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Business as (un)usual – staying customer-centric in a crisis

Emily McEvilly Profile picture for user Emily McEvilly May 1, 2020
How do you stay customer-centric in the current crisis? Workday's Chief Customer Officer Emily McEvilly shares her own experience

Business man puts hands around heart and people icons © batjaket - shutterstock
(© batjaket - shutterstock)

We're in a time that none of us could have predicted. We've had to limit our personal lives, help our children manage in entirely new ways, and pivot our working models, while still maintaining business continuity. It's like doing a balancing act in the fog.

For me this is particularly true. I recently moved into the role of Workday's Chief Customer Officer, which comes with great responsibility since Customer Service is one of our core values. When the COVID-19 crisis hit, it became even more front and center for us, as we rushed to shift our workforce to remote, while continuing to prioritize our commitment to customers.

I'm sure it's been the same for you. We've all been juggling a lot. And as I think about my role and how to remain customer-centric during a crisis, there are a few things that have stood out from our experience over the past few weeks that I hope others can relate to.

Take care of your own people first

Our 12,000+ employees support a customer community representing more than 46 million workers around the world, who rely on us to run their critical business functions. During this pandemic, they're counting on us to provide the same level of support as well as make the necessary adjustments to support them through it.

While we realize every company's circumstance is different and priorities vary by industry, our first step was to take care of our employees. We find there's a clear connection between employee support and customer satisfaction; you help one, and they help the other. We started by equipping our employees to function remotely — prior to many shelter-in-place orders — and gave them secure access from locations outside our corporate offices. This prevented us from having to relocate employees to alternate sites. We also provided additional benefits like financial support and expanded back-up support for child and elder care. While there is no clear way to measure the impact this has on our customer experiences, it is our hope that by taking some of the pressure off, our employees feel more at ease and better able to focus.

These are challenging times that require tradeoffs and tough choices, but if it's possible, being there — emotionally and financially — for your people can translate into positive customer experiences.

It's not one size fits all — prioritize immediate needs

While all companies are affected by this crisis, their immediate needs vary significantly by industry. And processes that used to be business as usual not only look different now, but are far more critical.

Many of our customers are on the front lines of this pandemic. Their staff care for patients, stock shelves, deliver groceries, look for a vaccine, and keep the backbone of our society functioning while we weather this storm. Supporting their people as they help all of us get through this is critical. As they adapt their processes, they need to quickly understand how the Workday system can help with things like improving hourly pay, scenario planning, bringing back retired workers, and more closely monitoring their supply chain. We've increased our engagement to help them, through efforts such as adding more office hours and making them free, which gives customers access to extra consulting when they need it most. In addition, for our healthcare customers, we've added specific reports they needed for better data on staff, devices, material, and equipment to help them take care of patients.

Going virtual, together

We have many new customers in various stages of going live. They've already invested a lot in Workday, so we want to keep their deployments moving toward production. Remote deployments aren't new to us or many of our customers, but because this was so unexpected, we stepped up our communication and solutioning in a continuous way to help all of them comfortably transition to a remote process.

We converted training that normally takes place onsite to virtual sessions and targeted each one to specific workstreams. We also modified training material to suit a virtual environment and added games and surveys to keep remote attendees connected and engaged.

Keep the conversation channel wide open

As we navigate this uncertainty, we've increased the frequency of our communication with customers about what concerns them the most. Whether it's picking up the phone, creating additional resources on our customer community site, or connecting customers to share with one another, it's key to be proactive and identify a personal way to connect and problem solve.

What was interesting, however, was that while we all worked to increase our communication externally to customers, there was also a need to dial up our communication with our internal team to help ensure visibility and consistency of message. With everyone moving so quickly, we soon realized we needed to create internal alignment so we were all informed of our approach and at the same time, welcomed new ideas that might help improve the process.

With the situation evolving so rapidly, we believe it's crucial to institute practices that allow you to take pulse checks — both internally with your teams, and externally with your customers and partners.

Although this is a challenging time in many ways, I've admired how — despite all the worry we're feeling — people are doing what they can do to be there for each other. We can't predict the future but as we work through this situation, I know that if we remain focused on what will help us all succeed — and together — we're doing the right thing.

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