In the second and final part of this feature, Sarah Cook and Steve Macaulay review the customer experience in the post-Covid era
In the first part of the article, we looked at some profound changes which have been brought about by the pandemic. In this part we question whether, post pandemic, your approach to customers and employees has adapted sufficiently? After over two years of difficulties and change, it is quite likely that the customer experience in your organisation has altered and its effect needs re-evaluating in the light of the changed environment. This requires proactive action, not just towards customers but in many organisations towards employees. What do these changes entail?
Large numbers of employees started to work from home during the pandemic and this has started a firm trend. Now hybrid working is the norm for many businesses. This has strengths and weaknesses for customer service. Today it can pose a managerial problem: how many employees should be able to work at home and still deliver good service? How do we minimise any potential difficulties?
Organisations quickly learned that they must keep in touch with employees and ensure they are part of the team. It is important to build a team that relates well to customers. From a customer’s point of view, having their problem resolved needs to be paramount, irrespective of where the customer service agent is based. This remains a challenge that organisations must acknowledge and deal with satisfactorily.
During the pandemic, some employees found their disrupted working experience stressful and their mental health suffered. Those in contact with customers experienced a greater number of frustrated or angry customers and is a reminder that frontline employee stress can have a direct impact on the level of service that is given to customers. This highlights the significance of paying attention to employee mental health as an important aspect of working life is a one of the most important managerial responsibilities.
Carrying out an organisational health check
There is much to learn from the changes that have taken place and recognising the ways that both customer and the organisation have been impacted. Working with line managers from within the organisation, it is helpful to re-evaluate how far policies, processes and practices need to be updated to accommodate the changes that have taken place.
HR and L&D have a role to play in looking at how much the customer environment has affected individuals and working practices. Employee care can easily get overlooked in the quest for customer care. It is up to HR and L&D to make sure this does not happen. There are some probing questions to ask.
HR and L&D professionals have got their part to play in ensuring that how the organisation handles the customer experience ensures it is a positive asset to the organisation
How have our customer expectations changed?
• As a result of the pandemic, what has changed in the way your customers wish to do business with you?
• What are the pain points for the customer and how are you addressing these?
• What can you do to enhance the overall customer experience?
• How have employee roles changed and what is the impact?
• What support do employees need to achieve this?
How much support is given to the employee experience?
How have employees and the service they provide been affected by the last two years and, going forward, how can the employee experience be better recognised and taken on board? For example:
• Have employees working across the organisation to solve customer issues highlighted the need to overcome organisational barriers and boundaries?
• How much are individual contributions to customer service properly recognised, not just taken for granted?
• How well are employees kept up-to-date about digital channels and new technologies?
• Is employee stress during such changes recognised and support provided?
• Are employees actively involved in communicating and discussing matters which affect them?
In the face of a new normal, your organisation should review the implications of how it now serves the customer. HR and L&D professionals have got their part to play in ensuring that how the organisation handles the customer experience ensures it is a positive asset to the organisation. In many cases, this will mean taking the initiative and looking inwards and outwards to review policies and practices in relation to the customer, but also in relation to supporting the employees who are delivering the services.
Sarah Cook is MD of the Stairway Consultancy contact her at email@example.com; Steve Macaulay is an associate at Cranfield Executive Development contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org