AICEX: Riprendiamo con piacere questo articolo dal titolo “Climate change and CX: How can you help customers with their eco-anxiety?” apparso su mycustomer.com. Sempre più persone sono sensibili a tematiche sociali, ambientali, culturali, etiche, e attribuiscono maggiore valore a prodotti e servizi di brand che mostrano analoghe sensibilità. E’ evidente che di fronte a temi così personali e profondi le usuali leve di marketing, prodotto, e servizio rischiano di essere scardinate, ad esempio la scelta di un capo di abbigliamento non è più basata sul colore quanto tale, ma sulle modalità di tintura del capo. Inutile poi dire che, di fronte a questi temi, la leva prezzo, e non solo quella, perde parte del suo appeal.
As the environment becomes a growing consideration during consumer purchasing decisions, what role should service and CX professionals play in allaying their customers’ concerns about climate change?
Heather Sarno describes how the pressure of the climate crisis reached a tipping point after her son Jack was born, in 2019, and she found a curiosity to delve into scientific data related to the environment.
“It was terrifying – for days, I couldn’t sleep. My appetite went. I cried loads. I felt really, really anxious and upset. I remember being really frantic and asking my husband, ‘did you know about this?’ I felt so guilty about having had Jack.
“Only this morning, I was crying about it. It’s like a grief process.”
The experience Sarno recounts is increasingly being referred to as eco-anxiety, and is now affecting one in five of people in myriad ways; from an innate sadness brought on by a futility to change the environment around us, to a guilt relating to the ecological impact of having children.
Whilst a relatively new phenomena, according to Psychology Today, eco-anxiety is now being treated as a psychological disorder. However, many leading voices have suggested that whilst the heightened fear and worry surrounding the environment is a negative for our collective mental health, it may yet lead to a net-positive effect, in terms of the increased awareness and action being taken by individuals to try and curb their carbon footprint.
It’s also helping to put pressure on brands to do more for the environment beyond the ‘greenwash’ marketing campaigns that often hoodwinked consumers in the 90s and early 2000s.
Recent examples range from the world’s largest investment fund vowing to curb its links to fossil fuel companies to supermarket chain Asda’s plan to cut plastic use by creating refill stations in its stores.
The UK’s outgoing Governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney’s declaration that “firms ignoring the climate crisis will go bankrupt” has helped sharpen minds. At the 2020 World Economic Forum, nearly two -thirds of UK chief executives said that climate change presents a threat to their business that they must act on.
A customer service mandate?
A brand’s impact on the environment is fundamentally led from the boardroom, through ethical values, policy and production decisions.
However, there’s also a cultural imperative that makes a brand’s stance on climate change the responsibility of all its employees. How does that translate to customers and their eco-anxieties?
According to research firm, E Source, the utilities sector is an example of where pressure is translating to customer interactions.
“There has been a push for utilities to adopt a more customer-centric business model and care about what their customers care about,” says E Source analyst, Shelby Kuenzli.
“Millennials are especially concerned about the environment… 83% of millennials also said it was extremely or very important to them that companies implement programs to improve the environment.”
With Ipsos MORI’s 2019 Global Trends report highlighting that 37% of people now make purchasing decisions based on the environment, there’s a growing opinion that in order to allay customers’ fears about how our transactions with a brand might affect climate change, the responsibility of relaying a brand’s environmental stance may inevitably lie in the hands of those working in customer-facing roles.
“The issue of organisations respecting consumer’s concerns about the environmental impact of the brand in question, and then reflecting those concerns in the progressive actions the company takes, is one that’s becoming more important by the day,” says Sean Pillot de Chenecey, the author of Influencers & Revolutionaries: How innovative trailblazers, trends & catalysts are transforming business.
“Customer service professionals have a crucial part to play in their ‘brand ambassador’ roles. In 2020, consumers require – indeed demand – clear answers regarding the reality of an organisation’s environmental impact, and this corporate transparency needs to be evidenced; with regards to their manufacturing and supply chain activity but also through clear customer communications.”
Customer service professionals have a crucial part to play…consumers require – indeed demand – clear answers regarding the reality of an organisation’s environmental impact.
Climate change and customer experience
So how does a business go about this? The obvious first step is to acknowledge that if allaying your customers’ fears about your brand’s environmental footprint is a customer care issue, then employees in customer care need the requisite skills to deliver that message.
The CCA reports that upskilling customer service employees to deal with more nuanced and complex customer queries is set to be one of the biggest business trends of the 2020s. Part of that requirement is broader training on the topic of emotional intelligence. 68% of businesses leaders in a recent CCA survey said that agents will need to have high emotional intelligence to be successful, particularly in the case of vulnerable customers who require a more sensitive, human dialogue. Eco-anxieties may inevitably fall into this bracket.
The consequence of upskilling is that businesses are expected to pay agents more. Forrester forecasts that brands will spend $8 billion more on customer service agents this year compared with 2019. Businesses will have no choice but to bite the bullet if they are sincere about making positive environmental changes.