The year that changed CX forever, for the better

Jul 05, 2021
CX Strategy

As we realigned our strategies and business plans during the spring of 2020 due to COVID-19, one thing was for sure: Customer experience as we knew it had changed. Fear, uncertainty and lockdowns were common but as customers adapted, so did organizations. For some organizations it was a monumental shift, for others it was simply a slight pivot, but the common thread for every company, both big and small, was that customers’ expectations were changing – quickly – and organizations had to change alongside them.

As a recent McKinsey report notes:“The COVID-19 crisis will end at some point yet we expect changes in consumer preferences and business models to outlast the immediate crisis. This has begun to play out in China, where there has been a 55 percent increase in consumers intending to permanently shift to online grocery shopping, and an increase of three to six percentage points in overall e-commerce penetration in the aftermath of COVID-19.[1]

Organizations are adapting to the “new normal” while also showing that as flexible as they were at the beginning of this pandemic, they will have to continue to show empathy, to enhance their CX roadmap and more importantly, integrate the human touch back into their growth strategy. The other elements that will impact CX are the internal organization structures and the organization's ability to adapt to technological innovations.

In this blog post we explore two fundamental shifts we witnessed in 2020 and how they will continue to shape CX strategy for the long term.

Shift #1: Restructuring around the customer

Traditionally, many organizations have an implied belief that they are customer-centric, but the reality is that if an organizational structure is siloed and focused on driving unilateral product line sales, this fundamentally suppresses customer-focused initiatives. In order to truly drive customer centricity, this vision needs to not only come from the top down, but also must be adopted and supported by the entire organization -- from the board of directors through to the front line employees.

What was truly fascinating about the pandemic was the radical shift to making the customer experience an organization’s core business proposition. Companies had to rally and pivot quickly to provide value and utility for their customers. This meant activating an optimized operational structure to drive collaboration and engagement around the customer. It created an opportunity for all stakeholders to have a seat at the table to build and activate a unified go-to-market strategy with the key focus being on the customer. For many companies, this meant bringing teams together to refocus the efforts from traditional revenue metrics to bespoke customer-centric solutions.

As a result of the pandemic, organizations have been able to further break down silos, hierarchies and bureaucracies in ways no one thought possible while placing a renewed focus on customer centricity within their operating model. This paired with technology has enabled organizations of all sizes to pivot quickly and facilitate customer-centric journeys.

Shift #2: CX gets a technological upgrade 

COVID has also accelerated the landscape of CX and how organizations prioritize customer and employee feedback technology. 

For many years, Canadian organizations have understood that to evolve and meet the changing landscape of customer expectations, they need to listen to their customers. Traditionally this has been owned by internal research and insights departments that gather feedback from customers via surveys, panel studies and third-party research.

Although surveys continue to be a critical part of business planning, in 2020, executives and all lines of decision makers required more than just surveys to make critical and immediate decisions. Executives across the country scrambled to understand how to maintain brand loyalty amidst massive disruption and determine the best ways to empathize and action as much of that feedback as possible.

In a mostly digital environment, we witnessed customers providing rich signals to brands across the country. These came in the form of a positive interaction via Twitter, abandoned cart on a website, a conversation with a contact centre agent, and an interaction via mobile for curbside pickup.

Organizations are also increasingly looking to consolidate their CX technology into one platform and with other software such as Adobe, Salesforce, Workday, etc., to drive both efficiencies in cost and most importantly, impact.


So, what does all this mean for the future of CX?

At the onset of the pandemic, businesses may have originally thought it was a short-term change in their approach to customer experience, but they soon realized that the way they interact across their organization, leverage technology and deliver on customer experience goals has forever shifted. 

The lessons of 2020 have shown us clearly that when organizations need to pivot quickly, they can. Just look at how many businesses were able to continue operating solely online – regardless of whether online was an option previously, or it was a new way of doing business. Another example was in how companies developed new ways to deliver their products to homes. For initiatives that might have previously taken months, maybe years, for large organizations to mobilize, there was suddenly an agility and willingness to make it happen. The winners will be the organizations that are finding ways to continue harnessing that energy and approach to see what can be done next.

What’s also been encouraging is that companies that only thought customer experience meant quickly answering calls in their call centre or receiving a positive NPS score are now realizing there are other factors that they should consider when effectively measuring CX. Even better – they know that there are new tools to make it easier.

Finally, many companies are recognizing the need for their organizational structure to be more flexible and have already reformatted to allow for efficient collaboration. It may be bumpy at first as employees adjust but getting rid of silos and creating a customer-centric environment is the key to moving CX forward. 

There’s no denying the long-term impacts of the pandemic on many businesses, but the upside is that it proved to many organizations what can be done when they embrace a customer-centric perspective across the company. The future of CX is bright.

Audrey Grant
Shannon Katschilo
Baijul Shukla
Lori Steiner




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