CX Folk Customer Empathy

CX in a Changing World: Learnings from CX Folk Panel Discussion

Alex Allwood ALEX ALLWOOD, Customer Experience, CX Folk, CX Strategy, EMPATHY

Firstly a big thank you to our panel of CX experts, Jason Bradshaw author of It’s All About CEX!, Jaquie Scammell author of Service Habits, Alex Allwood author of Customer Empathy and Sophie Imbert, Director of Idea CX, who facilitated our Zoom panel discussion.

CX Folk is a community of customer experience leaders who come together to connect, have unexpected conversations, share stories and are curious to learn from the collective.

Our meetups raise money for the disadvantaged. This event via Zoom raised $250 for Mission Australia, who are supporting homeless children.

We kicked off our discussion asking, how are we getting and staying operational in the COVID crisis?

Alex Allwood, Director of Customer Strategy and Experience at All Work Together shared her observations on the shift in leadership behaviour; leading with empathy, being kind, working together and applying creativity and innovation to help customers and employees survive in the crisis.

Jaquie Scammell, customer service expert reiterated, this is a time to amplify human qualities. “Service will be critical in restoring relationships with consumers. Employees need to amplify empathy, sensing what people need and then adapting their service to the human in front of them.”

Jason Bradshaw, Chief Customer and Marketing Office for Volkswagen, discussed the rapid pace of change business leaders were working at, “every night leaders go to bed thinking they’re sorted and they wake up and things have changed.”

Jason argued customers and employees need clear and consistent communications. In times of crisis, people seek concise and regular communication, information and direction; without this, people will become uneasy.

Jaquie commented on the importance of relevant communications and not adding more noise at a time when customers are bombarded with texts and emails on the Covid-19 crisis from organisations.

We then turned our attention to employee wellbeing. Jason noted that it was the first time ever that employees were working remotely and we need to find ways to keep connected with our employees – such as a Zoom morning and afternoon tea every day. He said, “it’s easy to forget that a large part of work is social, ‘how are you?’, ‘what did you do on the weekend?’ … hallway conversations to enables us to share and vent.”

Jaquie added, because of the crisis, many organisation didn’t have a customer base to serve, but still had employees and this was leading to a shift in focus to employee wellbeing; supporting employees working from home and keeping employees physically and emotionally healthy.

Our discussion shifted to what customers expect from organisations in times of crisis?

Alex believes, “How well organisations respond, or not, will be remembered. People are existing in a heightened emotional state and these emotions act like a highlighter emphasising the memorable aspects of our experiences. These experiences are what we remember and what will influence our future behavior.”

Alex also said, “In CX management, organisational focus begins with delivering the customer expectation basics of, ‘easy to understand, easy to use and easy to access.’ In this time of uncertainly, safety represents ‘new value’ and has quickly become the fourth customer expectation.”

A great example was the grocery retailer Harris Farm where their actions have sent a clear message; ‘your wellbeing is important to us’. They are protecting employees and customers through the installation of perspex screens on cash registers, cleaners sanitise registers every hour and they have changed company policy on cash transactions from customers. Additionally, all employees have been offered a flu vaccination paid for by the company.

Jaquie commented that people value human connection at these times, “above price, product quality, convenience – businesses that deliver emotional connection will accelerate performance.” Jacquie also believes that people at this time of crisis value being heard, helping them to feel like they matter.

Audience member Greg Mermen commented that he values fairness at this time.

He’d experienced his health insurer holding back increasing his annual premium, deferring his payments for three months. He said “this helps build trust, like we’re all in this together.”

Alex added, if we’re acting in fairness we’re leading with empathy. Customer empathy is putting yourself in the customer’s/employee’s shoes to understanding their experiences; feeling what they’re feeling and then using this in decision making.

She said, “instead of being hard nose commercial about business decisions, you’re asking, if we make this decision what will be the impact on our customers? How can we adapt our policies and procedures, pricing to help our customers get back on their feet?”

Another audience member asked, ‘When is the right time to market to customers?’

Jason responded most businesses are doing positive messaging at this time. His guiding question is, “is this piece of marketing communications necessary? Do we really have to do this? If not, we don’t need more noise.”

The next question Jason asks is, “is this message being delivered at the right time with the right tone?” He gave the example of an email from a hotel that offered him double reward points by staying at one of their hotels. Whilst they desperately needed the business this message is clearly not the right time or tone. 

CX Folk member Tom Scantlebury asked, What’s the future of CX, will we see less or more  budget for CX?

Jaquie is optimistic, her position is, organistaions need to read customer signals and she urged CX leaders to make use of customer data for critical decision making.

Jason suggested CX leaders needed to have spent time working with their CFO’s to show the CX ROI, “if they’ve done a good job then the CX budgets won’t be disproportionately reduced as a comparison to what else is happening in the business.”

However, his fear is that organisations will put CX to one side until they get over the revenue hurdle and “we can’t forget that the customer is part of the bounce back.”

Alex said she was excited about the future post-crisis. Data shows after every big recession there’s a boom. History shows that the brands who prioritise creativity and innovation in solving customer problems in different ways are the brands that create wonderful new-world experiences.

Alex continued, “Organisations that are contemplating putting CX investment on hold to focus on revenue and shareholder return without considering their customers’ new needs are handing the biggest opportunity since the Great Depression to their competitors.” And,  “Experiences that we all know and love will come from delivering products and services that are relevant to customers in the post crisis new world.”

On a final note, stay tuned for our next CX Folk meet up. In the interim, take care and stay safe.