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  • Jim Farnsworth

CX in the times of the Coronavirus

Can love prevail in the time of cholera? Gabriel Garcia Marquez novel’s delves on ways in which love changes and endures through time and is particularly relevant for our times. At a time when businesses are confronted with life and death challenges, with our battle scars for proof, the CX community is well armed to share some lessons for the benefit of both society and organizations still attempting to find their feet under the new normal. Below are 12 battlefronts where the CX challenge and the fight against the Corona virus are eerily similar:

Winning in CX Conquering the Corona Virus

1. Leaders Lead. True leaders corral their troops, unite their people and give hope to their followers. Leaders are responsible for empowering and instilling a learning culture in the organization where employees are not afraid to try new things, fail and learn by experiment. The focus is on improving the outcome for the customer NOT on scoring points against one another. It is in a crisis that the true character of a leader is revealed. Playing politics in a time of need favors the common enemy. Blaming Tom, Dick and Harry for the outbreak doesn’t solve the problem at hand. In UK the Royal Mint have used their engineering skills to make medical visors to help protect medical staff at the NHS.

2. Decisive leadership.Top-down leadership is vital to drive CX as more than often than not you have to choral efforts across different functions of the organization. When the efforts are not led from the top, it will feel like an orchestra playing without a conductor. Time is not your friend when there is a crisis on your hand. The more you procrastinate, problems will amplify and get out of hand. Lack of decisive leadership means that local authorities are left guessing whether to open or close borders, which events should be cancelled, whether or not to leave schools open.

3. Miracle cure? There is no silver bullet for CX. Instead it is the sum of all parts that helps move the needle. While there is no miracle cure for COVID-19 yet, it is the concerted efforts of the entire community which is much needed to fight the virus.

4. Goal Setting. Disney keeps their staff honest on displaying the right behaviors in their theme parks. Employees are in full control of their KPI and collective action helps move the needle on the topline metric which drives exec incentives. Setting Easter as the goal for relaxing Corona virus controls and then having to push back doesn’t look good. Should such deadlines be linked to more clear outcomes such as smoothing the curve instead?

5. Listen to your frontline. In any organization, your frontline is the face of the organization and are the ones who have their ears closest to the ground. Failing to engage them. In Wuhan, ophthalmologist Li Wenliang was the canary in the mine calling on Chinese authorities to step up their response to fight the Corona virus. Precious time was wasted due to authorities scrambling to cover up the extent of the problem

6. Concerted messaging and action. It takes a village to raise a child as it takes a whole organization to get behind customer centricity. To fight the virus, we need a concerted response from all layers of government, federal, state, council, down to the individual.

7. Leveraging expertise. All too often organizations engage vendors and consultants but fail during the knowledge transfer. Not only is this costly but it delivers poor results to the organization. The inability of some politicians to take a backstage role and let the experts do the talking and run the show has unfortunately contributed to society wasting precious time in the fight against COVID-19.

8. What’s get measured, can be improved. Programs that allow organizations to bring the voice of the customer deep within the organization allow us to understand what matters to customers, how prevalent problems are and where efforts need to be focused. South Korea, Germany and Singapore deployed full-scale testing for the COVID-19 virus and rapid action upon detection have enabled them to flatten the curve in a timely way. Not testing is flying blind, not knowing where efforts need to be focused to contain the virus.

9. Root cause analysis. Once issues are uncovered, conducting root cause analyses helps nip the problem in the butt instead of just treating its symptoms. Countries such as South Korea and Singapore have effectively implemented contact tracing which has allowed them to identify the source of the spread and contain it right there.

10. Act fast on sufficient data, don’t boil the ocean. Collecting and analyzing all the data you can collect to support your decisions may provide comfort, but all too often result in solutions being delivered too late or in solutions for yesterday’s problems. Identifying the hotspots in the outbreak, helped setup proper quarantine rules to protect the rest of the population.

11. Consistent, clear and transparent messaging to build trust. Both employees and customers want to feel that you are sincere in your commitment to right the wrongs. If you demand sacrifices from your customers or employees make should you clearly communicate clearly what’s in it for them. The mixed messages which flowed from US administration are a case in point here. First denying that Covid-19 was nothing more than a flu, then forced to close down US borders. Dr Fauci came across as the voice of reason and most trustworthy source of info during the pandemic.

12. Track progress to ensure we are winning. How are customer experience initiatives contributing to move the needle? Both employees who are invested in delivering these improvements and executive sponsors would want to be kept informed and kept engaged. Home confinement is a necessary but hefty price to pay to flatten the curve (esp. if, like myself, you have teenagers who want to run your home). Tracking progress on the curve helps citizens understand how their sacrifices are contributing to save lives.

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