In a post-COVID world, the future is full of obvious challenges and less obvious opportunities. In this fast-changing environment, most business executives recognize the need to better connect with, serve and support their customers while streamlining operations and managing risk.

And in uncertain times, a focus on customer experience is more important than ever. McKinsey notes that this focus is a winning strategy in the current environment, with CX leaders delivering 3X higher returns for shareholders over the 2007 to 2009 recession.

So what are these leaders doing? Of the many initiatives planned and underway, we’ve identified five existing trends that won’t change – and in fact are accelerating, as both customers and the companies that serve them continue to assess and adapt to the new world around us all.

1. Acceleration of Digital Transformation

Digital transformation was on the rise well before the COVID-19 crisis. But the crisis has supercharged this trend in a way that is changing customer and employee experience faster than many companies can adapt. Customer adoption of “digital-first but not digital-only” interactions has gone from straight-line growth to a hockey stick, employees are working from home and need to collaborate and access information to stay productive – and companies are racing to catch up. The value of digital channels, products, services, experiences, and operations is immediately obvious.

2. Proving the ROI of Customer Experience

Forrester expects 1 in 4 CX professionals to lose their jobs in 2020 because they can’t tie experiences to dollars. But for those pros who can, the future is bright. Ranks of CX executives who “get it” are predicted to grow by at least 25 percent. The good news is that the business value of customer experience is more trackable than ever. Better measurement and metrics models, analytical and decisioning frameworks and customer understanding are just a few of the tools savvy practioners use to make, and deliver on, the business case for CX.

3. An Agile, Adaptive Approach… to Everything

In my 2012 book Smart Customers, Stupid Companies, we talked about the importance of preparing for what we called “simultaneous change.” This is that time. When everything from operating models and workforce needs to customer expectations is seemingly changing at once, every company needs to quickly understand and react to new pain points and changing dynamics as they occur. How? An agile approach allows organizations to leverage data, customer understanding and collaboration to continually drive business impact and customer value in a world where more linear, waterfall-like approaches are quickly outdated as the world evolves.

4. True Customer Understanding

The importance of understanding your customers cannot be overstated. Their confidence has eroded. Their wants and needs have changed and continue to change at an accelerated pace. Trust is more important than ever. In a changing environment, the ability to assess customer perceptions across all listening posts and data sources in a “sense-and-respond manner” lets you gather, analyze and act on feedback as it occurs, ensuring your actions are based on a clear understanding of what’s happening with your customers, how they’re feeling and what they want and need, as they want and need it.

5. A Renewed Focus on Employee Experience

The flip side of great customer experience is great employee experience. Together, they drive organizational success. The nature of the workplace, the workforce and employee experience has quickly shifted, driving a renewed focus on better understanding and improving the relationships between companies and employees, and employees and customers. Leaders are leveraging this shift to identify gaps, assess opportunities, refine systems and processes, and enable collaboration. By doing so they ensure employees feel safe, valued and productive in ways that empower them to deliver on the promise of the brand to each other and for customers, driving long-term success for the companies which employee them.

Increasingly, customer experience is the discipline companies turn to in their efforts to make these imperatives a reality. From greater loyalty and customer value to more efficient operations and top-line revenue growth, the business benefits for CX leaders over laggards are myriad.

Today, we can only guess what transformations will occur as the implications of this crisis drive further adoption of digital experiences and a focus on employee and customer experience become a more integral part of business and life in general.

But one thing is clear: no matter what happens, customers are going to continue to expect what they want—when, where, and how they want it. And to survive—much less thrive—companies must deliver.

Originally published here

Read more: Customer Experience Trends