CX Insights

How to listen and act on the voice of the customer in times of crisis

9 min read

What the coronavirus pandemic is teaching us is that consumers heavily rely on digital communications to not only keep in touch with friends, family, and colleagues but to also do everyday things like buy groceries or consume the news. More than half of the people in 32 of the 34 countries recently surveyed by the Pew Research Center for its spring survey use the Internet at least occasionally or own a smartphone. In Italy, one country hardest hit by the COVID-19 outbreak, 8 in 10 respondents use the Internet. For businesses, this means that it’s more important now than ever to keep on top of how customers are feeling and empower them to interact with you in multiple ways.

With accurate voice of customer (VoC) insights, teams can quickly update key stakeholders of the status of digital channels so everyone can work on the most pressing issues facing the organization. 

 We wanted to provide you with 5 best practices for creating digital-based crisis communication programs. For a deeper dive, we’re sharing what we’re seeing in the key industries that we serve with the Usabilla digital feedback platform, along with examples of how brands are using digital feedback to keep open dialogues with customers and then act on the feedback.

5 best practices for digital-based crisis communication

When crises occur, it’s often unclear what the scope, timeline, and impact of that crisis will be to your business. Your organization needs to be ready to adapt to an ever-changing environment in real-time. Strong and open communication lines with employees and customers can not be undervalued to capture the customer voice in turbulent times.

By structuring digital customer feedback campaigns that capture how customers feel in the moment, CX professionals can quickly act on these real-time findings and create better programs that help customers in times of changing needs. Here are 5 ways that businesses can use the Usabilla digital feedback platform in times of crisis.

  1. Proactive damage control 

    With Usabilla’s feedback functionality, you can direct customers to any crisis-response webpages or FAQs the minute that customer chooses to leave feedback. Use a slide-out survey to direct customers to crisis-response webpages or FAQs. You can also alert customers of any changes, important updates on business hours, or immediate announcements with a slide-out campaign as a banner. Remember to use clear dates when posting banners. 

  2. Continuously improve crisis-related information 

    Capture feedback on the crisis information with in-page feedback and make immediate updates as situations change. Update guidelines, facilitate pertinent customer journeys, and direct customers to the right resources. 

  3. Expedite problem-solving in key areas of the customer journey 

    Use tagging to mark any crisis-related feedback to easily escalate issues that require immediate attention. Also, use these tags to flag patterns or general issues to executives and various stakeholders for effective feedback management

  4. Continue to capture information on your customers 

    Use different survey types to capture specific information, such as customer satisfaction, customer effort score, or other key CX metrics, as well as any specific active digital survey campaign questions pertaining to the crisis. This will give you a rounded view of how customers are feeling. 

  5. Find out which customer journeys are most important during this time

    As we mentioned before, crises affect businesses in different ways. Use feedback to note where customers are struggling in their journey so you can focus on facilitating their most important tasks.

A few final thoughts 

As you build your crisis-related survey campaigns, here are a couple of things to remember: 

  • Keep surveys down between 1 and 3 questions to improve the completion rate
  • Survey employees in addition to customers to track employee engagement when you can’t hear from them in a physical setting 

Feedback patterns across airlines, media, and e-commerce sectors

According to the usage patterns on our platform*, the airline industry received the lowest average customer rating** between January 13 and March 23, and media and e-commerce saw some of the highest. Let’s review the feedback patterns we’re seeing in these industries against the greater context of what has been happening in those sectors. 

*Data from Usabilla usage patterns between January 2020 and March 2020
**Average customer rating score based on emotional/mood score, the key metric offered by Usabilla.

Airlines and travel: Ensuring customers are clear about changing policies 

While the number of feedback items for most industries, including airlines, increased during the period March 9 and March 16, that number subsequently fell by more than 55% between March 16 and March 23, according to usage on the Usabilla platform. 

A decrease in feedback items is directly related to the decrease in web traffic. According to ContentSquare, which has been monitoring web traffic during the pandemic, traffic to tourism sites dropped by 22% compared with the average of the first 6 weeks of the year. Once customers cancel existing flights or book their flights home to shelter in place, they simply do not have a reason to visit an airline’s website or app. 

During a crisis, airlines—or any other sector that is likely to experience short spikes in traffic from people wanting to accomplish specific tasks on a site—can use digital feedback surveys to find out if visitors were successful. They can also use feedback surveys to ask customers what improvements they’d like to see made. Businesses can use surveys with Customer Effort Score (CES) rating functions to track how much effort it takes customers to accomplish their tasks. 

Customer feedback data is also invaluable for getting a holistic view of your customers. For example, Usabilla customers use the analytics layer within the Usabilla digital feedback platform to compare different data sets against any identifier. This is so they can compare customer data across different geographical locations, for example, NPS® ratings in the UK versus the US.  Learn more about Usabilla’s analytics layer

The most important action at any time—crisis or otherwise—is to keep this feedback loop continuous so businesses can constantly adjust how they deliver CX as customer needs evolve. 

Examples from travel companies 

Some of our customers are deploying web banners with information or surveys in the languages they support. Skyscanner, an international travel search site, is using Usabilla to provide updated information regarding coronavirus across geographic regions. The survey here shows an update directed at both French- and Dutch-speaking customers. 


A digital feedback platform can be used to immediately inform customers of changes in travel and refund policies. For example, Aer Lingus has been using Usabilla to communicate call center wait times to manage customer expectations.

You can also mitigate customer frustration over travel or any other changes by closing the loop and following up with customers or users who leave their email address alongside their feedback. By engaging with your customers and focusing efforts on following up with complaints, you can quell some of the fear and frustration. 

Media: Keeping the world informed during changing times 

During turbulent times, people want to keep up to date with the news and media companies are currently experiencing a major surge in traffic. According to ContentSquare’s data, media traffic increased by 46% between March 8 and 15, compared with the average of the first 6 weeks of the year. In terms of digital feedback, our media customers saw a 61% increase in feedback items between March 2 and March 16. 

To ensure content meets the needs of their readership, media sites can use in-page feedback to keep track of articles readers are responding to positively so these sites can repurpose or add to these, while fixing any content with lower customer ratings. 

Examples from media companies 

While not a media site, Funda, the largest real estate platform in the Netherlands for brokers and consumers, recently conducted a survey to capture the sentiment of their customers regarding the purchase or sale of a home. Funda is regularly sharing these insights on their blog so their consumer base feels heard and a part of the community. It also helps Funda gain a better understanding of customers’ needs. 

IEEE Xplore, a research database of journal articles on computer science, electrical engineering, and electronics, is using Usabilla to notify and direct users to its COVID-19-related resources, which the IEEE is making free for the time being. 



E-commerce: Keeping citizens stocked with necessities 

While travel companies are experiencing a decrease in traffic, the e-commerce sector is experiencing a boom in site traffic along with the number of digital feedback items being submitted. This is likely partially due to an increase in web traffic to supermarket sites, which according to ContentSquare, saw traffic jump 42% between March 8 and 15, compared with the average of the first six weeks of the year. According to our data, the e-commerce sector received an almost 66% increase in digital feedback items during the week of March 2, compared to what it received during the week of December 30, 2019.  

During heavy web traffic and app usage, it becomes even more important to track bugs across your digital channels. Allowing customers to leave feedback across their journey empowers them to alert you of any issues on your website or app, which can be automatically tagged and sent to your web team to be resolved.

Even when companies experience an increase in business during times of crisis, they should continue to collect digital feedback so they can spot problem areas and solve them quickly. Ask for feedback at certain moments in the customer journey so that you can understand sentiment trends and create a clear roadmap for improvements.  

E-commerce examples 

DHL is keeping its customers informed of how coronavirus is affecting its service by using a banner form on its shipping pages. 

Helping customers by taking action on feedback 

The one constant in crisis is change. But by continuously capturing customer feedback you can help guide customers through the crisis by keeping them at the center of your strategy. Ensure that your customers have an accessible channel to connect with you so you can tackle their needs in real time. Use tagging and exports to easily share feedback across your organization, especially to key stakeholders and across your crisis team. By doing so, your business can be in a great position to ride out the uncertain time. 

We’ll be monitoring Usabilla feedback data throughout this period and updating this page to bring you crisis communications best practices and ideas to structure crisis-related feedback campaigns. Stay tuned and stay safe. 

*NPS, Net Promoter & Net Promoter Score are registered trademarks of Satmetrix Systems, Inc., Bain & Company and Fred Reichheld.


For more information on how to capture and act on feedback in times of crisis, download our free resource by clicking below. In this report, we dive deeper into Usabilla feedback trends throughout the current coronavirus pandemic with specific action items for you to take that will set you up to ride out the storm and support your customers. 

usabilla report covid crisis response voc