How the pandemic economy will impact service and CX

Ted McKenna

While everyone wonders when this crisis will end, we also wonder what the aftermath will be like for the business world. Which industries will have the toughest time recuperating? Which companies will discover new strategies that will actually benefit them in the long run? Will the economy take a long-term dive? Will organizations who were quick to adapt continue on with their new methods after the COVID-19 pandemic becomes another chapter in the history books?

We have some predictions on how the pandemic economy will leave its mark on service and customer experience for years to come. 

Digital service hits hockey stick curve at last

Companies have long been shifting more and more toward self service to keep up with the demands of the people. Today, 67 percent of customers prefer self-service over speaking to a company representative. Digital channels such as websites, chatbots and apps were designed to fulfill this vision of self service. Due to recent events, teams have been forced to quickly shift most or all of support to asynchronous channels, managed by actual agents. 

Our belief is that leaders will realize asynchronous channels offer the benefits of digital (lower cost of service, better scale) without sacrificing anything with respect to the customer experience. As asynchronous channels give space to the conversation, customer experiences are often enhanced by real-time knowledge aids that lead to a better experience for customers and agents alike. 

Of course, a shift to asynchronous requires contact centers to rethink coverage models, as agents will be able to handle more conversations at any given time. The ways teams are organized might also have to evolve in order to balance interaction complexity with agent tenure and ability. Escalations can be better routed to the right person, possibly speeding up overall resolution and improving next issue avoidance.

Frontline empowerment goes mainstream 

For decades, service organizations have prioritized efficiencies over employee experiences. Knowing the cost of service (down to the penny) meant managing the workforce in a way that optimized bottom-line improvements. This old school mentality can cause agents to feel more like factory floor employees, which is why service organizations notoriously struggle to retain employees, with turnover rates often exceeding 30-40 percent.

When teams don’t believe their thoughts and opinions are listened to by the organization, especially when it comes to what is best for the customer, they won’t try as hard. When hard work and dedication is recognized, people tend to go the extra mile. The opposite is also true. And this is only part of the equation. Ineffective “telling” managers have a hard time recognizing and pointing out agent strengths due to their lackluster listening skills. The Covid-19 pandemic has placed newfound focus on agent engagement and support, as the shift to remote work hit centers fast and hard.

Leading practitioners are focusing more on measuring the ongoing engagement and empowerment of the team. Some can be measured using both structured (feedback surveys) and unstructured (deriving preparedness, anxiety and discretionary effort) via advanced enterprise listening platforms like Tethr. Others rely on ways to improve connectivity and focus on agent empowerment. Whichever way you look at it, we can expect the future to be a bit brighter for the frontline.

Generic feedback requests will finally be scrapped

The current world climate means that leaders are seeking ways to understand how things are changing for buyers and customers, while facing unprecedented questions about underlying demand models. Newfound supply chain pressures are impacting customer promises such as delivery times, while sales pipeline issues add additional stress. Customers aren’t bothering with the post-call surveys companies send out to gauge their experiences. This means that companies are missing out on loads of insight, data and opportunities for improvement. This is a constant issue, but perhaps an even a bigger problem right now.

As 78 percent of consumers permanently change how they feel about a company based on a single interaction with the contact center, it’s important to measure your feedback correctly. Leading teams are using new methods for building highly tailored surveys, targeted at the right individuals at the right time. They are using learnings from unstructured “found” feedback, housed within customer service or sales calls, to craft more specific asks, messages or offers. They are reaching specific segments that acknowledge and reflect recent experiences, avoiding asking customer to answer questions the company should already know, but rather, fast-forwarding to more pointed areas to improve and to offer closure to customers who may feel disgruntled or extra anxious.

What this means in the end is a much higher response rate, as customers feel good about proactive outreach that recognizes short-comings and the ability to provide targeted feedback on things they recently experienced. Customer feels better, and company gets better and more specific feedback. Win-win.

Want to better understand the needs of your customers and agents? Request a demo to see how Tethr can help guide your operations to success.

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