Customer Experience Strategy In Times Of Crisis

Steve WunkerMarch 23, 20214 min

If the customer experience for your company hasn’t changed in the past year, you are unusual. In industry after industry, from consumer goods to B2B technology, the distancing, fear, and economic turbulence caused by the coronavirus are affecting the sales process, customer selection criteria, the way products and services are consumed, and even what customer service means. Designing experiences for the coronavirus world is a fundamentally different proposition than what people responsible for CX were doing just 13 months ago.

A Pressing Need To Keep Customers Loyal

With the economic fallout from the coronavirus broad and durable, it’s more pressing than ever to keep your customers loyal. Their relationships with companies – be they restaurants or IT service vendors – may well consolidate as a result of the crisis, and you want to be one of their chosen partners going forward. Four steps provide a roadmap to do so:

1. Determine What Changes Are Occurring In Key Jobs To Be Done

It’s critical in a crisis to understand what underlying motivations – or Jobs to be Done – are driving customers’ behaviors and preferences. The Jobs approach is a powerful way to think broadly about your business and how you might be relevant to people in ways you’ve barely considered. If there was ever a time to use these methods, it’s now.

For an example, look at restaurants – one of the industries most challenged by COVID-19. The Job of impressing a date is no longer relevant. Rather, restaurants that are still operating can target contemporary Jobs such as staying healthy while in confinement and feeling like a good parent. Step back, determine what’s driving priorities today, then chart which of these Jobs might relate to your business. Start by being expansive; you can winnow down the list as you proceed.

2. Map The Customer’s Current Journey And Your Potential Leverage Points

Next, map out your customers’ full journey around the sort of products and services you provide. Again, be broad. For a restaurant, it’s not just about ordering, picking up, and consuming a meal, but also planning what to have and considering other ways to make another night at home somehow special. Look at real customers and their journeys, not composite people that you imagine. In the richness of detail lies opportunity for customer experience. Then draw a detailed map in which you consider which Jobs to be Done are relevant to what customers at distinct steps in that journey. Identify the pain points that arise along the way; these are opportunities for a creative company to step in and build a new customer experience.

3. Consider New Approaches And Opportunities

Now that you have the Jobs and journey map, complete with its pain points, use these materials to facilitate brainstorming around new approaches that would be relevant in today’s COVID-19 circumstances. Think separately about individual steps in the journey as well as across multiple steps. The journey map above provides a sampling of opportunities for a restaurant to be uniquely valuable to customers now, in ways that would drive both sales in the near-term and an ongoing relationship once these memorable times pass. For instance, a restaurant could provide a trivia question or puzzle to help people pass the time after ordering, or even include one with the food so that another night at home can be a bit more special and fun.

4. Get Inspired By What Others Are Doing

Once you’ve charted your opportunities, look outside to see how others are addressing these challenges. Avoid the mistake many companies do by starting there, as that can limit your thinking. But once you’ve determined the compass heading you’re aiming for based on the Jobs, journey, and pain points to address, external inspirations can stretch your creativity further. For instance, Little Dom’s – an Italian restaurant in Los Angeles – is offering not just its full menu, but also freezer meals and large format cocktails to-go. A high-end restaurant in Seattle, Canlis, is offering “family meal” delivery service that includes a paired bottle of wine. In what we hope is a true first for the restaurant industry, Zinc Café in Los Angeles is providing with every order a free roll of toilet paper (while supplies last). Think about how others’ moves around CX might translate to your context.

We Are All Innovators Now

If there is anything positive coming out of the coronavirus crisis, it’s that we are recognizing just how innovative we can be. But innovation needs a target. Jobs to be Done and journey mapping, taken together, create that target – a re-thought customer experience that matters for times like now, and that will be remembered once this crisis passes.

Contributed to Branding Strategy Insider by Stephen Wunker, Author of JOBS TO BE DONE: A Roadmap for Customer-Centered Innovation and Charlotte Desprat and Jennifer Luo Law.

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