It’s time to wrap up another year. 2021 was another strange, unpredictable, not-quite-back-to-normal trip.
When it came to customer experience, leaders dealt with all sorts of changes and challenges.
- The introduction of vaccines led to some employees coming back to the office. And some swearing they’ll never return.
- Customers were able to pick out their produce again at the grocery store. But many decided the grocery delivery services they discovered during the shut downs were ideal for their lives.
- Schools opened and closed and quarantined cohorts. Parents juggled uncertain schedules and bus driver shortages!
- And our on-demand world was not as on time this year. Shipments were delayed, microchips were in short supply, and the great resignation led to organizational charts written in pencil.
The best-laid plans were often hard to execute as originally envisioned.
In short, it was another year of change and adaptation. And 2022 looks like it will be another twelve months of uncertainty. But some things won’t change. That’s where customer experience leaders can lean in and really lead in this new year.
Here are a few ideas for any leader dedicated to creating better days ahead for their customers and employees.
1. Communicate and support employees serving customers in bigger and more consistent ways.
It’s time to accept the “expected unexpected.”
We now know how volatile the world can feel. We also know that not everyone is great with change — sudden or otherwise.
That means that customers, employees and humans are dealing with anxieties and frustrations in ways that have led to some unfortunate or even dangerous situations. There were more air rage incidents this year than in any year since the airline industry started recording these types of situations, for example.
Customer experience leaders need to think through the ways customers and employees might be in unfamiliar situations.
This means considering all the ways customers might need guidance and support when navigating a new process. It also means considering how to inform customers about new rules or options.
This is especially important to consider for your frontline workers like cashiers, customer service representatives, and customer success managers. What do they need to know, hear and do to best communicate when things don’t go as planned?
CX leaders can play an important role by collaborating with leaders throughout the organization. What expectations can be reset for customers, and how? What can we predict about the supply chain, high-stress customer situations, or what moments are most important in the customer’s journey?
Using techniques like root cause analysis and customer journey mapping can help leaders really understand and prepare.
2. Make 2022 the year you close the loop.
Customers have been providing feedback and not hearing much from those who hear it. That’s why leaders need to recommit to not just listening to the customer’s voice, but letting them know they’ve heard them.
This means knowing how to not only respond to customers, but to act on their feedback and ideas. CX leaders can build coalitions with other leaders to get them involved and respond.
Closing the loop also means bringing closure to the people and teams in your organization who solve those customer issues and create better outcomes. Share the wins throughout the organization so employees can connect the way their everyday actions impact the customer.
Customer feedback will continue to be a key factor in preparing for the future, but only if the feedback is acted on, communicated and reported back to the customer.
3. Look ahead with a focus on the big picture.
Don’t get bogged down with the details on the dashboard. Remember to think big about your customer experience goals and how they can help your organization achieve not just company goals but goals for the world at large.
IKEA recently announced they are looking at ways to design their furniture to help achieve their sustainability goals, particularly because they believe it will help their customers live better lives.
It is becoming increasingly important to respond to short-term, urgent situations. But leaders need to keep on eye on the horizon beyond the staffing shortages and supply chain disruptions.
As you look to next year and beyond, invest in the proven ways to manage your customer experience.
- Smart organizations use centralized data to provide visibility and knowledge throughout the customer’s journey. Customers want to be seen and recognized for who they are and where they are on the journey. That means providing the right information at the right time to the right person.
- Leverage available technologies to serve the customer in meaningful ways. Augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) are becoming more common to help customers make decisions for their real lives. QR codes allow customers and employees to interact and engage with various tools in ways that are safe and sustainable. Look for the touchpoints along the customer’s journey that could better serve customers with these technologies.
- Consider how to care for customers and employees in bigger ways. American Airlines offers the meditation and mindfulness app Calm on some flights and contact center employees are encouraged to take self-care breaks when needed. The uncertainty of the times we live in has created a stress crisis. CX leaders can look for ways to better serve customers by identifying where some stress and anxiety can be reduced proactively.
What innovations or ideas do you think we’ll see in the new year?
2022 will bring its own set of surprises. And customer experience leaders will be there to work with other leaders and help live the mission of their organization.