All bets are off. Coronavirus has created a situation in which customer experiences have been turned on their heads.

Broadly, the definition of a good customer experience is one that meets the customers’ expectations. Usually these expectations are set by a variety of sources, Matt Watkinson wrote about expectations, some of which are under the control of the brand, but other external factors also exert an influence.

In normal circumstances you might have some understanding of what these expectations are, but right now the best source of understanding of your customers expectations are you customers themselves.

So, what should you do to ensure your Voice of the Customer programme remains effective in a time of crisis?

Understanding expectations

Since the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak there has been a shifting landscape of expectations, and therefore you may need to change the the way you measure success.

We always measure success against client specific key drivers of excellent customer experiences as well as standard satisfaction and NPS metrics. During these unprecedented times these drivers will almost certainly change.

You should add in specific questions that relate to the customer experience right now, to ensure your customer experience is relevant in exceptional circumstances.

Consider reevaluating your success metrics in line with new customer expectations to ensure the data you’re presenting to the business is actionable and relevant.

Re-cut your data

In a typical voice of the customer project, we report data by customer segment to help businesses understand key drivers and pain points by customer type. Given that customer behaviour driven is by circumstance, for many customers this has altered dramatically in the past 6 weeks.

You may need to consider redrawing your customer segments to ensure you’re still meeting the needs of new and different customer types.

Volumes

The amount of data you can collect is important for 2 reasons: To ensure that you can be confident in the conclusions you draw from any research undertake and the cost of data.

We don’t charge by volume, but if your VOC vendor does, you might want to pay very close attention to the volume of surveys being sent to ensure your costs don’t spiral. Volume of surveys and responses are driven by 2 factors: The volume of customers and the propensity of customers to respond.

In terms of volume of invitations, some businesses are experiencing far lower volumes of customers and therefore the sample size is greatly reduced.

In order to collect enough data for it to be useful, you may need to consider changing invitation wording, adding or adjusting incentives offered, changing the channel, or increasing the % of total customers surveyed.

In contrast, some businesses are seeing a huge surge in customers, either switching channels or completely new to the brand.

This could be great for gathering data at scale, but again, in order to control cost of data you may wish to adjust the % of customers surveyed.

And finally, many customers across the globe are confined to their homes. For many this might mean they have plenty of time on their hands to complete surveys and take part in market research projects, but for others (like me!) who have families and work too, time is tight. You may see a change in volumes of surveys completed and the quality of feedback given.

Channels

Due to changes in customer circumstances you may experience a shift in how customers choose to give you feedback as their channel of choice changes. Many business have restricted or closed physical stores altogether, and therefore web and mobile channels are experiencing far higher volumes. This in turn may impact customers expectations and experiences in terms of delivery times etc.

Depending on the way in which you collect online channel feedback (self selecting, interuptive, post-purchase, post-delivery), you may need to consider adjusting volumes and rewording questions for relevance.

Update Text Analytics

Many VOC programmes use automated text analytics engines to extract themes and sentiment from unstructured feedback provided by customers. Typically these are optimised with a lexicon specific to your business under normal operational circumstances.

In order to truly understand how your customers are feeling during these uncertain times you may need to adjust your lexicon to include virus related words and particular aspects of service which didn’t previously feature in analysis.

Check your closed loops

If your VOC programme is mature, it will include a mechanism to close the loop. Alerting the relevant department when customer experiences fall below the minimum expected standard, or rewarding employees who go above and beyond.

It’s also really impactful to let your customers know that their feedback has enabled you to change experiences that weren’t meeting expectations. During the pandemic we have seen some organisations react incredibly quickly and adjust customer experiences which weren’t up to scratch.

There are two aspects to consider here; the rules which govern the alerts may need adjusting both for volume (ensure that your call centre/customer service team have sufficient bandwidth before setting expectations) and for expected standards.

As for rewarding employees, it is especially important now to connect the customers directly with the staff that interact them.

If you’re not doing so already, find a way to get positive customer feedback direct to staff, including the customer’s own words.

Understanding Impact

In order to ensure ROI of a voice of the customer programme, you must be able to measure the impact of any actions take as a result, this is even more important in uncertain times where the solution to the problem might not always be clear. If metrics are always tied to actions you take, you can adapt quickly.

If your VOC platform has an in-built action planning and measurement tool, you can track key metrics as a result of changes made to the customer experience to ensure they’re making the difference you expected.

Don’t stand still

For every VOC programme we run at Limetropy, we recommend constantly reevaluating to ensure the outputs provide actionable insights. In times of crisis this is particularly relevant as the situation is fluid, and your VOC should be agile enough to adapt.

Contact us about how we can help with collecting, analysing and driving positive impact from your customer feedback.

This article was first published on LinkedIn – read the original