Remaining customer focused in the aftermath of a crisis is the key to survival

The Covid-19 crisis took us all by surprise last year.


The Covid-19 crisis took us all by surprise last year. As we dramatically changed our lifestyles, companies were forced to rapidly transform their operations to serve our new stay-at-home needs.

Initial emergency responses took the form of short-term decisions intended to drive operational resilience and solvency. And now, those urgent business responses have been slowly replaced with longer-term plans to account for a new normal.

But there are still numerous uncertainties, including predictions of a further wave and vaccination supply shortages, and these make planning for the future a very challenging exercise.

However, one thing is becoming increasingly clear: “in the midst of every crisis, lies great opportunity” (Albert Einstein).

The following steps will help you stay customer-focused and take advantage of the current situation:

Engage your customer with authenticity

This unsettling environment is a good chance to show your customers that you are there for them. Keep them engaged with open and honest communications that show them you care and are staying true to your values even in the most difficult of times. Find simple ways of showing them that they can still rely on you. For instance, Telcos have been giving customers unlimited data so they can stay connected with their friends and family. Grocery retailers offered at-risk customers special store timeslots and honoured their loyal customers with early booking slots. Take this chance to show your customers that you deserve their loyalty now, and are in it for the long haul.

Listen to your customers with empathy

With the lockdown, consumer behaviours, habits, and needs have completely changed. So in order for your business to thrive - or even survive - the voice of the customer has never been more important. On the bright side, with the surge in online shopping and the use of digital channels, there has never been so much insightful data available. A study from Pega estimates that CX leaders are investing in customer data platforms (53%) and real-time decision engines (45%) to take advantage of this. Beyond the data and analytics, follow these simple rules:

  • Listen with empathy to really understand what your customers are going through and what this crisis has meant for them
  • Be curious about what has changed for them, and how your products and services are still needed or are no longer adding value for them 
  • Be open to learning new insights and identifying new needs. 

Adapt and transform your organisation with purpose

As you decipher the impacts of this pandemic on your organisation, make sure to put the customer's needs at the heart of your business strategy. This is a great chance to apply design thinking methods to come up with innovative ways to adapt and transform your business in order to drive customer experience while being able to balance your costs. For example, some organisations are using customers’ shift to digital channels to improve their digital customer service by scaling their virtual contact centres and deploying new automated self-services like chatbots and IVR (interactive voice response) solutions. Retail organisations understood that their customers were missing the “in-shop experience” and quickly launched online personal assistant services or “virtual store experiences” to recreate the feeling customers have when browsing in-store, and are even exploring “virtual squad shopper technology” that allows you to shop online with your friends. 

Follow Agile ways of working to deliver value with speed

As consumer sentiment and rules change, this is also a great time to adopt agile ways of working to deliver new projects and capture customer demand. Tesco, for example, quickly shifted its operating model to double the number of its delivery slots in less than 2 months after lockdown started. Focus on slicing your changes or enhancements to your current products and services, or the development of new ones by delivering MVPs (minimum viable products) that will allow you to test and get early feedback from your customers. This will enable you to improve your products and services as you develop them, whilst allowing you to pivot at any given point and react to changing customer needs. As a result, you will avoid wasting any money at a time where cash flow is constrained. 

As consumer confidence slowly returns, some organisations will find themselves in a better position to serve these customers than others. A relentless focus on staying close to your customers and understanding how your organisation needs to evolve to continue to meet their needs will be a key differentiator to place yourself ahead of the curve.

If you want to get under the skin of your customer experience, why not try one of our CX workshops. For more information or to sign up, click here.