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  • Writer's pictureStephanie Thum, Ph.D., CCXP

Measuring CX During a Crisis: Metrics That Matter When It’s Anything *But* Business as Usual

Updated: Apr 9, 2021

It’s safe to say that nobody wanted this to happen.

Reacting to the COVID-19 global health crisis, companies are operating in crisis mode. Stories of extended school closings, event postponements, and mass travel cancelations bring stinging examples of customers’ lives disrupted, sometimes at great expense.

It’s been anything but business as usual.

For CX professionals right now, that means CX metrics and measurements—the X- and O-data typically used to understand and manage customers’ experiences with your company—might need a temporary adjustment.

But what should that adjustment look like? I’m not the only one who has a point of view, so I reached out and asked some of my CX colleagues in the field:

How should CX metrics, measures, and mindsets change right now, or in any crisis?

Here’s a roundup of what they said.

Define Success

Ask yourself what success looks like for the customer. What are they paying attention to? What do they need (flexibility or exceptions)? And then put measures into place like numbers of clean locations, complaints, exceptions, responsiveness, and empathy ratings for agents, for example. Don’t overlook employee experience. Measure what matters to employees like communication from leadership and flexibility of hours.

-Diane Magers, Founder and Chief Experience Officer, Experience Catalysts.

Context is Everything

The metrics that matter can be specific to the incident, but typically center around how bad is this situation, what does it mean for me, and what should I do/not do to prepare/recover/support those in need? Focus on providing transparent data that is aligned with customer needs. In times of crisis, customer trust is critical.

-Marcy Jacobs, Associate Partner, McKinsey & Company.

Choose Metrics from the Customer’s Point of View

Crisis response is all about repairing customers' journeys. What was the mean-time-to-repair (MTTR) or resolve? How many customers didn't have to call because of a well-timed, clearly written notification? What percentage of customers were able to correct their journey through self-service easily? How many customers can your contact center rescue per hour?

-Andrew Gilliam, Associate Analyst, ICMI.

Qualitative Data is King

In times of crisis, go to your front-line employees first. Employees who talk to customers all the time will have the best data. Through employees, you’ll be able to see the crisis through customers’ eyes and map out what mattered the most to them. Use technology for sentiment analysis. Operational metrics should be service-related: numbers of customers impacted, numbers of issues, and contact resolution.

-Michelle Batt, CX Leader, Speaker & Workshop Facilitator, Lead with CX.

But Quantitative Matters More Than Ever

In a crisis, the thing that a customer needs most is a fast, effortless, friction-free experience. Is that different in crisis time than in non-crisis time? Probably not. But what might not have been a moment of truth before is now a moment of truth. So, for example, if the average answer time in call centers is important, it’s even more important to customers now.

-Michelle Morris, Customer Experience Design Partner, Verizon Business.

Measure Empathy

Employees, partners, and customers still have their regular needs. Only now, there's added fear, uncertainty, and scarcity adding stress to both sides of every transaction. Now is certainly a time for building the empathy muscle.

-Eric Ullman, Principal Solution Consultant, Medallia.


During extreme moments, measures like first-time resolution, effort, and satisfaction are all still important, but leading companies know when to adapt the service offering, offsetting any dissatisfaction or negative sentiment down the line.

Alex Russell-Rutherford, Customer Experience Manager, Wessex Water.

Leading Vs. Lagging Indicators

Leading indicators can help an organization's decision-makers spot issues and act fast. Lagging indicators like CSAT and NPS are less helpful, since they may change after a crisis has passed. It may be time to put more emphasis on leading indicators.

-Julia Ahlfeldt, Julia Ahlfeldt CX Consulting.

Trust is Key

Ideally, you’re already tracking trust indicators or whether customers can find what they’re looking for. A crisis isn’t the time to start asking whether customers trust you because if you do, they won’t unless they’ve built up that trust over a long time. In a crisis, you’re not setting the agenda. Your job is to use what your research tells you to act in ways customers find credible.

-Adam Korengold, Analytics Lead, The National Institutes of Health.

Stick to Root Causes

Start collecting data on the root causes of customer problems before you need to. Understanding the root causes of a crisis is natural in trying to avoid a repeat.

-Vince Mirabelli, Workplace Safety & Insurance Board, Ontario, Canada.

When you're focusing on solidly identified root issues, engagement of employees and customers will naturally follow positively, whether in normal or crisis times.

-Lynn Hunsaker, Chief Customer Officer, ClearAction Continuum.

Customer and Employee Experience Metrics Connect

Crises can cause an exponential increase in customer support calls, emails, and chats. I previously worked in a contact center that received 5,000 calls per day. During a snowstorm emergency, calls increased to 25,000 per day. Crisis plans should consider that number from the customer and employee perspective. Your plan should ensure employees don't burn out due to the heavy workload and mandatory overtime.

-Rosetta Lue, Principal Consultant, GovCXP, LLC.

Prioritize Your Brand Values

In some ways, measures and metrics might not matter. What may matter more is to quickly identify the way out of the crisis that stays faithful to your core principles and organizational values. In a crisis, good questions trump measures: How might we help our customers get through this? How might we leverage the strength of our supply chain to keep useful products flowing? How might we protect against agents who will exploit the situation?

-Yvonne Nomizu, CEO & Managing Director, Pacific Consulting Group.

Stay Realistic

Check your panic at the door. Plan for a dip in performance. Ebbs and flows in business are normal. Crises, such as the one before us now, can come up quickly. Measure the actionable items and don’t let the non-actionable, temporary, negative items have too much of an effect on customer experience strategy.

-Nate Sylvia, VP of Customer Success and Customer Experience, Verb Technology.

Situations like the global COVID-19 health crisis can bring chaos to customers and the companies where they do business, which can put brands at risk. Flexing your CX metrics, measurements, and mindsets at the moment is an important step to staying in tune with customer expectations and planning for future potential crises.

Thank you to my amazing network of colleagues for the lightning-fast responses to this article and my questions.

Follow me on Twitter: @stephaniethum. Or on Instagram @sthumcx.

This article originally appeared on The Future of Customer Engagement and Experience.

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