit for culture fit, which makes the onboarding of new team members more delicate and priceless.
  • Teamwork and internal harmony are very vital for better collaboration at work and improved productivity.

Employee experience is about creating great working experiences for employees. Enabling employees to have career fulfillment and the needed motivation to get the job done. It is about treating the workers the same way you expect them to treat the customers. Seeing employees as the first customers, whom we need to listen to, give a feeling of importance to, and manage appropriately.

Ways of improving employee experience.

There are many ways of improving the working climate and ensuring that the organization achieves great employee experience. Some of these include:

1. Improving the onboarding experience

Just like our customers, employees also create first impressions about the organization from the way we onboard them. It all starts at the interview. Though you may have dozens of people going through the interviews, one of these people would end up working for you. What impressions do they have at this first contact with the organization? Can they read professionalism and friendliness? Their experience begins here and continues through the selection and recruitment process.

Once the employee is finally recruited, the next stage is to initiate them into the culture of the organization. Every organization needs to have a well-designed onboarding process that permits to create a great impression on the new employee and sets the pace for great working experience with the brand.

2. The employee journey map.

Just like customers have touchpoints (Contact points) with our organization which could become pain points, so too do employees. It is important to evaluate the key activities performed by employees, the ways in which employees have to interact with each other and improve employee journeys. Map out your employee journey and see what areas need your attention. How could you make their job better? In what way can you make them more productive? How can you enable them to enjoy doing the job and getting the desired outcome?

The job design, the organizational structures, the systems, and processes must enable performance, improve employee experience, and customer experience. Constantly review these journeys to minimize errors, and improve learning and efficiency.

3. The organizational behavior or culture

Organizational culture is the group of values, beliefs, expectations, and practices that guide and inform the actions of all members of an organization. Corporate culture is developed through time, organizations need to control these values, shape them, and guide them to the expected behaviors or responses. How do we expect every member of the organization to behave? How do we intend to position ourselves from a behavioral perspective?

This begins with management designing the behavioral positioning they would have to portray to the employees. Then how these employees need to behave towards customers. Management needs to set the pace by creating a culture of trust, support for one another, believe in one’s abilities, recognition of the valuable role each employee plays as a member of the team. This is about designing and implementing great corporate cultures that raise the employees’ confidence levels and motivation to work.

Part of this cultural experience could be communication styles. Does everyone have a voice? Do we listen to our employees? How do we manage their complaints and challenges? Clearly define these focal points in the design of the culture guide.

4. Motivation

At the end of the day, the employee is simply doing a job to earn a remuneration. This remuneration could be in monetary or non-monetary terms. Irrespective of the remuneration models used, the goal must be to keep the employee motivated to work. Employee motivation could take several forms. Learn what drives your workers. While some people are driven by financial gains others are driven by things like; family, recognition, social integration, belonging among others. Learn to appreciate colleagues for the things they do. Do not be the person who complains and criticizes all the times. Keep communication open and hassle-free with team members and respect your contractual agreements.

5. Team building

It is important to organize team-building sessions to remind everyone they are part of a team. To show them the important role they play as a team. To help team members know each other and experience their colleagues out of the work environment. These team-building sessions could range from corporate retreats, outdoor games, outings, and participating in team member’s important events. Teambuilding creates a good social bond and gives employees a second family. We spend more time with our colleagues at work than with our families and loved ones. Giving employees the possibilities to know, learn to trust one another, reduces tensions at work, improves performance, and overall employee experience.

While this is not an exhaustive list of strategies for improving employee experience or better still internal customer experience, these points constitute a good starting point. You cannot replicate people. Creating a strong team, that is motivated and guided by a well designed corporate culture is the ultimate step towards improved employee experience.

10 things every customer-centric organization must do as COVID-19 spreads

By: Mbinkar Kpunsa Fomunuyuy

The CDC describes Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) as a respiratory illness that can spread from person to person. This virus was first identified during an investigation into an outbreak in Wuhan, China. As the virus continues to spread outside China, it has been declared a global emergency by the World Health Organization. Many countries have thus taken preventive and curative measures to handle this global pandemic. The US has issued travel ban from Europe, India and Kuwait have suspended visas to all foreigners, Italy is locked down with permission needed to travel within the country, over 39 countries have already announced or implemented school or university closures and this affects business activities of thousands of companies in one way or the other. What therefore should be the response from a customer-centric organization?

  1. Show solidarity with the victims
  2. Join the health organizations in doing sensitization about the pandemic.
  3. Tell your customers how this can affect your company’s activities.
  4. Tell customers the preventive measures you will be taking.
  5. Put in place measures to protect your employees.
  6. Consider remote working options
  7. Divert your corporate social responsibilities efforts to fight the spread of the disease.
  8. Be careful with meetings and travel
  9. Disinfect your business venues & and respect health standards.
  10. Review your business procedures and adapt them to the crisis period

Let us look at these in greater detail:

  1. Show solidarity with the victims: This is the time to shift those marketing messages to messages of care and solidarity to the thousands of patients in this difficult moment. A customer-centric organization is one that truly understands their customer’s needs, their greatest preoccupations and their fears. One that stands with them in difficult moments. This creates an emotional connection with your brand.

A good example of such solidarity can be seen by LUSH offering free handwashing facilities to the public

A sign in the window of a Lush store in Liverpool offering a free hand wash service, source Bristol Post
A sign in the window of a Lush store in Liverpool offering a free hand wash service, source Bristol Post
  • Join in the sensitization about the pandemic: To reduce the spread of this pandemic a key factor is to reach everyone with the most useful information on how to remain safe. Use your media outlets and contact points to sensitize your customers on how to remain safe.
UBA Bank Sensitization flyer on symptoms of coronavirus
UBA Bank Sensitization flyer on symptoms of coronavirus    
BatStateU Integrated School student councils’ twitter sensitization on 7 preventive measures against COVID19
BatStateU Integrated School student councils’ twitter sensitization on 7 preventive measures against COVID19
  • Tell your customers how this can affect your company’s activities: You should not assume that everyone knows there is a problem and that they will understand if there are delays or cancellations. Set a task force to identify how this pandemic affects your industry as a whole and your organization in particular. Communicate to your customers how this can affect your activities and what measures you would be putting in place to overcome these challenges. Do not use the pandemic as a justification for poor service.
ShakeTastic’s notice to customers on the efforts they are making to contain the corona virus outbreak
ShakeTastic’s notice to customers on the efforts they are making to contain the corona virus outbreak
  • Tell the customers the preventive measures you will be taking: as already mentioned, identify what preventive measures you will be taking at each contact point with the organization to keep your customers safe, as well as up-to-date actions you are putting in place. This helps to calibrate their expectations and maintains their confidence in your business. It reassures your customers and avoids unnecessary panics that could shift the existing problem to other sectors.
Everyman Espresso notifies customers on hygienic actions to fight corona virus
Everyman Espresso notifies customers on hygienic actions to fight corona virus
  • Put in place measures to protect your employees:  Your internal customers’ health is also a major concern. Reducing their exposure to risk without compromising the delivery of services is very important. Evaluate the risk your team is exposed to and define strategies to mitigate these risks. Clearly communicate these risk areas and how you expect the team to respond to it. You must do this even if your organization is not in an affected zone, this preventive measure is fundamental in building rapport with your team and improving internal customer experience.
Notice on no handshake zone, to protect employees at Los Angeles International Airport.
Notice on no handshake zone, to protect employees at Los Angeles International Airport.
Source US Today / Frederic J. Brown
  • Consider remote working options: Do a business management assessment of what can be done in the office and what can possibly be done from home. Give your team members in affected zones the possibility to work from home, the possibility to stay away from work if they fall sick. This should be a priority in high-risk zones and a factor to be considered in low-risk zones as it is not clear where the virus will be next.
Hypernode takes on remote working as a COVID 19 protection measure
Hypernode takes on remote working as a COVID 19 protection measure
  • Divert your corporate social responsibilities efforts to fight the spread of the disease: Thousands of health workers risk their lives every day, millions of people could be safer if they had certain facilities in place. Research laboratories need funding as they all put hands on deck to find a cure and a vaccine. This could be a great area to divert your company’s corporate social responsibility.
Comment from Facebook health department on measures Facebook is taking to fight the COVID 19 virus.
Comment from Facebook health department on measures Facebook is taking to fight the COVID 19 virus.  Source Facebook
Mark Zukerberg on solidarity response fundraiser for WHO  to fight the COVID 19 virus.
Mark Zukerberg on solidarity response fundraiser for WHO  to fight the COVID 19 virus.  Source Facebook
  • Be careful with meetings and travel. Truly review your work models and see which meetings can go virtual, which movements could be postponed, which events could be postponed. Reduce the risk of exposure of your team and your customers by reducing meetings and travel as much as possible depending on the risk level of the zone in which you are located.
Oxford United FC postpones matches for COVID-19 health concerns
Oxford United FC postpones matches for COVID-19 health concerns
  • Disinfect your business venues & demonstrate the standards: get help from health practitioners on the right chemicals and cleaning materials to keep your surfaces and offices clean and protected as much as possible. There is a need for awareness on how to manage public areas and how to orientate customers to avoid contact with risky surfaces.
Delta airlines expand their cleaning processes to include a fogging procedure that disinfects surface areas that are often touched in the aircraft.
Delta airlines expand their cleaning processes to include a fogging procedure that disinfects surface areas that are often touched in the aircraft.  Source Delta Airlines
  1. Review your business procedures and adapt them to the crisis period: one key factor about customer centricity is to constantly remodel your business to focus on improved customer experience. What temporal measure do you need to take to keep your team and customers safe? What procedures do you need to modify to make the workplace safer?
Red River co-op food store notifies customers on new rationing policies due to COVID19
Red River co-op food store notifies customers on new rationing policies due to COVID19
Verizon waives late fee for customers and small businesses disrupted by COVID 19
Verizon waives late fee for customers and small businesses disrupted by COVID 19

All businesses exist to serve customers, today the world is fighting the COVID-19, and this is not some strange virus that only affects others. It affects you and it affects your customers. These guidelines will help you approach the virus more professionally and maintain the best customer service standards.

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