April 1, 2020 By Corinne Sklar 3 min read

Customers continue to be won and lost based on the quality of their experiences, now more than ever. The global state of emergency is putting extreme pressure on businesses and their digital touch points. Companies across every industry are facing both challenges and opportunities.

The travel industry is facing widespread cancellations and customer care volume that equates to people waiting 8 hours to resolve refunds and re-bookings. Online retailers are facing double digit sales volume increases as old and young abide social distancing and stay out of stores. Those sales must then be fulfilled through dramatically altered supply chains, with employees following unfamiliar new safety protocols.

Yet, from the current crisis, a new normal will emerge. The question is, where do you focus and how to respond?

Companies must focus on the people who matter most to the success of their business – their employees and their customers. In times of uncertainty, customer expectations rise, with heightened needs around relevance, speed, service continuity, and in the case of a largely house-bound population, even entertainment. They also seek more direct and empathetic communication from brands. A clear priority for every enterprise is to focus and accelerate virtual engagement strategies by amplifying their digital channels.

Employee strategies are also of great importance. Workforces are dramatically shifting, from newly remote workers facing network outages and toddler guest appearances on video conference, to critical employees being tapped to shoulder unprecedented pressures in front-line healthcare and local grocery store aisles. It has become abundantly clear that modern technology, real-time access to customer information, and productivity tools are no longer luxuries.

Your business needs to adjust and there is no one-size-fits-all model. However, these three key areas across your customer experience (CX) strategies can help you realize maximum impact, fast.

Make your contact center more resilient 

Contact centers represent a company’s frontline ability to connect with customers. As customer questions and problems pour in through websites, phone calls and social media, it’s critical that employees are able to serve them in increasingly complex ways. Contact centers must be resilient, managing volume without any interruptions to service. Enterprises must ensure their contact centers have the right technologies to withstand the increased activity. If not already in place, platforms like Salesforce can provide a robust infrastructure for customer care.

Contact centers can adapt to the situation by leaning into AI capabilities for greater efficiency. By resolving simpler requests through chatbots and other self-service options, live agent channels are freed up to take on more complex or sensitive requests. For requests that do reach a live agent, AI continues to play a role by routing cases and surfacing answers to agents directly on their screens, saving valuable time and energy spent looking for the right response.

Optimize experiences and accelerate targeted CX innovation

Customers are looking for companies to deliver enhanced digital experiences to combat traditional service methods and channels that are no longer available. They can no longer come to your brick and mortar, but they still want to be seen. Start by identifying the immediate improvements that can be made to digital platforms. Use this time to uncover roadblocks where you are losing people in the journey, or opportunities where you can remove clicks to help them navigate more quickly. Find ways to champion and speed up targeted innovation opportunities within your customer experiences that can be addressed short term.

As well, avoid the instinct to detour from carefully plotted long-term strategies. Where possible and appropriate, stay the course. Focus your team on the highest priority workstreams to more quickly get a proof-of-concept to market. Testing and optimization can happen in real-time, as you release new functionality to your users and observe performance data and feedback. Companies that adopted an early, customer centric approach to transformation are likely to extend their market advantage over the competition in times like these.

Add capacity and scale to your digital teams

Agility and scale within your organization are being especially stress-tested right now. Teams are discovering speed bumps and bottlenecks where processes were not previously optimized for a remote workforce. While initiating change in this pressured environment seems illogical, waiting for a “better” time can hurt both employee and customer experiences and result in lost opportunities. Embracing agile methodologies and augmenting teams with trusted partner resources can help you maintain needed innovation, even today.

No one has a silver bullet right now. The most important focal point for every business is people. And the most important tool we have to cater to their needs unlocking trust and loyalty is empathy. Listen to your employees and customers and learn how their needs have changed. Activating those insights with the digital tools you have available can exponentially improve efficiency, availability and scale in trying times.

Even in the face of uncertainty, business leaders can rely on data, technology and human insight to pave their path forward–one experience at a time.

Discover actionable experience strategies IBM can co-create with you

Was this article helpful?

More from Business transformation

Innovation with IBM® LinuxONE

4 min read - The IBM® LinuxONE server leverages six decades of IBM expertise in engineering infrastructure for the modern enterprise to provide a purpose-built Linux server for transaction and data-serving. As such, IBM LinuxONE is built to deliver security, scalability, reliability and performance, while it’s engineered to offer efficient use of datacenter power and footprint for sustainable and cost-effective cloud computing. We are now on our fourth generation of IBM LinuxONE servers with the IBM LinuxONE Emperor 4 (available since September 2022), and IBM…

Customer service vs. customer experience: Key differentiators

5 min read - In many organizations, but not all, customer service is treated as part of the customer experience. Both are interested in driving customer satisfaction, but they focus on different parts of the customer journey to achieve it. So what are the key differences in customer service vs. customer experience? And why do both matter for your business? Customer experience, or CX, is a holistic accounting of customers’ perceptions resulting from all their interactions with a business or brand, whether online or…

6 ways to elevate the Salesforce experience for your users

3 min read - Customers and partners that interact with your business, as well as the employees who engage them, all expect a modern, digital experience. According to the Salesforce Report, nearly 90% Of buyers say the experience a company provides matters as much as products or services. Whether using Experience Cloud, Sales Cloud, or Service Cloud, your Salesforce user experience should be seamless, personalized and hyper-relevant, reflecting all the right context behind every interaction. At the same time, Salesforce is a big investment,…

Retail technology and frontline workers: Delivering unforgettable customer experiences

2 min read - The retail industry employs millions of people, and next-generation retail employees will be significantly impacted by the rise of generative AI.  I'm a firm believer that exceptional brick-and-mortar retail, no matter the product category, stands on three essential pillars for success: Proud, well-trained, engaged team members with clear career paths A brand deeply rooted in strong cultural values A backbone of superior technology Missing any of these elements? The magic just doesn't happen. Enter IBM. Their approach to leveraging technology…

IBM Newsletters

Get our newsletters and topic updates that deliver the latest thought leadership and insights on emerging trends.
Subscribe now More newsletters