Education And Healthcare Employees Are Most Impacted By Companies’ COVID Response

To understand the impact that COVID is having on employees, we surveyed more than 5,000 U.S. employees. While 11% have been laid off or temporarily furloughed, the remaining employees provided feedback on their COVID work environment. We found that:

  • Most people are working from home. Sixty percent of employees report that they’re working from home, and 31% have started to work from home for the first time.
  • There’s a small drop in effectiveness. Twenty-nine percent of employees report that they have been less effective at doing their job since the outbreak of COVID, while a slightly smaller 24% report an increase in an increase in effectiveness.
  • Employees are mostly satisfied with their employers’ responses. We asked respondents how satisfied they were with four aspects of their employers’ response to COVID. A majority of respondents are satisfied with all areas, and nearly two-thirds are satisfied with the company’s caring for and communications with employees.


Educational Workers’ Effectiveness Drops The Most

We examined the change of effectiveness during COVID by profession, role, and age of respondents. This analysis uncovered that:

  • Educational professionals are the most affected. Forty-seven percent of educational professionals report that they are less effective at doing their jobs, the most out of the 13 professions we examined. When looking at the difference in percentages between employees being more and less effective, healthcare workers experience the second-largest negative gap. Financial services sales and relationship management professionals are the only group with a higher percentage reporting that they are more effective than are reporting to be less effective.
  • Only senior executives are more effective. We looked at five different roles, and only senior executives had a higher percentage of people who are more effective than less effective.
  • Older people experience the largest effectiveness drop. Thirty-one percent of employees who are 65-years-old and older report a drop in effectiveness, compared with only 11% who report an increase. That 20-point gap is the largest across age groups.


Healthcare Workers Are The Least Satisfied

We also examined how different types of employees feel about their company’s response to the COVID pandemic across the four areas: caring, communicating, listening to employees, and taking action based on employee feedback. Looking across different groups of respondents, we found that:

  • Young employees are the least satisfied. Across the four areas we examined, the youngest employees were the least satisfied, falling well below the rest of the age groups. The oldest employees were the most satisfied with their employers’ caring, communications, and taking action on feedback. They tied with 25- to 44-year-olds for the highest satisfaction with listening to employees.
  • Senior executives are the most satisfied. Across all four areas, senior executives are the role that is most satisfied with their company’s response to COVID. Only about 5% are not satisfied. The least satisfied group are the managers of multiple departments, the next most senior group below the executives.
  • Healthcare workers are the least satisfied. Across three of the four areas, healthcare workers are the least satisfied. Factory and construction workers were the least satisfied with how their employees are listening to them. Executives, on the other hand, are the most satisfied professional group in all areas.


Increase In Workplace Videoconferencing

One of the big changes within companies is the use of video conferencing, so we asked employees about this tool. We found that 47% of employees are using more videoconferencing, while only 13% report a decline. Looking at the different segments shows the most increase with:

  • 35- to 44-year-olds. Fifty-five percent of this group report an increase, the highest of any age group.
  • Senior executives. At the high-end of usage, 57% of senior executives are video conferencing more. At the low end, only 42% of individual contributors report using more videoconferencing.
  • Educational professionals. Seventy-two percent of educational professionals are using more videoconferencing. At the bottom of the list are factory and construction workers.


Largest Drop In U.S. Well-Being Since 2012 Hits Females Hardest

Executive Summary: XM Institute’s U.S. well-being index sees its most significant drop since tracking started in 2012. The largest decline occurred amongst older females, who feel much less financially secure.

As part of our ongoing consumer studies, we’ve been tracking attitudes of U.S. consumers for most of the past decade. To gauge the overall quality of life for the U.S. population, we created a well-being index (WBi) based on a few of those attitudinal elements. This year’s WBi shows the severe impact of COVID on U.S. well-being.

The WBi is an average of three measurements representing the percentage of U.S. adults (18 and older) who agree with these statements:

  • I am typically happy
  • I am healthy
  • I am financially secure

Overall Results: Decline Driven By Financial Concerns

We’ve been tracking the WBi since 2012, based on a survey of 10,000 U.S. consumers. This year’s data comes from a study that we completed in May. As you can see in the figure below:

  • The WBi dropped 4.1 percentage-points between 2019 and 2020, the largest annual drop we’ve seen.
  • The WBi sank to 59.2%, the weakest level since 2012.
  • The happy and healthy components continued their steady decline since 2017.
  • The financially secure component dropped 6.7 percentage-points over the last year, by far the largest drop we’ve seen.


Age And Gender: Females See The Largest Drop

We examined the WBi by age and gender. The chart below shows that:

  • Across every age group, females experienced a larger decline than their male peers..
  • WBi dropped for just about every segment.. The only group to improve are males between 35- and 44-years-old.
  • The most significant decline across all groups was with females between 45- and 64-years-old.
  • The largest gender gap is with 45- to 54-year-olds, where males’ WBi is 14 percentage-points higher than females’.


Components: Older Females Much Less Financially Secure

We also analyzed the 2019 to 2020 change in WBi components of happy, healthy, and financially secure across age and gender. As you can see in the chart:

  • The three largest declines are in the financial security component for females, with drops of more than 20-percentage-points for females between 45- and 64-years-old.
  • The fourth largest decline, 16 percentage-points, is in the area of happiness for the youngest females.
  • The only area where males experience a double-digit decline is in the area of financial security for the oldest group.
  • Males who are between 35- and 44-years-old actually improved across all three components.
  • The largest gender gap in terms of the changes that males and females have experienced over the previous year is with 55- to 64-year-olds in the area of financial security, where females dropped 24 percentage-points more than their male peers.



For those of you who are interested, here’s how we do the study:

  • Survey 10,000 U.S. consumers online through a third-party panel provider.
  • Set respondent quotas based on mirroring the U.S. census for age, income, gender, ethnicity, and region.
  • Ask consumers the degree to which they agree or disagree with the statements above, using a five-point Likert scale. 
  • For each of the three components (happy, healthy, financially secure), calculate the percentage of people who agree; the top two points on the scale. Then weight the responses based on the exact age/gender mix of the U.S. census.
  • To calculate the overall WBi, take the average of the three components.

Three Phases For Heading Back To Business

I’ve studied human behavior for decades, examining how people respond to their environment as customers, employees, and leaders. Humans are amazingly resilient—for the good and bad. Even after facing disruptive events such as an epidemic or a recession, people tend to revert to their old ways shortly after the shock dissipates. People will go back to congregating, shaking hands, shopping at malls, and going without washing their hands more quickly than we’d think at the moment. Behavioral norms are hard to break.

That does not mean that the future will look exactly like the past. The evolution to a new normal will be a tug of war between people’s heightened anxiety about staying safe and their desire to return to highly engrained normative patterns of behavior.

Some Changes Will Persist Beyond The Crisis

While people don’t tend to change, there are some emergent behaviors that appear to have the momentum to stay longer. For an activity to continue, it needs to be economically favorable, fulfill an unmet human need that persists beyond the crisis, and nurtured into an evolved form as the crisis subsides. The ones that jump out to me as candidates for ongoing change are:

  • Group video interactivity. Although people will not remain separated, the use of group video events will continue. People will go online for family gatherings, global training, college courses, and group workouts. This pandemic has accelerated the hurdle of trying and adopting these activities, and they fill a latent need for connection that exists beyond the replacement of in-person interactions.
  • Blended delivery models. Now that a large portion of the older population has been pushed to order groceries, necessities, or meals online and either have them delivered or picked up from their local market, they’ll likely keep doing it—at least in some ways. I expect the use of blended models will become a standard component of everyday life, especially for older consumers.
  • Streaming media consumption. People have turned to content services like Netflix, Disney+, and YouTube to fill their days. While the volume of binging will subside, these behaviors will likely continue to replace other media options. This shift, however, may decelerate if these services don’t actively keep first time users engaged with appropriate pricing models and content.
  • Work from home. Not all of the current home workers will continue spending workdays in their makeshift offices. But some will. And the need for organizations to enforce social distancing will push these activities for a longer time than many other temporary behaviors. Now that leaders and employees have been exposed to the benefits of working from home (and recognized where there are limitations), we’ll see more job descriptions allowing people to at least partially work remotely.
  • Omnichannel medical care. Gaining access to healthcare services through channels beyond visiting a medical office or hospital had to become a mainstream activity at some point. It has all of the right advantages of a persistent norm, it’s better economically, while also being more convenient. The only thing that will hold this back are slow-to-move government regulations.

Three Phases Of Returning To (New) Normal

As the world returns to some semblance of normal, changes will represent ongoing trade-offs  between safety-oriented behaviors and the desire to return to old ways. Given this behavioral struggle, I suggest that organizations plan for three phases as they head back to business:


  • Phase 1: Explore: People will quickly start doing some of the things they haven’t been able to do. The activities they do and the way they do them will be the result of balance between ongoing anxiety and the desire to get back to “normal.” This will be a somewhat chaotic period, where organizations need to be observant and responsive, and make sure they meet the rapidly changing desires and attitudes. They need to try new operating models, and refine them as they learn; all while providing evidence of their commitment to safety.
  • Phase 2: Reorient: During this next phase, customers and employees will start to settle into patterns of behavior that will stick beyond the crisis period. In this stage, organizations need to aggressively reposition their existing offerings and messaging, and create future-looking operating norms. There will need to be a lot of alignment, as this change will affect suppliers, employees, partners, and customers.
  • Phase 3: Normalize: After the new patterns emerge, organizations need to lock into operating models that support the new norms. During this period, organizations will likely formalize new offerings, look at the market through new customer segmentation models, develop supporting processes and systems, and go to market with a refined ecosystem of suppliers and partners.

The picture below provides a good metaphor for these phases. Before designing the landscape for Lafayette College’s quad, architects observed how students used the space. Once they saw patterns emerge by the beaten down grass that formed pathways, they built the asymmetric walkways that exist today. You’ll need to let people walk in phase 1, identify the patterns they take in phase 2, and then pave the paths in phase 3.

Tap Into XM Along The Way

As I’ve discussed in the past, Experience Management (XM) is a critical capability during times of change. That’s because XM is all about staying connected with people (customers, employees, partners, and suppliers) by continuously learning (how they are thinking and feeling), propagating insights (to the right people in the right form at the right time), and rapidly adapting (to an increasing flow of actionable insights). In these fluid times, XM provides the human-connected adaptability required for organizations to successfully navigate their way back to business.

As you can see in the chart below, organizations will need a different approach to their XM efforts across the three phases in returning to the (new) normal: Explore, Reorient, and Normalize.


As your organization begins its journey towards normalization, here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Chart your back to business phases. The three phases will occur in different ways and at different times across industries and markets. The way that people interact with the airline industry in the U.S. will normalize at a different rate and in a different manner than they do with retailers in the UK. Every organization needs to make its own unique plans for the three phases.
  • Practice intentional patience. The early stages are primarily about trial, error, and learning. Even if something seems to work in the Explore stage, the success of that approach may not be persistent as people’s needs and priorities change. You need to maintain very quick cycles of sensing and adapting early on, while holding back on locking into a long-term direction until persistent patterns emerge.
  • Capitalize on persistent changes. One of the most dramatic opportunities to disrupt your competitive environment is to tap into new behaviors and attitudes that persist beyond the crisis. The list above provides some areas for innovation, but there will likely be others as well. Make sure that you are tracking attitudes and behaviors of your customers and employees, and not just attempting to return to “the good old days.”
  • Tap into engaged employees. Navigating through these back to business phases are much less about a great strategic plan, then they are about tapping into the insights and energy of your employees. Especially in the early stages, employees are your eyes and ears about what’s working and what needs to be changed. If you don’t keep your workers engaged, then they’ll never make the changes that you need at a pace that’s required in the market.
  • Keep XM action-oriented. Late last year I labeled 2020 as “The Year of Insightful Actions.” Even before the pandemic, it was clear that organizations were most successful when their XM efforts focused on driving improvements and making better decisions. That’s the direction that many organizations have been forced into during the last few months. Don’t fall back into the pattern of using XM primarily as a source of metrics. Leaders should continue to ask the two ultimate questions: “What have you learned?” and “What improvements are you making?

John F. Kennedy once noted that, “The Chinese use two brush strokes to write the word ‘crisis.’ One brush stroke stands for danger; the other for opportunity.” During this path to a new normal, don’t just aim to recover. If you come out of these three phases doing exactly what you were doing before, then you will likely fall behind. You need to identify how you will emerge with improved capabilities and enhanced offerings.

The bottom line: Stay focused on people as you head back to business.

Announcing The XM Journal

This is a busy week for the XM Institute. On Monday we launched the XM Professionals Network Online Forum and now we’re starting a monthly newsletter, The XM Journal. We sent the first edition out yesterday (see below). If you didn’t receive a copy, make sure to subscribe here.

The Journal is a great resource for keeping up to date on leading-edge XM research, tools, and community activities. And if you previously enjoyed the Experience Matters monthly newsletter, then you definitely need to subscribe.


TEST The XM Journal April 2020 Edition


Introducing the XM Professionals Network Online Forum

I’m thrilled to announce that the Qualtrics XM Institute is launching the XM Professionals Network Online Forum (“XMPN Online“). It’s an online community where XM professionals from around the world can connect with each other, learn from each other, and tap into the latest thinking from the XM Institute. Our goal is to help XM professionals successfully design and manage their XM programs.

I explain a bit more about XMPN Online in this video.


Features of XMPN online

XMPN Online is the place where XM professionals can come together to help each other drive successful XM programs. There are several ways to participate in the community:


  • General Discussions: XMPN members are encouraged to start and participate in discussions with their peers on an ongoing basis. XM Institute faculty will also participate in general discussions, to offer additional expertise. They’ve already initiated discussions on a couple of hot topics: How do you adjust your CX program in an economic downturn? and How do you adjust your EX program in an economic downturn?
  • Topic of the Month: Every month we’ll introduce a topic to focus on. We’ll start with a roundtable presentation, facilitate discussions, and then hold a Q&A session over several days.
  • Ask Me Anything: During monthly weeklong sessions, XM Institute faculty and other industry experts will answer questions during a live chat within the community.
  • Virtual Meet-Ups: We’re also holding sessions for XM professionals to get together and discuss different topics via Zoom. Think of it as an online networking event. We’re planning on holding these monthly at times that work across different regions. Follow the us on Twitter @XM_institute or register now for our upcoming Meetups on May 20th (7pm ET) and May 21st (11am ET).

I urge you to join the XMPN Online and become an active member of the community.


Answers To Some Anticipated Questions

  • Is the XMPN Online for me? Maybe. If you’re an XM professional who is leading an XM program (which includes a CX, EX, PX, or BX program), then this is a great community for you. If you’re looking for help on using or administering the Qualtrics platform or navigating Qualtrics’ services, then this is not the right community for you; a better option is to join the Qualtrics user community.
  • How can I join XMPN? You start by using this link to a survey, which starts the process. I’ll apologize in advance that the process is not as streamlined or as automated as we would like it to be. You’ll need to have a Qualtrics user account (don’t worry, you can sign up for a free account). Please bear with us, we’re doing the best that we can for right now.
  • Why is XM Institute doing this? This is who we are. XM Institute’s mission is to create a thriving global community of XM professionals. We’re passionate about helping professionals succeed, and to connect them with and learn from each other.
  • Is this a global offering? Absolutely, but we’re only supporting English conversations. We want to connect XM professionals across the world, and facilitate global learning and sharing. The discussions that happen asynchronously allow for anyone in any time zone to participate. For our “live” events, we’re generally holding them at a couple of different times to support participants from around the world.
  • Can XM Professionals join if they’re not a client of Qualtrics? Yes. XMPN Online is meant for any XM professional. To join XMPN Online, however, you will need a Qualtrics user account. But don’t worry, you can sign up for a free account and join. As you may have guessed, employees of vendors who compete with Qualtrics are not welcome to join.
  • How is the XM Institute participating? XM Institute has a dedicated community management team that is focused on building and supporting XMPN. Our XM Institute faculty (subject matter experts across Qualtrics) will be actively participating in the community to share our perspectives and to learn like everyone else in the community.
  • Is this for professionals who focus on CX, EX, BX, or PX? Yes, all of them. While some discussions may deal with specific customer experience, employee experience, brand experience, or product experience topics, others will be more general XM topics. Our goal is for XM professionals across these areas to share their learnings and best practices.
  • Will XMPN have in-person networking opportunities? Stay tuned. The goal of XMPN is to create a thriving global community of XM professionals with a combination of XMPN online and local events. We won’t be immediately covering the globe with local chapters, but we plan to facilitate community activities in a number of cities across geographical regions.
  • Will anyone be selling things to me in this community? No. The XMPN code of conduct does not allow for any sales activities within the community. The goal of the community is for sharing of best practices across XM professionals, not for selling products or services.
  • How is XMPN Online related to the Qualtrics Community? XMPN Online is run on the same platform which holds the Qualtrics community, so members of XMPN Online will also have access to other areas of the Qualtrics community. However, XMPN Online is quite different from those other areas as it is focused on designing and leading XM programs, while other parts of the community are focused on using Qualtrics.
  • Will there be a lot of activity in the community? As with any network, it will start slow and gain volume over time. So it may be a little less dynamic in the beginning than what we expect to see in the future. But there’s also an upside to that…  early members will get more access to XM Institute faculty.

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.


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 overwhelmed by the volume of patients and the lack of supplies and tests. All of this plays out through a network of human beings who are facing a multitude of stressful factors, including patients suffering from coronavirus, doctors and nurses lacking supplies, and administrators looking to manage and expand their bursting facilities. In this environment it’s more important than ever to stay connected with those people, which is what XM is all about.

Here are some related posts that you may find valuable:

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:

  1. Show humanity
  2. Take a hiatus on metrics
  3. Ask less, listen more
  4. Build up your immediate response skill
  5. Accelerate your feedback cycles

While all of these are important for your XM programs, one is particularly critical right now for everyone around the world… Show Humanity.

With all of the discord and tension throughout the world, it seems like a good time for all of us to refocus on what’s most important, our collective humanity.

That’s an excerpt from a post from December 2017, when we labelled 2018, The Year of Humanity. It may even be more relevant right now. As we all fight the pandemic and deal with the economic slowdown in our own ways, it’s really important that we also look out for one another.

As we did a couple of years ago, I’m looking to reignite a focus on the following mindsets that we defined for humanity:

  • Embrace diversity. Applaud our differences and find ways to treat people as individuals.
  • Extend compassion. Tune into the condition of the people around us and care about their well-being
  • Express appreciation. Proactively look for and acknowledge the positive aspects of the world around us.

Check out this video we created in 2018, Humanity: You Have A Choice!

Here are some of my previous posts about humanity:

The bottom line: Let’s show our collective humanity!

Adjusting Your CX Program To Deal With COVID-19

Given the spread of Coronavirus and the downturn in the economy, every organization needs to rethink how it operates. As Experience Management (XM) professionals, you can play an important role in helping your company weather the storm. How? By enhancing the capability to continuously learn how people are thinking and feeling, propagate insights into the hands of people who can take action, and rapidly adapt in this dynamic environment. That’s what XM is all about.

To support your organization in navigating these changing times, you will need to adjust your XM efforts. Luckily, this won’t require abandoning the XM competencies you’ve been building. Instead, you’ll need to reprioritize your efforts to align with the changing needs of the organization. Hopefully this post provides you some guidance.

Five Principles For Making Changes To Your XM Program

As you think about making changes to your XM efforts (including Customer Experience, Employee Experience, Product Experience, and Brand Experience), here are some principles to keep in mind:

  1. Show humanity. If you’re asking for feedback, make sure that people understand that you’re doing it for their benefit, so you don’t seem out of touch with the situation. People are worrying about a lot of things these days, and so they likely have less patience for self-absorbed companies. Make sure your communications are designed in such a way that the customers and employees recognize that you care about them and that you aren’t just continuing with business as usual.
  2. Take a hiatus on metrics. I’ve found that large-scale disruptions like this have an impact on how people are feeling and the sentiment they share. 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. This way all of your energy can be focused on reacting to the current environment.
  3. Ask less, listen more. Since the situation is fluid, your normal barrage of questions may not capture the right information. Most voice of the customer systems are built to track well-defined, ongoing operations. But that’s not the case right now. So 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, so you stay abreast of what your front-line employees are seeing.
  4. 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. This is what we call the “Immediate Response” skill within the “RESPOND” XM competency (one of the six XM competencies). While this is always a core skill for XM programs, it’s probably the most important one to build out in the near-term.
  5. Accelerate your feedback cycles. The ideal pace of feedback is defined by an organization’s capacity to act on what it finds. As you build up your capacity to make short-term changes, you’ll want to increase the pace of feedback so that you can test those changes and prioritize new ones. Think about adding more always-on feedback mechanisms to your digital properties as well as adding some more targeted pulse surveys with your customers, employees, and partners.

Answering CX Questions From Clients

The Qualtrics Customer Success organization, which supports a large volume of companies around the world, shared a number of questions that they’re hearing from CX clients. While this is not the complete list of questions that CX leaders may have, hopefully it’s a valuable start at helping you think about the changes that you need to make. So here are my answers to the first batch of questions:

How do we understand the impact of COVID-19 on my longitudinal data? Should we isolate the results?

Assume that there will be an abnormality in the data for at least the next quarter, so I’d definitely isolate these results. In many cases you might want to stop tracking that data and focus your efforts on insights that help the organization understand and respond to the moment.

Should we change our current survey or distribution?

Most likely yes and yes. Think about shifting your insights away from tracking the existing business and focusing more on gathering actionable insights about the current situation. That may mean targeting a different group of customers and asking a different set of questions. Rather than continuing with a bunch of scaled questions that you use just for the sake of reporting, consider fewer questions about important and emerging areas, and use more open-ended questions to understand what people are truly feeling. Also, make sure to look for insights from existing interactions in the contact center and tap into the observations of employees. I’d even recommend a weekly review of the questions you use to make sure you’re asking as little as possible and are focusing on the insights that the organization really needs.

How do we handle changes to COVID-19 relative to metrics, reporting, and compensation?

Those things will likely need to change. I’d tighten up on the metrics you report on, focusing on only those that are critical right now. You may need to introduce some new items that are becoming critical. Your reporting should focus on this tighter set of metrics, and you should probably increase the cadence of reporting. As for compensation, I’d recommend an executive decision to disconnect compensation from metrics for at least the next quarter, unless you can introduce a metric relative to the current environment. That way you’re not pushed to collect data just for the sake of fueling compensation cycles.

How should we think about transactional vs relational programs moving forward due to COVID-19?

You need to keep transactional programs, and even increase the focus on closing the loop. There’s nothing more precious in these times than an existing customer. As for relational programs, I may alter the approach and go to more of a pulse mode, asking a smaller set of targeted questions to a more targeted set of customers on a regular basis. I would focus more on what would make someone repurchase in this moment, than what the long-term data says is the largest drivers of loyalty.

Should we stop surveying my customers all together?

In these times of change, the last thing you want to do is to lose a connection with your customers. You need to be listening and responding even more than you have in the past. That can take on many forms beyond just surveying, especially tapping into your existing customer contacts and learning from the observations of employees. But when it comes to surveying, you should trim what you ask to what’s truly important in this moment. Assume that customers will have less patience for providing feedback if they don’t see how it will benefit them.

Should we disregard or throw scores out for a set period of time?

I would make the assumption that any trending data will be thrown out for at least the next quarter. Not all of the data will end up being abnormal, but I don’t think you should be spending any time trying to figure out how to trend and reconcile the data during this period, when there are many more important areas of insight to focus on.

Does it make sense for us to change compensation models for agents now? Forever? For only a period of time?

I would rethink all comp models that are tied to specific CX metrics. Compensation should reinforce the behaviors that you want to see. I can see an argument for keeping the model in place if you want to maintain consistency in the face of all of this change. Otherwise, think about what changes you’re asking people to make and see if there is a different comp model that supports some of those new behaviors.

Are most companies delaying their relationship surveys for the next few months due to COVID-19?

I haven’t checked across companies, but I’d recommend going with more of a pulse model than a traditional relationship study right now. Ask questions that help you adjust what you’re doing in the near term. Most relationship studies cover a lot of topics that are important for long-term tracking and analysis, and are designed around how the organization has traditionally operates. I think you need to focus less on what drives promoters in the long-term, and more on what changes you need to make to keep customers happy in the near-term.

Should we delay any survey launches for the time being?

Not necessarily. Understanding and responding to customers’ changing needs is even more critical in this environment. If a new survey helps an organization to adapt to the current environment, then go ahead. If it’s more focused on metrics than insights, then now’s not the right time to launch it. But don’t think of any survey in isolation. The goal is to drive actionable insights across the organization, so companies need to think about their portfolio of activities and channels, to make sure that launching a new survey doesn’t pull them away from more important activities.

What should my company consider doing right now related to relational NPS?

Your insights work needs to focus on understanding and responding to people’s needs right now. Many relational studies are more focused on longer-term analysis. If you have a short NPS study, and have strong closed-loop mechanisms for learning and responding, then it makes sense to continue it. If your program is more focused on tracking the metric and longer-term analysis, then I’d shift my focus on to other areas of insights.

A big airline has turned off their surveys … should we do that as well?

A good rule of thumb is to only ask customers about things for which you plan to take action. So I’d stop any surveys if you can no longer take action on them. For instance, many airlines are operating in a crisis mode – where they need to focus all of their efforts on operational issues. If that’s the case, why bother asking customers for feedback if you aren’t going to do much with what they say.

We’re in the healthcare industry, should we wind down other surveys & only focus on what’s critical?

Yes. But this is true for every company and every industry. In this environment, you need to focus even more than ever on what’s critical. As I mentioned with the airline industry, sometimes organizations are faced with critical operational situations that require a different approach. Healthcare organizations are definitely facing some capacity shortages, so it makes sense to rethink what type of customer feedback they need to support their current priorities – such as triaging customers’ needs and forecasting their near-term demands.

Should we change our survey to ask COVID-19 specific questions?

No. As with any question, only ask about COVID-19 if it helps you understand and respond to your customers’ needs. While asking about the virus may seem timely, people will get tired of questions that seem more trendy than caring.

How do you manage executive and company-wide compensation tied to CX metrics?

You need to communicate actively and clearly. I’ve actually written a blog post about how executives should communicate in this environment, which outlines four strategies: 1) Don’t be shy with bad news, 2) Choose certainty over uncertainty, 3) Always share exact next steps, and 4) Stay empathetic.

How much COVID-19 communication is appropriate?

As much as is required. People will get flooded with information, which can cause a couple of problems. First of all, your communications may get lost in the chaos. Secondly, all of that information may actually heighten people’s concerns about what changes you are making. I suggest being very succinct with your communications, and simplifying the actions you take so that they can be easily understood by your target customers. You may have some great ideas, but if they are hard for people to understand then they will likely be problematic. Simplify, simplify, simplify!

Originally published on the Qualtrics Blog.

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 the XM Institute team, Benjamin Granger, Ph.D. This is a great chance for you to get to know Ben, and we also spend some time talking about XM Maturity.

Organizations don’t master XM overnight, it takes several years of evolution and change.  The XM Institute has found that this path often takes a consistent form. We’ve  identified five distinct stages that organizations go through as they build XM capabilities and increase their XM maturity (see graphic below).

If you’re wondering how to gauge your organization’s CX maturity level, complete our online CX assessment.


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 Leadership.

Leadership is a critical component for driving successful XM programs, which is why “LEAD” is one of our Six XM Competencies. You can see a lot of different content about LEAD on this blog. Also, check out these free reports from the Qualtrics XM Institute:

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 ROI of CX.

Ensuring that your CX program (or any type of XM program) delivers value is critical, which is  why “REALIZE” is one of our Six XM Competencies. If you’re interested in ROI of CX, then check out these recent research reports mentioned in the XM Fireside Chat that you can download for free from the XM Institute:

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 even used this blog to provide advice to leaders on how to weather the storm.

The Great Recession started in late 2007, at which time I was a VP at Forrester Research focusing on customer experience (CX). While the overall environment was challenging, my area of the business was booming. That’s right, the CX business was booming. It turned out that companies increasingly recognized the importance of CX as a tool for actively prioritized customer retention.

I think XM will see that same type of surge if we fall into a recession. This isn’t a forecast about spending on XM technology or services, but instead it’s a prediction that leading organizations will become increasingly committed to XM as a strategic discipline.

To understand how XM will be affected in a recession, it’s important to look at how organizations respond to downturns. In general, companies take one of two approaches to navigating these difficult periods:

  • Manage their way through it. In this approach, executive teams react to market conditions by making widespread cuts in an attempt to maintain short-term profitability targets. After the recession lifts, these firms will often need to rebuild their employee and customer relationships.
  • Lead their way out of it. In this approach, executives intensify their company’s focus on the long-term purpose of the firm and make targeted cuts in areas that are not core to that purpose. After the recession lifts, these firms are set for a quick shift into growth mode.

Five Recommendations For Leading Through A Recession

One of the best perspectives for thinking about a recession is conveyed through this quote by John F. Kennedy:

The Chinese use two brush strokes to write the word ‘crisis.’ One brush stroke stands for danger; the other for opportunity.

This insight is at the heart of my high-level advice to leaders during a downturn…

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

How do you manage this seemingly stark contradiction? By following these five recommendations:

  1. 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. To quote Martin Luther King, Jr., “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” Continually ask yourself: how will this decision affect the core of who we are?
  2. Be bold. During a recession, you have three choices for how to make decisions: 1) hold on to the past, 2) respond when required, or 3) get in front of the wave. The first two option keep you locked into the past, while the third option allows you to start looking ahead. And that’s critical. The faster you can be forward-leaning, the more time you’ll have to outpace your competitors on the backend of the recession.
  3. Be clear. One of the realities of a recession is that just about everyone is anxious, especially your employees who are going to wonder what changes are coming. As I discussed in my recent post about coronavirus, follow four steps: 1) Don’t be shy with bad news, 2) choose certainty over uncertainty, 3) always share exact next steps, and 4) stay empathetic. Also, human beings are hopeful. We flourish when we envision a positive future. So paint a picture of how your organization will be better in the future. This will also be helpful with customers and partners.
  4. Prune against priorities. During a recession, companies have less opportunity for sloppiness so they need to more effectively align their offerings and efforts to the specific need of target customers. Take the opportunity to rethink your future direction and stop non-core efforts. It’s often much better to cut entire secondary efforts, then to enact across-the-board cuts.
  5. Incubate for the future. While you may not be cutting back on new products and features during a recession, don’t cut back on your innovation. Identify two or three big best 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. Set your sites on coming out of the recession with a vigor.

XM Will Fuel Recession Winners

So how will the use of XM change if there’s a recession? Many of the organizations that successfully navigate the downturn will do so by actively adopting XM. During downturns, organizations are forced to intensely focus on what’s most important. For the Great Recession, that meant using CX as a tool for customer retention.

Over the last decade, organizations have recognized that employees are as critical to their success as their customers. So I expect to see leading organizations respond to a downturn by attempting to better understand what their customers and employees are thinking and feeling, put that information into the hands of the people that can do something about it, and make fast adjustments. That’s XM.

Here’s how we describe the capabilities that XM enables:

  • Continuously Learn. XM helps organizations more effectively sense and interpret what’s going on all around them, collecting and analyzing signals from the actions and feedback of employees, partners, vendors, customers, and even competitors.
  • Propagate Insights. XM helps organizations put actionable intelligence in the hands of people across their ecosystem who can use it, creating seamless access to the right information in the right form at the right time.
  • Rapidly Adapt. XM helps organizations act on the insights they’ve uncovered at an increasingly faster pace, finding ways to create new experiences and renovate existing ones.

These XM capabilities can be the foundation for success during a downturn as they will help organizations:

  • Tailor efforts to the most important customers
  • Stay aligned with customers’ changing needs
  • Prioritize the critical projects and programs
  • Engage and learn from employees

In addition, XM will be a critical ingredient for organizations to accelerate after a recession. The ability to stay connected to market signals will be woven into the operating fabric of new offerings that organizations incubate for the post-downturn era. Think about it, if you were building an organization from scratch, wouldn’t you want it to be able to continuously learn, propagate. insights, and rapidly adapt?

To better understand the capabilities that XM provides, here’s a chart from the report, Operationalizing XM.


Previous Recession Posts

In case you’re interested in more information on managing in a recession, here are some older posts that I’ve written on the topic:

The bottom line: Use XM to weather a recession and to thrive in its aftermath.

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 Experience Design.

Experience design isn’t just a “nice to” activity, it’s a fundamental capability that every organization needs to embrace. And it’s the core skill within what we call the “DISRUPT” competency, which is one of the Six XM Competencies. If you’re interested in Experience Design, here and some useful research reports that are available for free from the Qualtrics XM Institute:

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 decisions than they are used to making. This situation is particularly difficult because:

  • Leaders have no control and little visibility over a fluid environment.
  • There are broad social and political implications to the decisions.
  • Stakeholders are concerned about both health and professional issues.

As you think about the myriad of operational, risk management, and business continuity decisions you are making, keep in mind that the way you implement those decisions can be as important as the decisions themselves. And while this emotionally charged environment may be unique, the needs of human beings remain the same.

With all of that context, I’ve identified four experience design-based tips for leaders to keep in mind throughout this crisis period:

  1. Don’t be shy with bad news. You are likely to make some decisions that will negatively impact some people. While it may be uncomfortable to share this information, you need to overcome that discomfort and let people know the information right away. It will not make the news any better, but it will give people more time to deal with it. In the long run, people may not appreciate what you’ve done, but it’s much better than having them hold you accountable for the impact of any delays.
  2. Choose certainty over uncertainty. We often think that people are just looking for leaders to make decisions that benefit them as individuals. But people are more complex than that. As an environment becomes more complicated, people often thrive for order and certainty. In many cases they are best served by hearing negative news rather than being left in a state of uncertainty. One of the great ways to mitigate some uncertainty is to provide regular and clear status updates — even if the situation hasn’t changed. You should also bias your process towards making definitive decisions as proactively as possible.
  3. Always share exact next steps. No matter what decisions you make, be very clear about the activities and timing of what follows. This does not mean that you must have everything worked out before you share information, but you can at least let people know exactly when they can expect to hear from you next with more information. The clarity of setting and meeting these expectations will likely have a significant impact on how people remember your decision.
  4. Stay empathetic. You’re going to be under a lot of stress, so it’s easy to lose sight of how your decisions may affect other people. Make sure to take a moment after you make decisions and think about the people who will be impacted and consider ways to mitigate some of their loss and discomfort. And remember, even if you believe that you are making the right decision, people have the right to feel badly about it.

One of the key lessons in my life came from when I worked at GE and CEO Jack Welch would regularly tell us, “Deal with the world as it is, not as you’d like it to be.” I think those words of wisdom are particularly important right now.

The bottom line: Use experience design to help navigate difficult situations.