Sorting Good CX Advice from
Bad in the Covid-19 Onslaught
Is it too late to use the crisis to inspire positive change?
If you are like me, your inbox is littered with invitations to learn more about how to cope with the extraordinary economic and health circumstances we all face today. Hopefully, some prove valuable. Hopefully, our own contribution, here, you would count amongst them. No doubt some others provide sage advice in the form of “the best solution to your Covid-19 emergency challenge is to spend more on our product” type wisdom. I suspect you will file them away appropriately.
Experience suggests that laggards are most likely to suspend their efforts to create leadership in CX during a period of economic stress.
Our perception (so far) has been that the CX leadership space has been largely debating two issues. First, whether we should continue to send out surveys (maybe, but probably not right now) and, whether our CX program be cut with the inevitable business contraction (statistically speaking, quite likely). Those are worthy topics, but perhaps we can reframe the debate a little.
We made the case in our piece that there are two phases to navigate, one of significant instability, then one that represents a relatively stable, “new normal.” Several people have pointed out we missed the most important phase, that which preceded the crisis.
The argument goes like this: By the time you are navigating a crisis, the outcomes you achieve will be largely dependent on the work that was done prior to the crisis occurring. Your reaction is limited by options of your own creation. As we can expect this not to be the last crisis we face, and it could be argued that the gap in economic shocks (2008 to 2020) has been long by historical standards, we should be spending a lot more time thinking about what we should have done differently before this event, so we can adjust our strategy going forward.
In case this sounds like a bad plot for a time travel movie, where we get to debate the impact of changing events in the past (never good, it seems), let me make it more practical with an illustration. One of the rhetorical tricks they teach pilots is to consider “the three least useful things in aviation.” These are, in no particular order: fuel in the tanker back at the airport, altitude above you and runways behind you. You don’t have to be a pilot to get the gist.
What has proven the equivalent in corporate CX right now? A formidable CX program you never invested in, a leadership NPS you never achieved, a digitally integrated experience that never got implemented, an evolving strategy for NPS measurement that goes far beyond surveys. Oh, and that diet you never stuck to. That last one was meant for me.
Companies that enter a crisis with an NPS advantage over their competition, in the profitable/high growth segments of their market, are likely to be at a considerable advantage over those who lag. Given the likelihood of a future crisis, the rational response to that is to commit the business to building that future leadership position, not back away from it. We explore strategies for that in our piece.
Similarly, companies that invested heavily in digital, customer friendly technologies find themselves best placed to sustain their NPS performance through the most volatile period of a crisis. I would add that not all digital transformation efforts have borne, and will bear fruit, but that’s a topic for a different day. And I would add (can’t resist) that digital transformation only serves two masters: better customer experience or reduced costs, otherwise it’s just “concreting the cowpaths” as Mike Hammer famously observed.
Finally, those who had the best foundation in terms of employee alignment, customer-centric “DNA” and engagement will capitalize on that asset.
Think of all these assets as shock absorbers for your business. A stress to the economic system sees an amplification of the gap between those companies in the best shape entering, and those who are most fragile. CFOs might (and will) think of this in terms of balance sheets, but the customer and employee balance sheet is likely to prove equally decisive in separating financial performance of leaders and laggards.
Here’s the gut punch. Experience suggests that laggards are most likely to suspend their efforts to create leadership in CX during a period of economic stress. Leaders tend to double down. That shouldn’t surprise us: The most forward-thinking companies don’t suddenly revert to driving backwards, and management teams that lack a good strategy for growth going into a crisis rarely develop one as a consequence. But corporations that are most bullied financially by this current shock absolutely should take this opportunity to examine the root cause of their disadvantage and commit to a path that both aids recovery and sets them up for the next challenge.
If there is a silver lining, the stress of such a shock tends to reduce barriers to change within an industry and within the company itself. Leadership is emboldened. Hopefully, the laggards of the past will not let a crisis go to waste.
ABOUT RICHARD OWEN
As CEO, Richard’s singular professional focus: Delivering financial value through CX. He co-founded OCX Cognition to combine technology and programmatic consulting in pursuit of that goal, and now leads the company’s coordinated efforts to deliver the right solutions for its clients.
Richard’s 30-year career has centered on transforming business operations with technology, and he is one of the best-known CX thought leaders. While CEO at Satmetrix, his team led the development of the Net Promoter Score® methodology with Fred Reichheld, creating the world’s most widely used CX measurement approach. With Laura Brooks, he co-authored Answering the Ultimate Question, the best-selling “how to” guide for NPS practitioners.
Richard transformed the supply chain and built what was then the world’s largest e-commerce business at Dell, and has led two software companies, AvantGo and Satmetrix, to successful exits. With an MBA from MIT Sloan Management School, he has served on several boards and committees at public and private companies and is an active venture investor and international business thinker. Richard has lived on three continents; he and his family now divide their time between Arizona and London.
ABOUT OCX COGNITION
OCX Cognition delivers the future of NPS. We ensure customer experience success by combining technology and data science with programmatic consulting. In our Insights section, we present a comprehensive and evolving collection of resources based on our research and expertise, collected for CX leaders committed to delivering business outcomes.