We live in a world that is increasingly connected and with this connection, the importance of the global economy only grows. When uncertainty affects one of the major players in the global economy, it ripples throughout the world like a stone cast into water. These ripples can often seem like waves throughout business; causing markets to become bearish instead of bullish, companies to cease hiring, and consumers afraid to spend. It is during these times that good customer experience (CX) is more important than ever.
It’s no secret that people are anxiously looking for answers during economic uncertainty. Economic uncertainty and global trends are worrying to consumers, businesses, and governments alike and without a coordinated response, people begin to panic. Since the financial crisis in 2008, more and more businesses are prepared with “30-percent of business leaders expect[ing] more than one crisis to hit their business within the next three years” according to a report by PWC.
Why does this matter? Because during times like these, trust has never been more important within your own company and with your customers. With everyone looking for assurance that the world is going to pull through, that trust is a golden lining for your business; not to increase profit, but to retain customers and provide excellent CX. This long-term play is meant to build your customer relationships into life-long partnerships.
It’s not about building profit for next month or year over year when a crisis hits, but rather about taking the hand of your customers and walking the journey with them. That is what excellent CX is all about, a partnership with your customers. “A knee-jerk reaction to an economic slowdown is to curtail expenses,” Forbes contributor Jon Picoult comments. An expert in CX, Picoult demonstrates how companies with good CX fared better than other companies. While still taking a hit due to a general lack of spending on their customer’s part, the CX retains customer loyalty for a two-way business relationship founded on value and it is this point that solidifies CX companies during an economic downturn.
Those business leaders who are invested in maintaining excellent CX know that it matters always—not just during times of growth but also during economic uncertainty. Time and time again, it’s important to remember that CX is a long-term business strategy, a hands-on, constantly evolving business strategy to improve constantly to maintain and increase customer loyalty. If your customers know that you are in for the long-haul beside them, they will be more apt to navigate it alongside your business if you’ve proved to be a valuable partner through consistent CX. But don’t be mistaken, CX can have an immediate impact on your company and customers, but for real change, a long term strategy is needed.
Anticipating and Accepting Change in the Market
Economic change creates new patterns, needs, and realities. Customers have control of the market and are making decisions based on their emotions. In fact, the Harvard Business Review states that customers become emotionally invested in a brand and have emotional motivators to increase their loyalty. As humans, when we are uncertain, we move towards the comfortable and familiar, and that includes brands.
During periods of economic change, everyday essentials including food and living expenses often increase alongside inflation which causes consumers to cut back on spending and this ripple effect hits businesses in their bottom line regardless of their CX. However, companies with better CX fare better during these times by listening and adapting to the changes customers.
Think about this: If you’re feeling uncertain, chances are your customers are too. Which makes it even more important to stop, listen, and engage. Be their guide and companion on this journey focused on building and maintaining that relationship, not the profit margin.
CX strategy starts with a mindset—yours.
What Can You Do Besides React?
Circling again around this point of uncertainty, there’s often a strong desire to react, shore-up the defenses and walls, tighten the bottom line, or “cut the fat” in business. However, the first step is the most important: Don’t panic. If nothing else is followed, this point is crucial to future prosperity. Companies who panic and have knee-jerk reactions to economic fluctuation are not thinking holistically but rather in a reactionary sense. Knee-jerk responses skew your customer metrics, eliminate projects that could pay off in the long run, and harm potential business. They are also short term solutions to a long-term problem and customers constantly caused panic by a company’s reaction will move to a competitor, costing that company a great deal of revenue.
If you’re looking for a few more ideas to survive times of economic uncertainty, think about the following options to increase CX without finding yourself in a perilous financial situation.
Optimize, Don’t Slash Budgets
“Department heads need to look beyond simple expense trimming and instead focus on optimizing what they already have,” says Leonard Klie, stressing that cutting numbers doesn’t truly matter but finding what projects will provide more value in the long-run allows companies to optimize. Internal investment makes a difference between surviving a slow economic period and losing everything from employees to customers. It’s always easy to slash an item in a budget sheet that appears to be an extra expenditure but later, the consequences are impactful because there is no longer any budget for an item that actually is needed. While it makes sense to trim out a few things, it makes more sense to optimize via technology and internal teams to make for a stronger overall business.
Don’t Devalue Your Employees
Your employees are part of the heartbeat that makes your organization successful. When cutting costs, companies can sometimes implement hiring freezes which can spell disaster for employees and, in turn, customers. Hiring freezes can be very beneficial to an organization, but it should not be a knee-jerk reaction to economic uncertainty. Instead, invest in your current employees and have them be your advocates to customers to increase engagement.
Invest in Intangibles
You can invest without spending a dime if you’re willing to put in the time. Time is an intangible investment to use during the normal ebb and flow of business. This investment can come internally and externally, making it a huge win for your business long term. How? Relationships with customers are intangible but emotional investments, increasing customer loyalty. The adage time is money does ring true in business and this investment is something that will demonstrate ROI down the road rather than in the near future. While a good CX strategy can note an increase in metrics, a great CX strategy notes both the numerical increases and the intangible increases in equal measure because they are a long term investment. Additionally, invest in actually listening to your customers, it will go a long wait to increase customer satisfaction and making them feel valued.
Automate and Empower
Customers are in control and they want to do more for themselves meaning that if they don’t have to write an email or make a phone call, they won’t. Customers want to feel some autonomy in their interactions with a business, especially when it comes to solving problems. This is where you can empower your customers in two ways, automation and self-help portals. Automation, in the form of chatbots, can help customers solve their problems with little effort and with Forrester saying that 2020 is the year of the chatbots, this is a solid investment. Additionally, without automation, self-help portals make for a robust problem-solving solution for customers by empowering them to find their own answers and share experiences.
The most important thing to remember during economic uncertainty is that it’s just a pause, not the end of business. Patience, a clear head, and a solid CX strategy are more important than ever when these times come because you’re in it for the long-haul.
Join us for an exploration of CX in our webinar on April 29, 2020 at 5 PM CEST/11 AM EDT/8 AM PDT
Growth Through Service: Why CX is Essential Right Now