Jabian Consulting frequently hosts intimate roundtables with like-minded leaders to foster connections and share insights. On May 13, we hosted a virtual ‘Meeting of the Minds’ with 18 CX leaders across four cities. The Jabian-facilitated discussion centered on experience strategies amidst COVID-19, plans for recovery, and how experiences may transform in the next normal. In the hopes that other leaders can learn, we would like to share anonymized and distilled insights from the discussion with you here.

We captured four key themes across three concurrent sessions of 18 participants:

1. Helping Customers – Accelerate Insights, Adapt and Evolve with Empathy

2.   Interlinked Human Experience – Connecting Employees and Customers

3.   Shifted Security Design Principle Focus Areas – Sanitation and Cyber

4.   Digital Tipping Point – Self-Service and Contactless Demands

Let’s dig-in to the details –

Helping Customers – Accelerate Insights, Adapt and Evolve with Empathy

Companies are asking themselves “what can we do to help?” The need to understand what the market is saying, and then transform solutions to align quickly, has accelerated. While CX practitioners have always created solutions through an empathetic lens, we are seeing larger parts of organizations outside of CX adopt this lens as well. Retaining or achieving customer loyalty and trust is requiring attention to new base needs. Delivering contact-less sanitary interactions are key focus areas for many organizations as a result. One attendee suggested practicing the “3 R’s” to encourage the adaption and evolution of the empathy needed: Resilience, Return, and Reimagine.

Some organizations are rethinking customer archetypes, personas, and segments by reframing how the customer is both impacted and responding to those impacts. CX leaders are focusing on how to respond to virtual needs and wants in addition to the customers’ willingness to return to the physical marketplace. There is also an increased focus on the intersection of the two for the foreseeable future. 

Companies are also aligning to their values in how they help their communities holistically. Leaders discussed examples of giving back through repurposing their products, adjusting the goods they manufacture, and donating funds in ways that align to their missions. Companies noted that acting upon core values is not only a brand differentiator but also a social responsibility.

Interlinked Human Experience – Connecting Employees and Customers

Leaders are working towards fostering trust and brand relevancy across the continuum of employees and customers. This includes increasing transparent communication between the ecosystem of customers, employees, and leaders.

Internally, team leads are empowering employees to make more critical decisions. Trusting leadership is removing red tape so employees can best help a customer creatively. For example, contact centers are adjusting measurements and incentives to enable that creativity. Layered on top of new customer needs, many employees are also newly working remotely. Mature leadership looks like elevating remote employees with thanks and trust, while protecting them from burn out, not micro-managing productivity. As working from home and new procedures were implemented extremely quickly, leaders observed how important it is to ensure employees are adequately retrained so that they can individually meet customer needs. One attendee advised, “If you have the right culture, and toolset, you can still be effective regardless of where you are.” Finally, videoconference calls are the new meeting norm. They bring coworkers within personal spaces- humanizing the concept of professionalism. Another attendee noted “It seems we are learning how to be truly personal after losing being face-to-face.”

Externally, customers are not loyal to a particular product- especially when confronted with product scarcity and closed brick and mortar doors. However, companies are working to remain relevant as a brand. This includes bringing comfort and connection to people – employees and customers – in creative ways aligned to core brand purpose. Focus has shifted from transactional to human well-being. This transparency is creating community with customers. By being more aware of what companies and their employees are going through, customers feel ownership in the brand experience. Customers are showing increased empathy to these employees, relating to the team members of companies’ they interact with, and participating in marketing companies to thank front line workers.

And though we recognize that many companies are being hit by reduced demand, certain skills to meet new customer needs are seeing spikes in needs across key industries. Companies are preparing for how those will remain or flatten. For some roles, greater weight is being put on personality tests to get to know candidates better as a compliment to virtual interviews. In this work from home world, especially for corporate roles, ‘self-starter’ is a valued trait.

Shifted Security Design Principle Focus Areas – Sanitation and Cyber

Companies are observing a shift in needs regarding safety and security. Physical security remains a base need in the sense of guarding from those that would intentionally harm, keeping machinery up to date, and following safety procedures to reduce general risk. However, greater emphasis is being put on protecting people physically in the sanitary sense. Companies are staying current on shifts in health guidelines. This includes ensuring employees are safe in their current work (e.g. as essential workers) and creating measures to keep employees safe when the broader team returns to work in-person. It also includes creating a safe and sanitary environment for customers.

In addition, cyber security has a renewed focus as digital services evolve and are being used more. As digital services have evolved – information security is also under a spotlight.

Layered over the primary concern of maintaining a safe environment, companies are considering how best to communicate updated procedures. They are concerned that customers will not purchase products from companies they do not trust. 

Digital Tipping Point – Self-Service and Contactless Demands

Companies are observing a forced acceleration of digital products and services. Customers are expecting digital interactions, leadership and partners are willing to invest, employees are willing to learn, and adoption trends have increased. Aligning the end-to-end brand experience of harmonized channels has renewed focus.

More customers are requesting self-service options, training on digital products, and the ability to interact with companies within a broader range of hours. Companies are anchoring to customer needs, considering which processes are impacted, looking at how they are traditionally delivered, and asking why. “What does this digital shift make possible in terms of how we’d deliver?” Then companies are codifying the change and delivering in a new channel, in a new way. This digital change is not just for B2C companies. Every customer is an end-user consumer. Every business is full of consumers with digital expectations. More and more B2C/B2B is just B2E (B2Everyone).

One attendee did want to note that “digital platform changes go beyond usability.” As needs and users of tools have grown, companies are also addressing increased volume/bandwidth demands.

Through digital tools, companies are doing the same or more with fewer people. Employees are requesting training on features of tools not used before that would help them scale. Teams are adding self-service functions to meet customer demand, but also exploring opportunities for automation. Alternative methods and channels to serve the customer can expand revenue, reduce costs, and drive customer satisfaction. Where the need remains, companies are seeking to retain their new and improved channel mix through recovery.

For more information on Jabian or to discuss your strategic customer needs, reach out to Lydia Slotten ([email protected]).