Whether we were ready for remote work or to fully serve our customers online, COVID-19 offered us little choice.  We’ve had to quickly pivot and transition our operations to not only accommodate remote work but accept the reality that our on-premise customer interactions had to abruptly halt.  It’s reported that 73% of executives confirm success with transitioning their operations and employees to distributed work.  Most organizations have also remarkably reorganized themselves in keeping customers engaged online and became more creative in finding ways to continue providing services during the crisis.  This significant transition, however, wouldn’t be entirely fruitful if organizations had failed to support the success by ensuring sustainable team productivity, efficiency, and customer engagement.  Of similar importance is seeking feedback from our customers on how we can continue to satisfactorily serve them.

There are conflicting views about whether organizations benefit from surveying their employees or customers during the crisis.  Some question if deploying customer or employee surveys shows a proper level of empathy toward respondents given the impact of the pandemic and the change people have had to endure.  A valid viewpoint for certain, but I believe there is significant value in hearing from our customers and employees so that we can continue to make adjustments and meet their current and future needs.  It’s an opportunity to shape tomorrow’s remote work and customer management strategies.  As you deploy the surveys, consider that the organization’s future is at stake.  My advice would be to move with sensitivity and empathy as you survey your team and customers.  For example, at the survey’s introduction you could acknowledge that, though this is a difficult time, you’re respectfully asking for a few minutes of their time to provide feedback to improve the business and how you serve them.

If you decide to survey your team members and/or customers, I offer the following tips on the goal of the survey and what it’s intended to measure.  The tips are divided into two categories; one for employees and the other for customers.

Employee Surveys

As I’ve mentioned, most organizations were successful in transitioning their operations to remote work.  The immediate focus and priority is to continue building momentum from the positive transition to directly developing effective, productive, and high-performing remote teams in the new environment.  A beneficial first step toward building such a team is the distribution of an employee survey to help uncover any impact on morale, productivity, and engagement.  Gaining this understanding at the onset will help ensure that the appropriate corrections are executed to eliminate remote work challenges.  The same insights can also be used to design a remote work strategy that focuses on how to effectively manage remote teams.  The survey can consist of open and closed-ended questions and should evaluate the following three main areas:

  • Mental Health and Wellness

As the COVID-19 pandemic persists, it continues to cause stress among employees and their families.  Though some people are acclimatizing to working remotely and creating a healthy work-life balance, others are feeling pressure to be productive and living and working in fear of losing their employment.  Research has confirmed that mental issues in the workplace are on the rise.  Therefore, as a responsible organization, it’s essential to survey the coping capabilities of employees during a crisis as this conveys to them that the organization cares and is willing to listen.  It’s also an act of compassion that builds employee trust and is an essential source of business intelligence for navigating new and dynamic operations.

  • Management and Communication

The essence of these questions is to reveal any new insights that can help managers and supervisors more effectively manage.  The survey will also identify ways that managers and supervisors can keep a remote team engaged and productive.  The insights derived from this section of the survey are critical as they will provide knowledge on how managers need to coach, develop, and manage the performance of their remote teams.  Additionally, understanding how managers can maintain team continuity and promote a healthy organizational culture will be very advantageous for distributed work.

  • Organization Commitment

This section of the survey intends to bring to light how employees feel about how the organization is providing support to its workforce.  The responses will expose the most pressing concerns employees have regarding working from home and during the pandemic.  Employees will be encouraged to offer any suggestions about preferred communication channels, their support requirements, and ideas they believe the organization could apply for operating beyond the current crisis.  The knowledge gained will certainly aid in the creation of a remote work strategy by incorporating employee concerns and recommendations for improvements in working remotely.

Customer Surveys

  • Sensitivity and Care (Be Human)

As previously stated, it’s important to demonstrate to your customers that you care for them and you’re aware of how the pandemic may have affected them.  Perhaps you can begin with something like, “We hope you, your family, and loved ones are safe and healthy” and then gently move into why you believe their feedback is important at this time.  Communicate that you need their help and input at this critical time to continue providing relevant and exceptional service.  Be sensitive to their time and make every effort to keep the survey short and concise.

  • Customer Experience

This part of the survey can go in many directions for evaluating the different facets of the customer experience.  The most critical is to evaluate how customers want to be engaged across all platforms, including social media, contact center, and telephone – both during the pandemic and after.  Seek to learn if you’ve done a great job of offering seamless experiences across all channels and ask your customers to identify where you can improve the experience.  Request their preferred method of communicating and connecting with your brand, and go a step further to assess the emotional connection they feel at each customer touch point.  The feedback and suggestions provided will help your organization develop a customer experience strategy that addresses all of the customer journey fundamentals.  Understand the significance of the feedback you’ve gained and incorporate it into your new way of working.

  • Customer Service Impact and Expectations

Obviously, since the pandemic is likely to have changed how you interact with your customers, you should also remember the possible impacts that your changes have had on them.  Solicit suggestions on their expectations for not only how you can do things differently in the future but the expectations of your brand and the offerings you provide.  These insights will go a long way to help you become more creative and innovate with your products, services, and ways of working.


Conclusion

Staying connected with both your employees and customers is doable and be accomplished through checking in regularly, gathering data, and promptly acting on the conclusions.  Surveys are the ideal way to do that, and the value from near-real-time feed from both employees and customers allows organizations to make better-informed decisions regarding employees and their performance goals and customer experience.  Though most organizations have transitioned to new ways of working, understanding how to build on this momentum to understand how to keep both customers and employees engaged in the future is fundamental.