So the question arises, will Customer Experience change post Covid-19?
Most futurists and economists are aligned that we will not return to the normal we used to know… granted, you may have your own opinion.
The well-known model of the Stages of Group Development (Summary) of Forming, Storming, Norming, Performing and Adjourning postulates that companies and various grouping in companies find themselves at various stages of group development.
Any significant event in an organisation or the broader business environment has the ability to regress an organisation who may be in the Performance Stage right back to Forming, followed by Storming and Norming before (and if) it enters the Performance stage again. Granted it can be quicker, but that is definitely not guaranteed and sometimes organisations can get stuck in stages especially when circumstances remain “stormy”.
One of the most well-known neurological models of human performance succeeds very well in explaining what happens to humans under stress. (The Triune Brain). The aim of this article is not to open a lengthy series of arguments about the scientific accuracy of the Paul McLean Triune Brain Theory (A Theory Abandoned but Still Compelling). We acknowledge the many objections about the theory but maintains that it still succeeds in explaining common-day behavior in very simplistic terms – contrary to most of the modern-day articles on neuroscience that are simply not cognitively digestible for the average reader. In a nutshell the model presents three functional areas when you look at a cross section of the human brain.
· The outer layer, Neo-Cortex deals with our thinking and more specifically, where rational thinking takes place.
· The middle layer is where our emotions, self-esteem and confidence are situated.
· The inner most section of the brain, the Brain Stem, controls all our basic bodily survival functions like breathing, reflexes, heartrate, etc. On a behavioral level it controls our survival responses.
Three of the most well-known responses here are fighting, fleeing or freezing. What typically happens with humans when they experience stress or trauma is that the brain scales down in function from the outside to the inside. This makes perfect sense as any form of stress or trauma, be it conscious or subconscious, ultimately threatens our survival. Therefore, the first ability that we will lose is our ability to think rationally. It is important to note that this is rationality in both a left-brain (detail, analytical) sense but also in right brain (gestalt, creative) sense. The activity in the brain shifts towards the limbic system where emotion and self-esteem are situated. In this state people find it increasingly difficult to get into solution mode when confronted with problems. Finally, when activity becomes limited to the Brain Stem, where fighting, fleeing or freezing will manifest, things do not only become difficult, but it can easily turn “ugly”.
Apply this for a moment in the Stages of Group Development Model and you will easily see the correlation…. Severe changes in circumstances…survival…brainstem behavior…. We go right back to Forming. Storming is the result of regaining access to the limbic system and a sometimes-uncontrollable increase in emotions. But do not forget about self-esteem that is also situated in the limbic system, it becomes My-way versus Your-way. As we manage to settle down and people are slowly starting to buy into the new realities of their circumstances, activity returns to the Neo-Cortex and we may move back into Norming - literally laying down the rules of how we will operate, not formally, but more in the form of psychological contracting.
Like a typical game of snakes and ladders, most businesses have been “swallowed” by the current global realities. It is almost as if the entire board changed into a nest of snakes with no ladders visible, like an animated version of the game with one fundamental change to the rules: The only way that you will be able to find a ladder is when you have been swallowed by a snake. It is not a question of whether the snake will swallow you; it is just a question of the type and size of snake.
No one is exempted from regressing on the Stages of Group Development.
Let’s put these realities for a moment within the context of Customer Experience Management. Despite all the extraordinary challenges that were brought about by Covid-19, one of the most fundamental principles in the world of Customer Experience Management will remain unchanged. There will always be a market, a customer universe, with a need. There will also always be companies with value propositions aimed at addressing those needs to let people’s desires materialize. This boils down to a marriage between expectations (needs) and the perceptions (how the needs are met). It is in this zone where the magic of Customer Experience is happening.
With Customer Experience and more specifically Customer Centricity becoming a business differentiator most businesses have some reference to Customer Centricity somewhere in the strategic objectives of the organization.
One of the best ways to understand Customer Experience Management - which is basically the vehicle through which organisations become more Customer Centric - is to view it as a development journey consisting of various stages; similar to Infancy, Early Childhood, Adolescence, Adulthood and Maturity.
Customer Centricity Maturity is a topic that almost deserves a book on its own. However, some highly valuable insights can be drawn when overlaying the level of Customer Centricity Maturity of the organization and the Stages of Group Development and more specifically what actions are required to bring or rather craft a new normal that will bring the organization as close to the Performing Stage as possible, despite the current global challenges.
The CC-Maturity Model presents 6 stages of Customer Centricity Maturity, each with a specific description and implications for the organisation. The stages are:
Level 1: Unconvinced but interested
Level 2: Getting involved and buy-in
Level 3: Formalized and converted
Level 4: Dedicated and reinventing
Level 5: Entrenched and empowered
Level 6: Engaged and sustained
Understanding the characteristics of each of these levels of CC-Maturity provide organisations with invaluable insights. The most crucial is to know what is required to progress from one level to the next. Although this is a massive over-simplification, the following keywords describes what the organization should focus on:
Consulta developed a comprehensive CC-Maturity Measure supported by a Customer Centricity Toolkit that can assist businesses of all shapes and sizes to grow one of the most valuable business “assets” available….THE CUSTOMER!
Many futurists are speculating and using various forms of predictive modelling to determine what the future will look like. What will be the face of Customer Experience beyond Covid-19? The actual reality is that NO-ONE really knows. We find ourselves literally in the circumstance where we are confronted with the words of Abraham Lincoln: “The best way to predict the future is to create it”, and later echoed by Peter Drucker: “If you want to predict the future, create it.” Even John Maxwell later added his own dimension to this wisdom with the words: “If you don’t try to create the future you want you must endure the future you get”.
Within the current crisis we experience, there will be numerous opportunities to re-create ourselves and create the future that we desire. If your customers are the cornerstone of your business, then becoming more customer centric might just be the future that is require to propel your organization past your competitors.
If you are interested in getting to know a little more about any of the themes or concepts addressed in this article you are welcome to contact me directly. Knowing your company’s Customer Centricity Maturity-level may just be the first steps towards creating the future you desire.