Most businesses around the world are being forced to take a hard look at their budgets, thanks to the coronavirus pandemic. The smart ones, however, have realized that increasing spend on things like customer experience could be hugely valuable in keeping their businesses afloat during this tenuous business climate. Even before COVID-19 hit, 9 in 10 executives agreed that customer experience was a critical differentiator for their brands. Now, with 55 percent of Yelp businesses shut down for good due to the virus, customer experience is arguably more important than ever.
Still, telling businesses to “improve CX” isn’t enough to help in the new normal business climate. Just ask WestJet. In the early days of quarantine, the company saw customer service inquiries increase from 60 per minute to 200 per second. We all want to provide optimal customer experiences. But in a global pandemic, when large percentages of the employees are working remotely or furloughed, it can be difficult to provide the same kind of experience your customers expect.
Customer expectations are also changing. Following the coronavirus outbreak, customers have said they’re more likely to choose a product based on convenience, health, safety, and purpose than they are brand loyalty. We’ve all seen that play out as shoppers do whatever it takes to find a roll—any roll—of toilet paper, rather than searching only for their favorite brand. So, what should companies be focusing on as they try to improve customer experience during COVID-19? Check out these four metrics.
We can be tempted to treat this period of semi-quarantine the same as any other and seek to provide our customers with the “same old” customer experience we’ve always given them. To a degree, that’s a solid strategy. After all, you want to differentiate yourself from other companies offering similar products and services the same way you always have. Still, we also need to keep in mind, as noted above, the world is different now. Customers’ expectations have changed—and will continue to change—in the coming weeks, months, and even years. Thus, it’s necessary to continually recheck and recharge our CX efforts based on the current pulse of customers.
CX Metric 1: Customer Feedback: This is not a time to skimp on customer surveys. It’s a time to ask in no uncertain terms how your customers think you’re doing and what you need to do differently to meet their changing needs. There is literally no other way to get this information besides asking. Getting into a customer-centric huddle is not enough. Too many variables are changing on the daily for your customers and employees alike to be able to make accurate assumptions about what your customers need. Make it common policy to survey customers regularly and adjust your protocols as much as possible based on what you learn.
CX Metric 2: Omnichannel Data: Surveys are great, but they are only one source of information, and you can’t force customers to fill them out (although you can certainly offer incentives.) To make up for any blind spots in your customer survey results, be sure to collect omnichannel data from across your various communication and social media channels. How are audiences responding and engaging with your social media ads? How have visits to your online store changed? How long do customers watch your Instagram story before moving on to greener pastures? All of these things are great clues to how well you’re doing in the CX department.
CX Metric 3: Track Purchase Data: I add this metric to the list with one caveat. You’ll likely need to create a new post-COVID baseline of purchase averages to get a full sense of how well your CX initiatives are playing out. If you’re in the hospitality industry right now, for instance, you could be running CX like gangbusters and still see huge conversion declines. Are those declines getting worse or stabilizing? When segments of the economy open, are they improving or remaining stagnant? All of these metrics will factor together to help you get a holistic idea of how your CX efforts are working—for you, and your customers.
CX Metric 4: Customer Journey Tracking: Now more than ever, it’s important to find out where in the customer journey your customers are cutting loose. Is a customer getting to the checkout phase only to turn tail and realize your shipping rates are too high? That you’re price-gouging? Are they getting frustrated when they see your products are back-ordered? Are they frustrated that your app and website are working seamlessly for curbside pickup or that the new chat bots you’ve invested in to pick up the slack for customer service are slow and unable to answer their questions? Are they canceling orders because shopping with your company is just too hard? These are all questions you can answer by studying the customer journey map.
Focusing on customer experience can help reduce churn, which is so important in keeping your businesses running smoothly. After all, it’s far easier to keep a customer than find a new one amidst a global recession. The most important thing is that you don’t just accept the analytics at face value. You need to process them and turn them into action, whether that means finding new technologies to fulfill customer orders more smoothly, investing in better AI bot support to field growing numbers of customer inquiries, or find new and different ways to provide more personalized, customer-centric messaging. Big data is wasted data if it isn’t put to use on an ongoing basis. The truths you learn about your customers today will be vastly different a year from now. Prepare now to be agile enough to make the changes they need, now and in the future.
Futurum Research provides industry research and analysis. These columns are for educational purposes only and should not be considered in any way investment advice
The original version of this article was first published on Forbes.