Experience Management In A Crisis: Shift From Trending To Sensing

The world we live in has changed, at least for the moment. People are practicing physical distancing for COVID-19 while organizations are responding to a radically different economic reality. It’s critical that leaders make significant adjustments to this new environment. Can Experience Management (XM) help? Absolutely. But the emphasis needs to abruptly shift from the current rhythm of trending to an obsession with sensing.

Adjusting Your Leadership For A Downturn

Having worked during several recessions and actively advised companies through the last recessions I’ve seen what it takes for an organization to succeed in this environment. Here’s my high-level advice for leaders:

Be aggressively defensive in the short-term, while being increasingly aggressive for the long-term.

How do you manage this seemingly contradictory statement? By following these five pieces of advice for leading through a recession

  • Protect your values. You will be forced to make very uncomfortable decisions. Make sure that you don’t allow them to undermine your organization’s core values and its brand promises.
  • Be bold. The faster you can deal with the near term and become forward-leaning, the more time you’ll have to outpace your competitors on the backend of the recession.
  • Be clear. I’ve defined four steps for communicating during a crisis: 1) Don’t be shy with bad news, 2) choose certainty over uncertainty, 3) always share exact next steps, and 4) stay empathetic.
  • Prune against priorities. Take the opportunity to rethink your future direction and stop non-core efforts. It’s often much better to cut entire secondary efforts, than to enact across-the-board cuts.
  • Incubate for the future. Identify two or three big bets that you will want to deliver to the market in 18 to 24 months and go after them, even if you need to cut other efforts to find the funding.

Rapidly Adapting With Experience Management

Experience Management (XM) can play an important role in navigating this dynamic environment. XM is all about staying connected with people (customers, employees, partners, and suppliers) by continuously learning, propagating insights, and rapidly adapting.

2003_LearnInsightsAdapt

In this environment, “rapidly adapting” is a capability that we all need to flex a bit more. That’s why I’ve suggested making these changes to your XM programs:

  • Show humanity. If you’re asking for feedback, make sure that you demonstrate empathy for the current environment, so you don’t seem out of touch with the situation.
  • Take a hiatus on metrics. Rather than pushing customers and employees to answer questions to feed your historical metrics and then trying to explain the variances, cut them out for at least the next quarter and focus on more important activities.
  • Ask less, listen more. Think about analyzing existing communications (especially in your contact centers), and asking fewer, more open-ended questions like how are you doing? and how can we help? Also, this is a perfect time to add a voice of the employee component to your efforts.
  • Build up your immediate response skill. In this environment, you need to be more prepared than ever to make changes quickly based on what you learn.
  • Accelerate your feedback cycles. Think about adding more always-on feedback mechanisms to your digital properties as well as using more targeted pulse surveys with your customers, employees, and partners.

10 Questions For Identifying Emerging Signals

While many things are changing, the high-level goals for your XM program remain the same. XM should still be helping you:

  • Tailor efforts to the most important customers
  • Stay aligned with customers’ changing needs
  • Prioritize the critical projects, products, and services
  • Engage and learn from employees, partners, and suppliers

These XM program goals, however, are typically fine-tuned for tracking how organizations operate in a steady-state mode. But this is not a steady-state environment. So you need to shift from a rhythm of trending to an obsession with sensing.

This change in mode requires a pro-active hunt for important changes that are underway. Rather than spending time on tracking existing metrics and doing longitudinal analysis, XM programs need to intensely focus on what’s happening right now. In many cases, your historical data will actually distort your analysis of the current environment.

To make the pivot towards sensing, you need to actively look for emerging signals. Here are the types of questions to focus on as you re-orient your XM program, none of which require any strong comparison with the past:

  1. How are our customers using our products and services differently, and is there an opportunity to adopt and scale those changes?
  2. What emerging needs do our customers have that aren’t being met, and how can we create new offerings in those areas?
  3. What product and service features are most important right now, and how can we adjust our development plans accordingly?
  4. How are people responding to our brand, and what messages do we need to dial up or dial down?
  5. What topics are our customers and employees most concerned about, and how can we tailor our communications to deal with those areas?
  6. What new obstacles are customers, employees, suppliers, and partners running into, and how can we shift resources to solve those problems? 
  7. What opportunities are our suppliers and partners seeing, and how can we collaborate to address those opportunities?
  8. Why are promoters turning into detractors in this environment, and how can we make changes to keep those issues from snowballing?
  9. Why are customers becoming our advocates in this environment, and how can we replicate those activities?
  10. What practices are currently keeping employees engaged right now, and how can we spread those across the organization?

The bottom line: In this environment, assume that you’re starting a new trend line.

XM Fireside Chat: Healthcare Experience With Bruce Temkin And Susan Haufe

Welcome to my XM Fireside Chat series, where we hare some of our thinking through an informal discussion format. I hope you enjoy it!

In this segment of XM Fireside Chat, I talk with Susan Haufe, Chief Industry Advisor for Healthcare at Qualtrics, about healthcare experience, with a focus on the current challenging environment.

The current pandemic is challenging the very structure of our healthcare system. Healthcare providers are being […] Continue Reading…

It’s A Perfect Time To Show Our Humanity

In a recent post I wrote for the Qualtrics blog (Adjusting your CX program to deal with COVID-19), I laid out these five principles for making changes to your Experience Management (XM) programs in this challenging environment:

Show humanity
Take a hiatus on metrics
Ask less, listen more
Build up your immediate response skill
Accelerate your feedback cycles

While all of these are important for your XM programs, one is […] Continue Reading…

XM Fireside Chat: XM Leadership With Bruce Temkin And Benjamin Granger

Our XM Institute team was looking forward to seeing everyone who was coming to Salt Lake City last week for Qualtrics X4 Summit. Unfortunately, that great event was postponed. So we decided to pull together an XM Fireside Chat series to share some of our thinking through an informal discussion format. I hope you enjoy it!

In this segment of XM Fireside Chat, I chat with the newest member of […] Continue Reading…

XM Fireside Chat: XM Leadership With Bruce Temkin And Aimee Lucas

Our XM Institute team was looking forward to seeing everyone who was coming to Salt Lake City last week for Qualtrics X4 Summit. Unfortunately, that great event was postponed. So we decided to pull together an XM Fireside Chat series to share some of our thinking through an informal discussion format. I hope you enjoy it!

In this segment of XM Fireside Chat, I chat with Aimee Lucas about XM […] Continue Reading…

XM Fireside Chat: ROI Of CX With Bruce Temkin And Moira Dorsey

Our XM Institute team was looking forward to seeing everyone who was coming to Salt Lake City this week for Qualtrics X4 Summit. Unfortunately, that great event was postponed. So we decided to pull together an XM Fireside Chat series to share some of our thinking through an informal discussion format. I hope you enjoy it!

In this segment of XM Fireside Chat, I chat with Moira Dorsey about the […] Continue Reading…

Tap Into XM To Navigate A Recession

Given the spread of Coronavirus and recent losses in the stock market, we’re facing the threat of a prolonged economic downturn. So it’s no surprise that I’ve been asked to share my opinion about how experience management (XM) would be affected by a recession.

If the downturn occurs, it would become the third recession of my professional career. During the last recession, I advised many companies on their strategies and […] Continue Reading…

XM Fireside Chat: Experience Design With Bruce Temkin And Isabelle Zdatny

Our XM Institute team was looking forward to seeing everyone who was coming to Salt Lake City this week for Qualtrics X4 Summit. Unfortunately, that great event was postponed. So we decided to pull together an XM Fireside Chat series to share some of our thinking through an informal discussion format. I hope you enjoy it!

In this first segment of XM Fireside Chat, I chat with Isabelle Zdatny about […] Continue Reading…

New Research on EX Management and the Shifts Required for Success

The XM Institute has published new research that examines the
current state of employee experience (EX) management programs and the mindsets,
skills, and actions required for employee experience (EX) excellence. You can
download both of these reports for free:

The State of EX Management Programs, 2020. This research – based on a survey of HR leaders at 250 large U.S. firms – looks at the current state of employee experience (EX) management […] Continue Reading…

Leaders: Four Experience Design Tips To Deal With Coronavirus

As the Coronavirus situation evolves, organizations are being forced to consider a number of changes that affect every one of their stakeholders—suppliers to employees to customers. It’s critical that leaders not only focus on making the right decisions, but that they also focus on how they implement those decisions. Experience design plays a key role in this area.

This global health crisis requires leaders to make a different set of […] Continue Reading…

My Manifesto: Experience Matters

In September 2007 I published my initial manifesto: Great Customer Experience Is Free. I still fully believe in the elements of that post. After 12 years, however, it’s time for an update. So I’m introducing a new manifesto: Experience Matters.

It seems appropriate for my new manifesto to take on the name of this blog, which I started in June 2007. Over the course of writing 1,684 posts, publishing many, […] Continue Reading…

The Two Ultimate Questions For XM Metrics

Experience Management (XM) programs often rely on one or more key metrics that track items such as likely to recommend, satisfaction, effort, or engagement. As I’ve written in the past, the success or failure of these metrics often has little to do with the actual metric. Instead, the key to success is the program that is wrapped around those numbers (see our 5 steps for an effective CX metrics […] Continue Reading…

The Four P’s of XM Insights

In a recent XM Institute report, we discussed how to Operationalize Experience Management (XM).  Why does XM matter? Because it creates a discipline that helps organizations continuously learn (how people are thinking and feeling), propagate insights (to the right people in the right form at the right time), and rapidly adapt (to an increasing flow of actionable insights).

As we look into the future, just about every organization is facing more […] Continue Reading…

Why I joined the XM Institute: HR to EX to XM

Note from Bruce Temkin: This is the first (of many) posts that will be written by thought leaders besides me. I’m thrilled to have Ben Granger join our Qualtrics XM Institute team and contribute to this blog.
Today, I am excited to announce that I have officially joined the Qualtrics XM Institute! I am joining a fantastic team of XM researchers and visionaries.

For the last 15+ years, I have been […] Continue Reading…

New Research Digs Into Industries And Consumer Feedback Patterns

The XM Institute is kicking off the year with a research bang.

In a previous post, I mentioned two reports from late last year that show the business value of CX, The ROI of CX and What Consumers Do After a Bad Experience. Since then, we’ve actually published a number of new research reports with an emphasis on industry-specific data. These reports are based on a survey of 10,000 U.S. consumers […] Continue Reading…