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Engaging Experiences in a Touchless World

Designing the Right CX for the Next Normal

Jitin Agarwal

VP, Enterprise Products, EPAM
Blog
  • Remote By Design

What should the next normal look like as we reopen the world? Tough question. One of the key challenges for the next normal: Identifying which new customer experiences will maximize value to consumers and organizations. Companies must design the best possible experiences—they’ll need to be superb and flawlessly executed to entice people out of their homes—while still being mindful of COVID-19 restrictions. When faced with this inescapable challenge, we recommend using the following Remote By Design™ framework to build your customer experience (CX). 

Business objectives. Before welcoming back your customers, ask what business objectives your organization is trying to achieve. Don’t presume that your company should preserve its old investments in equipment, processes or experiences. Instead, look at these as a sunk cost that may need to be written off.

Better to begin with a blank sheet and examine your organization’s CX objectives. Think of the different types of interactions and engagements your organization has within its core operations: employee-to-employee, employee-to-customer, employee-to-partner or even customer-to-customer. Are you trying to ensure that customers have a welcoming experience? Are you focused on enabling employees to move quickly and efficiently through a transaction or process? Do you need to maximize consumer engagements to ensure your brand value or do you have some other metric or organizational KPI that you’re driving toward? You will only achieve your next normal business objectives by creating truly engaging experiences across the various interactions throughout your organization.

Customer expectations. Given all that’s happened in the last few months, and what’s likely to occur in the next several quarters, you must discern how your customers’ expectations have shifted. How will these changes affect their interactions with your business? Health and safety will obviously be the first concern. If customers don’t feel safe, they won’t come to your place of business, let alone engage with your employees. But responding to customer shifts in expectations is an even bigger challenge. Customers are currently accepting many deviations in services that would have previously been unimaginable, and are shifting their expectations. For instance, many of them will now patiently wait in lines outside stores, during busy hours, to ensure they’re not in a crowded space when they enter—all to reduce the risk of being infected by COVID-19.

Think about how new customer expectations might be relevant for your business. How will the increase in digital engagement and online channels as a result of COVID-19 change your CX strategy? Decide which of these customer changes are a short-term reaction, as opposed to those which will linger, and how your organization should respond to each.

Plan now to determine what your organization must do to enter the collective consciousness of customers. Make them recall and embrace your organization and the special experiences you offer. That’s how you’ll win in the next normal.

Platform capabilities. Look closely at your organization’s “platforms” (a platform can be any engagement mechanism your company has within its operations) and its capabilities. For these platforms, identify and prioritize areas and interactions that will need adjustment.

Developing outstanding connected experiences through your organization’s platforms for your customers is critical to your success in the next normal. To do so, throw away preconceived notions. Think about the new customer expectations (mentioned above) and consider the implications these will have on your platforms—either the obvious ones, like the need to wipe down touch-based kiosks for each order, or more drastic ones, like replacing these same ordering kiosks with a more COVID-19-friendly, mobile-phone-based, ordering-and-scheduled-pickup approach. Which current or even near-current capabilities of technology can help you devise new customer experiences? Perhaps you should even investigate what other industries are doing to change their platforms, and then borrow freely.

Approach the problem of re-platforming your business and its operations with an eyes-wide-shut attitude and you might just fail. Instead, ask how your organization can rethink all of its platforms and operations in light of the next normal to create lasting and pervasive experiences that will make your customers want to come back again and again.

Data democratization. You’ll need to use data to determine and develop the best new CX solutions. Future customer experiences will depend heavily on data. In the next normal, since we’ve all gone remote, we’re generating massive amounts of new data. In fact, your organization is probably more challenged by an inundation, rather than a lack of, data. It will be critical when you design your new customer experiences to carefully sort and filter all of this enterprise data. A product like EPAM’s InfoNgen can help with this challenge.

As you examine your data set, consider the first section above, where you examined what your organization would like to achieve with its new experiences. This should immediately help you narrow your data sets, by removing data that’s irrelevant to your organizational objectives. Next, as you go through this data analysis process, identify what’s truly important to your customer. This should help narrow the relevant data set even further. Finally, think about what your technology platform can enable in terms of experiences, because nice-to-have is good for the future, but you need new customer experiences now.

Once you’ve narrowed down this set of data, form it into a picture or narrative that will help articulate the plans and objectives for your new customer experiences. This will create the foundation for defining and defending your organization’s next normal customer experiences. This exercise will also help provide the key metrics that you’ll use to measure your success here. Analyze the data your organization has on operations, customers and the market conditions during the COVID-19 era, and you’ll have all of the intel needed to design winning, human-centered customer experiences for the next normal.

Iterative journey. Developing customer experiences for the next normal is not a one-and-done exercise (the idea of “next normal” is that things are always in state of evolution). Instead, it’s an incessant journey of adapting to these shifting customer expectations and building experiences accordingly. Plan on a cycle of review and re-examination of your CX over time. Remember that you’ll need to continually revise these experiences—because the next normal market realities will be different a few months from now, much as they were very different a scant three months ago.

Given the dynamic and fluxing market conditions in the next normal, you’ll need to ensure your approach enables your organization to constantly pivot and change. Do not take a one-size-fits-all or fixed point of view on your the next normal. Take advantage of the current uncertainty to build the necessary flexibility into your customer experiences. Ensuring this iterative approach will ensure that your organization not only has flawless experiences today, but tomorrow as well. And maybe even the day after, in the next next normal. 

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