Why Customer & Employee Experience is Even More Important During COVID-19

Aug 25, 2020 9:00:00 AM

#EdifyChat Recap | August 12, 2020

Employees, contact center agents, and customers have all had something in common these past few months -- they’re stuck at home (for the most part). Myself included, as a customer and as an employee. After months of stay-at-home orders, our experiences with other people and with businesses have become very few and far between, heightening every interaction we have. Edify hosted a Twitter Chat recently, and here’s what people had to say about customer experience (CX) and employee experience (EX) in the COVID-19-era.

Why is CX even more important during COVID-19?  

Customers are looking for calm and confidence right now. And customers expect effortless interactions, whether they take place online, over the phone, or even the rare, masked in-person shopping trip these days. 

“Customers need reassurance, safety, convenience, and simplicity...Your customers will remember how they were treated by your company during COVID-19 and they will repay you either with loyalty or defection.- Dan Gingiss

“People are feeling disconnected from one another and from the companies they patronize. So, as they decide where to spend right now, the experience is almost even more important than the thing or service they're buying.” - Candace Sheitelman

“The need to stay connected with customers and to be empathetic is important today during COVID-19 more than ever before.” - Lucy Kiruthu

“Communication is the easy answer; execution of that is hard when really no one has the answers or knows what comes next. So, the key is to focus on trust - which is what I think we mean by ‘safe’ at all times - and not wait until you need to establish it.” - Cameron Weeks

“I liked how Dan Gingiss phrased this during last week’s episode of The Experience Maker: it’s increasingly easy to copy products, and competing on price is inevitably a losing strategy — CX is the best variable to win with.” - Chris Strub

Why is EX important during COVID-19?

The employee experience brands deliver directly impacts the CX. Happy agents make for happy customers. If your employees and agents are set up for success working from home and feel empowered to help customers, the result will be a remarkable CX.

“First, it [EX] is always the most important! With the extra stress of COVID-19, ensuring your team feels properly supported to support your customers is critical.”  - Cameron Weeks

“Your employees’ lives have been upended just like everyone else’s. They may be working from home for the first time, possibly with kids and pets as constant distractions. And they fear for their jobs and the economy generally. We can’t expect employees to project calm and confidence to customers unless they feel calm and confident themselves.” - Dan Gingiss

What are some ways that companies can make customers and employees feel safe?

The most successful brands quickly figured out ways to pivot or remain open in a new capacity, and even improve their offerings with safety in mind. The pandemic brought us massively expanded curbside pickup options, touchless payments, and plexiglass dividers. Dan Gingiss says, “Some of these [new practices] might continue well after the pandemic ends because they improve the overall experience…” See what else people had to say.

“Communication goes a long way toward making people feel safe. Early and often... tell them what you do know, and what you do not.” - Candace Sheitelman

“Show empathy. This should be easier now than at any time in history because we are all going through the same thing at the same time. When we can identify with our customers and employees, we innately know what they need from us.” - Dan Gingiss

“As others have mentioned, communication and as much transparency as possible. People want to know what is going on as much as possible. I love a Q&A section that is monitored by a People and Culture team or something like a weekly newsletter.” - Ryan Baker 

“Over-communicate. Don’t bring additional stress from miscommunication, not being accountable, and bad leadership. RESPECT THEIR TIME.” - Yasza Media

“The best way to help everyone feel safe is by understanding — not guessing — what truly makes them feel safe. This might not be as obvious as you think. You can only understand if they tell you! So start by asking!” - Mary Drummond

How should companies communicate new safety protocols?

We all seem to agree on two things: share new info in as many places as possible and show -  rather than tell - whenever possible. When brands implement new cleaning procedures to ensure customer safety, for example, why not shoot a video to show it instead of sending a plain email? SMS/text has never been a more widely accepted method of communication either; it’s still under-utilized yet one of the most natural conversation channels available. Use it wisely! Here’s what our participants had to say:

“Clear. Direct. And if you can, witty... because everyone could use a smile.”  - Cameron Weeks

“Creative pivots are here to stay...ordered my egg McMuffin on my phone and @McDonalds brought it right to my car in the parking lot...skipped the doctor’s appt bc @Teladoc can treat me at home...why go back to the drive-thru or the waiting room post-COVID??” - Rich Mahogany

“Recent appointment reminders from my doctor and dentist’s offices included new safety procedures. It saves everyone time - and provides more peace of mind - when the new protocols are communicated in advance.” - Kay Phelps

“I love receiving a quick rundown of new policies and procedures via text too.” - Kendal Rodgers (that’s me, BTW!)

“Make sure you are addressing your customers’ (and employees’) immediate concerns. For example, @CharlesSchwab knew their customers were worried about a volatile stock market, so they provided tips and resources on how to manage through the volatility.” - Dan Gingiss

What is the role of customer service during the pandemic?

Contact centers around the world have been bombarded with additional calls, emails, texts, tweets...you name it. Without face-to-face interactions taking place, your front-line agents (who are usually unseen) have become front and center. Ensuring a pre-pandemic response and resolution time - or perhaps even a better one - is critical to maintaining a strong level of customer service especially during a pandemic. As Dan Gingiss said, “Empower your customer service agents to solve problems for customers even more than before.” If there’s ever been a time to empower your agents to ditch the script and have a budget to create memorable experiences for your customers, that time is NOW. Allow them to make things right even if it costs a little extra. They’ll feel good doing it, and chances are, your customers will remain loyal.

“Now more then ever your customer service team is the face of your brand.” - Cameron Weeks

“Ideally it's a lot of what we've talked about here: making customers feel safe, secure in their buying decisions, and happy with their CX.” -  Candace Sheitelman

“Even more so now, I think a versatile and resilient team is essential because, for many brands, things are changing at a moment’s notice...Continue to lead with a lot of care. People are going through so much.” - Ryan Baker 

“Agents must be well versed in the company’s COVID-19 response, whether it be safety protocols or new policies regarding curbside pickup, the handling of cash, product returns, and the like. Well-informed agents can resolve more problems for customers.” - Dan Gingiss

What are some things to avoid during COVID-19?

Aside from people avoiding crowds, indoor areas, and dinner parties with friends, there’s a lot to think about from a business standpoint. It’s important to acknowledge how this is impacting your brand and your customers, while providing alternatives for customers. Whether it’s a contactless drop-off of a rental car, or mailing a customer their cable box instead of showing up with one, small acts can have big impacts on customers. Here’s what else several thought leaders had to say:

“Don’t pretend that the pandemic isn’t happening.” - Dan Gingiss

“Don’t let COVID-19 be an excuse for making it hard for customers to engage to resolve a problem. Your technology isn’t your customer’s problem.” - Cameron Weeks

“Don’t just “check the box.” Too many companies just copy everyone else, and their communications and actions come off as being disingenuous. Take the time to enact policies and procedures that make sense for your company, employees, and customers.” - Dan Gingiss

“Inclusivity doesn’t end when the pandemic begins. With the mask-wearing and new protocols at play, don’t forget to consider ALL of your customers’ and employees’ needs.” - Kendal Rodgers 

What will we all learn from this that will impact CX in the future? 

The most successful companies have weathered this pandemic by being both proactive and reactive. They pivoted quickly as new facts emerged. Dan Gingiss shared the example of alcohol companies that shifted to producing hand sanitizer. Some retailers began offering by-appointment-only shopping experiences. Can’t stay open to the public? Why not give all of your customers the kind of personalized experience and attention that might have felt out-of-reach before the pandemic.

The key takeaway here is to take business continuity planning seriously, to ensure you have the technology necessary to be fully remote across the globe, and to pivot your CX to what meets customer expectations at every moment.

“Re: Business continuity...The need for flexible, globally-available technology has never been more evident than it is right now.” - Edify

“If there was any doubt at all, cloud-native is the only way forward.” - Cameron Weeks

“Dan said it well. Nothing should be off the table when talking about possible crisis/business situations in the future. Many brands have been faced with things they NEVER planned for, some aren’t even their fault… ‘Being prepared’ has a whole new meaning.” - Ryan Baker 

“Hopefully we’ve all learned that working from home actually WORKS when you have the right setup and the right technology to stay connected.” - Kendal Rodgers 

“How we treat customers and employees in their time of need will play a big role in their decisions to stick with our company when the pandemic ends. A memorable CX leads to reduced customer churn, an increase in spend and loyalty, and referrals.” - Dan Gingiss

Be sure to follow us on Twitter so you can join in the next time we host an #EdifyChat.

Kendal Rodgers

Written by Kendal Rodgers

Kendal is the Marketing Manager at Edify and has been writing and curating content most of her professional career. She’s passionate about working with start-ups and sharing life experiences through storytelling. Kendal earned her B.S. in Marketing and International Studies from the IU Kelley School of Business.