Cut costs, bolster customer experience, innovate within selected categories? For brands and businesses, uncertain times is like building a planet in an astroid belt. But let’s pause for a bit. Turbulent situations are both a human experience and customer experience. Brands are hurting, people are hurting. Creating a sense of certainty within customer experience can help brands stay focused and customers loyal. It all starts the fundamental understanding of human emotion and perception.
What we’ll cover:
- Understanding Customer (and Human) Emotions
- Revisit Your Brand Foundations
- Build Confidence During Customer Experience
- Reconnect People with People
- Let’s summarise
Understanding Customer (and Human) Emotions
Emotion drives behaviour drives experience drives perception creates emotion. Did you get that? If not - spoiler alert - it all starts and ends with emotion. As CX leaders, advocates or enthusiasts, we love talking about emotions like ‘surprise’ and ‘delight’ (and maybe a little too much). But today, we need to discuss the harder side of feeling.
Uncertainty is when customers (aka humans) are not confident in something. This could be an outcome, decision, item, person, company etc. Feelings accompanying uncertainty include anxiety, fear and threatened. Uncertainty leads to irrationality, erratic behaviour and doubt during our decision-making.
Anxiety within uncertainty is the invisible heavy hitter in this situation. We deal with anxiety on a day-to-day basis, but long-term or more burdensome anxiety can be debilitating. It can decrease our ability to concentrate, trigger depression if long-term, make us feel isolated and increase irritability.
Unfortunately, it’s also an emotion that clouds an entire situation. Say as a brand you are trying to help customers when they are anxious. Anxiety will drive their behaviour and perception of their interaction with your brand - even if it’s not related. For this reason, brands need to be particularly aware during times of uncertainty about the human experience (aka day-to-day anxiety).
Just by breaking down ‘uncertainty’ our emotion count includes: alone, anxious, stressed, fearful, irritability, impatient, uncertainty, dissatisfied, distrusting. This boils down to - customers don’t know, are scared about unknowing and have no patience in general. We must remember perception is everything with customer experience, even if this perception is driven by outside forces.
Revisit Your Brand Foundations
Customer experience reinforces your brand and business strategy. Take a moment to review your values, motivation and goals. It will help to direct customer experience adjustments in light of uncertainty. By doing this, you are already improving the customer experience, as staying true to your brand strategy creates consistency, reliability and trust. Brand strategy is the breadth meditator’s use to stay centered. After taking an hour or day to reconnect with your foundation, now we can do some investigation.
Creating a sense of certainty in uncertain times requires knowing your moments of truth. These are the interactions that are valuable to the customer, and reflect your brand values. If you know your moments of truth, stick by them. If you don’t or have doubts, do customer research to figure them out. Companies that succeed during uncertain times don’t throw individual spaghetti pieces at the wall, they throw one holistic lasagne. That comparison is a little absurd, but the reality is quite serious for brands or businesses.
Build Confidence During Customer Experience
To fight anxiety, humans want to build confidence. This is something we should always be doing within customer experience. However, it is necessary to shift communication and interactions to address specific, maybe even irrational, obstacles in building confidence. This can be both a short and long-term exercise, but it’s necessary to know where you can add value. Is it during a customer service call? On a particular webpage? A specific moment during a purchase? Then focus on that, while improving other areas.
Looking back at anxiety, people are impatient. This means breaking tasks and information into digestible chucks, while simplifying language. The scan-ability of your content is even more important as an experience. This is because a lot of customers will be getting information about your brand, product or service by reading online content.
When we are anxious, we also feel alone. As a brand or business, you have a platform to make customers feel less alone. Reassure your customers that this is a collective experience and you understand their feelings. Each brand, each marketing campaign, each decision is run by humans. So we all understand the underlying human experience. Being honest, empathetic, transparent and even vulnerable will bring comfort to your customers. Revisit the idea of ‘brands being human’.
Anxiety also clouds decisions. In uncertain times, we are making a lot of tough decisions. Decisions we want to stand by and justify to others. This means to build confidence, emphasis the short and long-term benefit of your brand, product or service. To determine where this falls in your customer experience, it’s necessary to do the research. Is it a follow-up email? An extra customer service hotline? A social media campaign? A revamp of your services page? Some of the simplest tools can increase customer satisfaction, and thus perception of your brand. Help customers make the hard decisions, or decisions during hard times.
Reconnect People with People
During turbulent times, have you noticed the increase in communication between you, your friends, long-lost cousins, your parents, old colleagues etc? To overcome the feeling of isolation, whether physical or mental, we connect with real people. It helps us feel reassured and fulfilled. This is why some customers would rather call your business versus fumble through a self-service interaction during anxiety-inducing tasks.
Human connection plays a huge part in customer experience. This could be in-store or with a customer service representative over the phone. Talking with an ambassador, expert or representative can reduce anxiety, as well as increase trust and satisfaction in a brand. Remember, your brand might be on-track, but uncertain times clouding customers’ perception.
There are many ways to increase human interaction and its effectiveness. This could start with a communication strategy. By writing content or training customer service employees to better empathise and reassure, you are improving the customers experience. Customer-facing employees are important during uncertain times, and need updated tools to communicate effectively and on-brand.
It’s also an opportunity to emphasis and build your community. Activate brand enthusiasts to help others within your network. This could be through a platform, campaign or service. Peer-to-peer sharing is already a thing, is there something new you could do? It could be peer-to-peer tutorials, online workshops, ‘ask me anythings’, call-a-friend, community challenges etc. Get creative, and you’ll be surprised how creatively your community responses.
As CX professionals, we always want to make an interaction feel personalised and special. But during uncertain times, this should be readdress. Again, get creative. Can you do one-on-one appointments? Create personalised online environments for customers? Send tailored (versus generic) content to loyal, brand enthusiasts? Just get on the phone and call people? An intimate experience can solidify trust during anxiety-ridden times. Be the brand and create the experience you would be proud of after the turbulence passes.
- Emotion drives behaviour drives experience drives perception creates emotion
- Existing anxiety will drive behaviour and perception of an interaction with your brand
- Customer experience reinforces your brand and business strategy
- Help customers make the hard decisions, or decisions during hard times
- Emphasis and build your community through creative solutions