Customers need more meaningful digital engagement in times of crisis

By | 4 minute read | April 1, 2020

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.