Even before the word “COVID” entered our vocabularies and the pandemic ruled our lives, ideas around customer engagement were changing.
Where previously the effort and resources had been piled into the acquisition phase, some organizations were thinking more about what happened once they acquired the customer.
Because if the customer experience didn’t live up to the promise during the acquisition, then those customers would churn.
So, what was the point of a one-off sale, if customers leave and let others know your organization delivered an underwhelming experience? This is the case in both B2C and B2B transactions.
Maximizing retention for acquisition
With this in mind, customer experience and post acquisition customer care have grown in importance as organizations work harder to retain their customers. They are also using their advocacy as a way of acquisition and growing the customer base.
This was on the agenda at the Forrester CX Sydney event recently, delivered virtually when the analyst group had to do their own pivot as a result of the pandemic.
One organization to present at the event was Forrester affiliate SiriusDecisions, a U.S.-based B2B research and advisory firm.
In their research brief, entitled “Customer Engagement: Leading in a Time of Crisis,” SiriusDecisions showed that the current crisis is a “proving ground for organizations’ commitment to customer experience”
It would, they say, “accelerate the trend toward increased focus on the post-sale lifecycle, including retention of the customer base.”
The research brief goes through a range of scenarios around emerging trends and recommends both an immediate crisis response and approaches around longer term reassessment and planning.
Here are some examples:
Hastening the pivot to existing customers
Immediate: Support customers with clear, consistent messaging, while recognizing that customers are experiencing a wide range of situations and emotions.
Longer term: Customer engagement functions stand to gain new insights into customer concerns. Gather insights and examples from the current experience because they will be useful for future planning.
Business case and measurement
Immediate: The crisis is creating an environment in which this area needs to be re-justified. Use this period as a check-in process. Planning could be turned on its head as some organizations focus on cost containment. Leaders in customer engagement should remind the organization of the value of post-sale engagement, using existing examples from customer journeys.
Longer term: Additional measures need to be understood as drivers of customer retention in the new reality. Pick up existing threads which contain data around customer advocacy and use them for future planning.
Customer Lifecycle and Retention
Immediate: Suspend upsell targets in favor of retention and engagement. Onboard new users or customers as fast as possible, and consider shifting resources to this phase of the cycle.
Longer term: The crisis will uncover compelling findings about adoption, retention and growth. Roll these findings into ongoing approaches and begin or speed up “silo-busting” with real-world examples and data.
Customer Insights and Analytics
Immediate: Dial back on surveys. Surveys might seem like an expedient way to gather insights, but right now customers might not be so receptive. Hold off on wide-ranging surveys and look at different ways of gathering information on customer needs.
Longer term: Understand that the crisis might throw up diverse responses, such as drops in satisfaction scores or engagement. Data from periods of uncertainty delivers valuable information, but avoid making the assumption that these patterns will continue.
Immediate: The employee experience will feed the customer experience, and employees convey the best and clearest information when they also have clarity themselves. In a crisis such as COVID-19, customers' emotional needs are best met by organizations which give firm support to their own teams.
Longer term: Keep track of friction, overlap and gaps in communication to inform future planning for employee enablement and governance. Understand if the organization’s communication with customers is fragmented and lacks governance and take action if this is an issue. It may require more discipline in outgoing communications from employees to customers.
Taken as a whole, the research shows that — challenging as it is — the COVID-19 period can also be an opportunity for change and transformation.
In an environment where relationships with customers will often be tested, some leading organizations will have their approaches validated, and it will speed up some emerging trends.
For others, it’s a chance to understand what they are doing wrong, and an opportunity to change direction rapidly.
Photo credit: iStockphoto/AaronAmat