Originally published on LitmusWorld.

 

In a time of crisis, a brand’s customer experience becomes the most valuable asset it has. It not only offers customers the stability and reliability they need, it also offers them the opportunity for human connection, to be heard and understood.

 

We’ve talked for years in the CX community about the voice of the customer. We’ve used words like “empathy” and “trust” to describe how we should try to understand customers as human beings and respond to them as real people. But is empathy enough?

 

Is it enough to care if we don’t take caring action? Is it enough to listen to the voice of the customer if we don’t use it to inform our decisions?

 

The brands that truly listen to their customers, understand what they need, anticipate what they want, and respond rapidly will not only survive this pandemic, they will emerge from the other side as the leaders of their categories. It is vital we understand how COVID-19 has impacted CX and how to help our clients navigate this time in a way that best positions them for long-term success.

 

Empathy 2.0

We use the word empathy all the time. It’s how we understand other people, what they need, what challenges they face, and how we can help. It’s what we use to help brands establish a stronger, deeper connection with their customers.

 

While the response to the pandemic may have increased the physical distance between people, it has also increased their need for human connection. More than ever before, people want to feel connected to others, to feel safe and secure.

 

In this environment, listening to customers takes on a greater importance. Brands must make it their mission to understand their customers better and across more channels than ever before. The customer landscape is constantly changing, and by implementing an agile customer listening and response strategy, brands can ensure they rapidly adapt to this change and future-proof their business. Consider several crucial elements of an effective strategy:

  • Social listening and customer sentiment. This treasure trove of brand perception data is a great way to keep a pulse on what customers want and need. Leverage it to understand customer tone, emotion, and emerging attitudes.
  • Underlying data and analytics. Use the information you must connect data silos to be smarter and show customers “you know them,” “you understand them,” and “you’ll take care of them.”
  • Humanize the digital experience. As companies have pivoted to leverage their digital capabilities over the last several months and business operations continue to resume, brands should proactively focus on the emotional connection to the customer and find ways to humanize digital interactions. Be out in front of this trend and provide options for purchasing, delivering, and servicing that combine human and online elements. Be sensitive to your customers’ needs – empathize with their situation and provide relevant, useful information and guidance.

 

Healthcare and the Patient Experience

While all industries have had to lift and shift their business practices during COVID-19, the healthcare industry is worth examining in more detail. Traditionally considered a laggard in CX, the industry has had to rethink its business models and we’ve seen the patient experience at the center, particularly in telemedicine. While the first wave of telemedicine was comparable to a band aid fix, it is here to stay as patients adapt to, and grow to expect, the better experience that comes along with it.

 

A recent study by doctor.com found that 83% of patients are likely to use telemedicine after COVID-19. When done right, telemedicine provides the opportunity for more effective, holistic, and personalized care. Providers that have fully embraced it have not only made things easier for their patients, they have ultimately cemented telemedicine as an integral step in the patient journey.

 

COVID-19 has necessitated significant changes in CX across industries, and telemedicine and digital transformation companies have undergone at rapid speed are just two examples. In some cases, what would normally take years to accomplish has been accomplished in mere months as companies realize that these changes are no longer elective, but necessary, to meet customers where they are. The winners in healthcare, just like other industries, will be those that make this a long-term opportunity to enhance the and evolve the patient experience.

 

What Comes Next? Connections with a Higher Purpose

This crisis has brought many new challenges, but I believe there are some silver linings. As we help our clients navigate the rapidly changing landscape of customer needs, we will need to stay open to new tools, new strategies, and innovations that empower us and them to meet these challenges.

 

The companies that deliver on these expectations won’t just survive this pandemic, they will be among the leaders in each industry who significantly grow the connection with their customers, and in turn, their business.

 

My hope is that we grow from these times and look for ways to connect and lead with a greater sense of purpose and humanity, while trusting and truly taking care of our employees and customers.

 

Karyn Furstman

Karyn Furstman

VP and Head of CX Strategy & Solutions, Rational CX

@rational_cx

Karyn has more than 30 years' experience in customer experience (CX), brand, strategy, marketing, product development and training. She has held multiple Chief Customer Officer positions for banking, insurance, and technology companies and has consulted with a spectrum of consumer and B2B companies. Karyn was a founding board member and board chair of the Customer Experience Professionals Association. She is a Certified CX Professional (CCXP), Lean certified, and a Six Sigma Master Black Belt.

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