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11 good reasons to fight for your customer experience budget in times of recession

October 18, 2022

In economically stable times, we try to design customer experiences (CX) that make us stand out from the competition and that ideally make our customers loyal and share their experiences with others. In other words: we try to get rid of experience debt and create products and services that meet customers’ expectations. However, we tend to forget a crucial element of any good relationship: the promises we give need to be valid in good and in bad times.

Now that a recession is appearing on the horizon, many organizations are looking for ways to ensure their profits. Unfortunately, CX budgets often are one of the first victims in this strive to react to a slowing economy. 

The following eleven points will help you shape your thoughts when fighting for your budgets.

1. No matter the times – you always compete on CX

In an experience-driven economy, it’s crucial to gain and retain customers by trying to understand and meet their needs and expectations. If you already invested in making your customers your ambassadors, it’s essential to keep doing so in times of crisis. 

The equation underlying the delivery of good CX is a simple one: satisfaction derives from the expectations you set (brand promise) minus the experience you deliver (service reality). 

That’s true in good and bad times alike. But especially in times of crisis this matters even more. CX is not a nice-to-have, it’s your seat belt in turbulent times. Cutting your CX budget is like unfastening your belt and hoping nothing will happen. 

2. Retaining customers is cheaper than gaining new ones

Do everything you can to retain your customers! What’s true in economically stable times is all the more important in times of crisis. Many of us have learned that you’ll understand who your real friends are once times are hard. That’s true in business as well: be a partner to your customers, especially when things turn out as well as we all hoped they would. Take away their fear, make them an offer, be transparent and approachable, and strengthen your communication even more. No matter if they don’t plan to purchase anytime soon. They will at a later point. 

The last thing you want is suddenly failing on previously good service. 

Customers that feel you’re taking a step back will be disappointed even more than the ones not having these pre-crisis reference points. Trust brings loyalty and that’s not something you want to lose.

You might struggle to do business as usual and you might partly not be able to deliver everything the way you used to do. Nevertheless, be honest and transparent about it at any time.Communicate frankly and keep communication channels open for your customers to reach out in return. If you do so, your loyal customers will understand why you might not be able to do business as usual as they already know what you have been capable of doing for them. 

3. Cutting budgets would mean doing a u-turn

It’s not rocket science to explain what happens when you suddenly cut your CX budgets. 

If you lay off people, it will be hard to compensate for the ensuing brain drain once things get back to normal. 

If you cancel software subscriptions, many vendors will be legally obliged to delete your data after a specific period of time. Of course, you can document your knowledge or export your journey maps in various formats, but once you want to pick up your work again, you’ll have outdated data. 

Don’t lose the work you created before, e.g. in CX tools! Keeping your knowledge only on static documents, documentation sheets, pdf exports, will not allow you to pick up your work again once things get back to normal. 

4. Good CX fosters resilience

The quality of the CX you deliver is directly tied to your organization’s level of resilience. 

In other words: the more service-oriented your company is, the less vulnerable it is and the more urgently you need to keep your CX efforts high. Only in this manner you can foster your organization’s capability to make it through times of crisis. 

Even if the cake shrinks, you’ll maintain your share. Making your organization customer-centric isn’t an overnight task, but a long-term effort. 

Bringing your CX programmes to a stop will have you fall behind competition and make your business more vulnerable. 

Always have in mind that removing bad experiences from your customer journeys is cheaper than losing your customers. 

And don’t forget about your employee experience (beyond your own CX team). The same is true for employees and customers alike: if you don’t cater to their needs and expectations and care about their fears and uncertainties, they’ll move on to where they feel better understood. 

5. Experience management helps you to prioritize the right projects

Journey maps are an internal communication and information system. They help you make decisions based on a data-driven, outside-in perspective. 

To make these decisions reliable you need to keep up your customer-centric way of working – and your management should know how important it is to understand customer behavior. 

Good journey management allows you to identify experience gaps, derive the right actions from your journey maps and hence increase revenue, retention, and customer lifetime value. 

Good journey maps enable your team(s) to detect signals of change at an early stage so that you’re able to plan how to react to this. That’s true for good and bad times alike. 

Journey-driven management allows you to identify the best opportunities to cope with the crisis and helps your organization understand which budgets to cut first. CX is a discipline affecting all areas of your business. 

Cutting on CX teams, tools, and resources will leave your orchestra without a conductor. 

6. Good CX prevents you from having to fight a price war

The less you stand out from the competition by delivering good CX – which also lowers price sensitivity –, the more you’ll have to use other adjusting strategies. And often, these have to do with pricing . 

People are very sensitive to increased prices - especially if you cannot justify the increase with a good experience associated with purchasing your service and/or product. 

The same is true for lowering prices in order to stay competitive. Indeed, once you’ve lowered prices, you sooner or later want to increase prices again. Without having ensured good CX, you’ll have a hard time bringing back the prices to a pre-crisis level without losing many of your remaining customers. 

7. You need to cope with customer needs altered by the crisis.

Not only should you use your customer experience knowledge to work towards the ideal to-be scenario, but you should also sketch what-if scenarios to prepare for times of crisis. 

Create personas that reflect substantial changes in people’s lives.

Create journey maps for potential negative scenarios.

Use stakeholder mapping to understand which players are and will be crucial to stay on a successful path once things become tricky. 

This might be planning for people having to live with a tighter budget in times of crisis as well as, for example, the loss of infrastructure or problems in supply chain management. 

Basically everything you do will have an impact on the CX you deliver – both directly and indirectly. 

Make your organization aware of this early enough. Your customers are only loyal to a certain degree. Usually, only until your competitor manages to better understand their needs and pains. 

8. You need to retain the feeling of co-ownership 

If you’ve involved your customers, teams, or any other stakeholder in creating new services or improving existing ones, you’ve also established co-ownership for these stakeholders. 

Them knowing that they added value to what you're selling will subsequently foster loyalty amongst your customers and employees alike. 

Giving up on this means cutting one of the most important ties. An action that can hardly be undone. 

Give your customers a voice! There’s no better way to foster trust and loyalty. Do so even more in times of crisis. But always stay honest and don’t overpromise. Your customers will most likely forgive the mistakes you make, but they won’t forgive anything if they feel lied to. 

9. You need to keep your CX projects up and running not to get stuck in nowhere land

If you now stop an already started transformation process, you’ll be stuck in nowhere land. If you have done things right so far and triggered change in your organization, there’s usually no way back. 

For example, your journey maps aren’t deliverables but work as a central communication and information system across teams / silos. Using your journey maps, show to relevant audiences - within and outside your organization - what has been done so far. And use your journey maps to demonstrate what impact it would have on your business to stop doing both of the following at this point: creating and maintaining the projects deriving from them. 

10. You need to make your customers feel safe – and machines are not enough for that

Especially when budgets become tighter, organizations start wondering (even more) where automations and technology can replace employees. Of course, it’s great to benefit from digitalisation and have a decent chat bot in place for instance. But the harder the times, the more personal communication matters. 

Humans need to feel safe. And the sentiment of safety can’t be created by interacting with machines. 

Technology is meant to support people in the field of CX. That’s the reason for using AI or journey mapping software. 

Use your journey maps to show where human interaction matters the most in the services you deliver. 

Discuss the touchpoints along your journey and the potential impact they have when things get worse. 

Be honest in the way you communicate as this fosters trust from which you’ll benefit in post-crisis times. 

Be a partner and take away your customers’ fears. For example, make mutually beneficial offers, communicate in an honest and direct manner, be transparent - simply show that you care! 

Your personas and journey maps will help you understand the best moments to do so. 

11. A successful budget pitch might simply be a matter of communication

If your organization's decision makers aren’t fully familiar with the benefits of good CX, use their language to pitch for your budget. 

Calculate the ROI of what you're doing. 

Valorize the financial impacts of the experience debt your organization is creating by not investing in good CX (anymore). 

Show at which point of the customer journey your current budget has the biggest impact and draw a line between your CX metrics and financial metrics. 

Show success stories and how they impacted your business. 

Show the consequences of CX budget cuts (e.g. on a future-state journey map) and present a new metric: the LONI – the loss by non-investment. 

Summary

So no matter if you are in a B2B or B2C industry, if you are working in a global corporation or a small startup: it’s the customers' experiences that makes them loyal.

Cutting budgets means cutting efforts – and this will backfire sooner or later. 

The efforts you show and the customer loyalty you foster today are your future profits. And we’ll agree that you don’t want to put this at risk.