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Everyone needs to “work different”: How to reopen, rethink, and reinvent using experience management

While there’s no sure blueprint for this COVID-19 environment, one thing is certain: everyone needs to work differently. Organizations will need to constantly adjust how they interact with customers while making shifts in how employees work – and as a result, Experience Management (XM) is more important than ever.

XM is the discipline of using both experience data and operational data to measure and improve the four core experiences of business: customer, employee, product and brand. XM helps organizations:

  • Continuously Learn. XM helps organizations more effectively sense and interpret what’s going on all around them, collecting and analyzing signals from the actions and feedback of employees, partners, vendors, customers, and even competitors.
  • Propagate Insights. XM helps organizations put actionable intelligence in the hands of people across their ecosystem who can use it, creating seamless access to the right information in the right form at the right time.
  • Rapidly Adapt. XM helps organizations act on the insights they’ve uncovered at an increasingly faster pace, finding ways to create new experiences and renovate existing ones.

These capabilities are critical – and play an integral role in keeping operations aligned with the ongoing changes to customer and employee needs in the current environment.

We’ve put together a Work Different playbook to help organizations through what happens next by using XM in each of four stages.

Stage 1: React

Many businesses will have already gone through this stage, but the situation is constantly evolving, so it’s important you are ready to return to it should the need arise – whether it’s on a local, national or global level.

Every organization should be asking their customers fewer questions, but make sure to include some that are open-ended, like: How are you doing? How can we help? As these needs change, focus less on metrics and listen.

Make sure you’re prepared to listen and help your customers with feedback mechanisms like a digital open-door for customers to provide whatever feedback they want and whenever they want it. Doing so will help you better understand how customer needs are changing. Beyond that, listen to every aspect of the business and be sure to ask your frontline agents for feedback, too – they know your customers best.

Questions you should be asking:

  • Why are promoters turning into detractors in this environment, and how can we make changes to keep those issues from snowballing?
  • Why are customers becoming our advocates in this environment, and how can we replicate those activities?

Stage 2: Explore

During this stage, focus on supporting customer needs as they begin to take action in new areas. Organizations will need to observe and respond to changing needs – which may include trying out new operating models to deliver pre-COVID-19 services and offerings – all while making people feel safe. Customers may feel unsure to begin with, so be clear in communicating new guidelines or house rules you are implementing, while also prioritizing the commitment to safety.

Organizations should also avoid a path that leads to their previous state. For many, reopening will involve changes to the experience and operations – either required by law or needed to respond to customer concerns so they feel confident and safe in returning. This means operating in new ways, and also offers a unique chance to innovate and find new ways to meet customer needs. A lot of these changes will require a change in behavior, and as a result, both the business and customer have to buy in.

Questions you should be asking:

  • What opportunities are our suppliers and partners seeing, and how can we collaborate to address those opportunities?
  • What emerging needs do our customers have that aren’t being met, and how can we create new offerings in those areas?
  • What product and service features are most important right now, and how can we adjust our development plans accordingly?
  • Are we making it easy for customers to ramp up with us while we’re addressing their evolving concerns?

Stage 3: Reorient

Organizations should expect to see customers start to settle into some new patterns of behavior that will likely stick beyond the crisis period.

Assess the entire customer journey and look for potential long-term patterns of behavior. Begin to reposition experiences, services, and offerings to align to these patterns of behavior and align operations (people, processes, new technology, partners, suppliers) to deliver those new experiences. This is an important step in future-proofing your business.

You may not get every decision right – and that’s OK. By maintaining a clear and open dialogue with customers, you can adjust as needed.

Questions you should be asking:

  • How are our customers using our products and services differently, and is there an opportunity to adopt and scale those changes?
  • What new obstacles are customers, employees, suppliers, and partners running into, and how can we shift resources to solve those problems?
  • What practices are currently keeping employees engaged right now, and how can we spread those across the organization?
  • What are the emerging patterns of customer activity that we should be prioritizing for improvement?

Stage 4: Normalize

This is the stage where businesses commit to new experiences and operating models you have introduced – provided they are working for your customers – to support the new norms that have been established. Businesses will need to formalize new offerings and create an ecosystem that includes people, processes, technology, partners, and suppliers to support it.

One of the most dramatic opportunities to disrupt your competitive environment is to tap into new behaviors and attitudes that persist beyond the crisis. Don’t expect to reach an “endpoint.” Instead, constantly look for ways to improve the changes you have made to the customer experience.

Organizations are most successful when their XM efforts are focused on driving improvements and making better decisions. That’s the direction that many organizations have been taken during the last few months.

Questions you should be asking

  • How are people responding to our brand, and what messages do we need to dial up or dial down?
  • What topics are our customers and employees most concerned about, and how can we tailor our communications to deal with those areas?
  • What listening posts do we need for tracking and improving the new customer experience model(s)?

While these four stages will occur in different ways – and at different times – across industries and markets, just about every organization will need to go through them. This will require leaders to rethink how they operate. Most organizations have an underlying assumption of steady trend lines, so their processes are built to sustain the status quo through minor adjustments.

That model is no longer applicable in this environment. Instead of relying on traditional measure and report approaches, successful organizations will shift to a modernized “sense and respond” motion, powered by their XM capabilities.

Find out how experience management can help you adapt and innovate with our Work Different Playbook

Bruce Temkin // Head of the Qualtrics XM Institute

Bruce Temkin leads the Qualtrics XM Institute and is widely viewed as an experience management (XM) visionary. He has helped executives across many of the world’s leading brands dramatically improve business results by engaging the hearts and minds of their employees, customers, and partners. Given his work in establishing the discipline of CX, Bruce is often referred to as the “Godfather of Customer Experience.” He co-founded and was the initial chair of the Customer Experience Professionals Association. Prior to joining Qualtrics, Bruce ran Temkin Group, a renowned research and advisory firm, and was a VP at Forrester Research, where he led many parts of the research organization, including CX, eBusiness, financial services, and B2B. He was the most-read analyst at Forrester for 13 consecutive quarters.

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