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When CX professionals became crisis counsellors

360 Magazine 
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When CX professionals became crisis counsellors

It may be back to school for some people, but we’re still waiting for the go-ahead from our board. Our kids are still in the elementary levels, so while we’re not dealing with the uncertainty facing university and college students, it means our children are still here, watching too much TV and occasionally sitting right here next me as I write.

My daughter, who’s eight, is polite enough (or perhaps bored enough) to ask me what I’m writing about, and yesterday she asked me specifically what 360 Magazine is all about.

“Well, you know when you go into a store?” I said. “Well, sometimes you just go in and buy something, but in other cases the person in the store will greet you, help you find things, and maybe throw in something extra in the bag. Or . . .”

As I struggled to get across what customer experience (CX) design is, I felt like I was doing one of those “Explain It To Me Like I’m Eight” videos AdAge used to produce in order to explain technology or marketing terms like programmatic.

In this case, I was doing a particularly bad job because I was ignoring the big shift that’s happening among many CX professionals. It was captured in an article on The Wall Street Journal earlier this week about the airline industry, where the focus used to be on reducing the friction in airports and making onboard menus easier to use.

“Now, it’s kind of pivoted to the emotional space,” a Delta Airlines exec said, “thinking all the time about what it’s going to take to make people feel safe to fly.”

I had come across this in my own reporting on CX in the airline sector, but that’s hardly the only place it’s happening. It’s probably just as true of CX pros who are trying to entice people back to hotels, restaurants and, eventually, in-person conferences and events.

This is not quite the same as a traditional marketing department’s focus on generating demand. It’s more like confronting an elephant that keeps coming into the room and pushing it out so that customers will eventually be prepared to enter.

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It’s not even the “pre-experience” so much as it is creating an idea of what the experience will be in the customer’s mind — one that offers an alternative to the narrative they have already been telling themselves.

Few CX leaders would probably have imagined that the sanitization procedures of their organization would become core to the experiences they help develop, but now they not only need to prioritize them but ensure all current and potential customers know about them. This is why, as the chief customer officer of Sendoso recently told me, maintaining a strong sense of connection with customers has become more important than offering them a great product.

Although cultivating certain emotions has always been important in CX, it’s now less about happiness or delight than simply instilling calm and confidence. Or to put it another way, overcoming fear, uncertainty and doubt is the new opt-in to ensure customers will want to continue with you.

This, I realized later, is something my eight-year-old daughter would be able to grasp only too well. After all, chances are that next week she’ll be going back to school.

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