With businesses scrambling to adapt to the realities of social distancing, we ask our network of CX leaders how they’re striving to meet their customers’ needs in the midst of the global pandemic
Companies have been forced to take decisive action to meet the needs of their customers as Covid-19 continues to upend business models and disrupt daily life across the globe.
Digitization projects have been fast-tracked. Workforces have been reskilled for remote working. And comms plans have been redrawn to help customers and staff alike with the challenges they’re facing.
As a result, many CX leaders are finding themselves playing a key role in guiding their organizations through this crisis.
“We’re looking not only at how we’re responding but also how other brands are responding,” says Debra Walmsley, Head of Customer Research and Insight at British Gas. “So, not only competitors but also what best practice looks like, in terms of what other organizations are doing.”
“From our own customer experience point of view, our touchpoint surveys have become a lot more important,” she adds. “At the moment, we’re providing almost daily touchpoint feedback.”
While we sincerely hope that Covid-19 can be conquered as soon as possible so that life can return to normal, many of the CX transformations this event has catalysed could well be here to stay.
The Call Center has Been Reimagined
With people self-isolating in their homes, customers are turning to contact centers and digital channels to interact with brands. As a result, these channels are coming under a tremendous amount of strain.
At the same time, Olu Ajani, VP, Proactive Customer Engagement at Barclays, says lockdowns in popular outsourcing destinations such as India have dented many companies’ ability to handle these requests.
He explains: “We’ve got requests going into our contact centers going up by 400% or 500% alongside this reduced capacity.”
“We’ve had a huge amount of work to do to try and get all our call centers mobilized in terms of working from home and getting laptops to people,” Walmsley continues. “Getting all of that happening has meant we’ve not been able to take the volume of calls that we had previously.”
“There’s been a lot of pressure on that part of the business,” she adds. “So, we’re tracking that on a daily basis to see how customers are responding and what their feedback is.”
Of course, transitioning to a 100% remote operating model is proving to be a challenge for larger organizations. But the potential cost savings this paradigm shift could generate may mean these ‘remote working’ call centers eventually become the new ‘normal’.
“For those people, it might actually become a new business model,” Walmsley concludes. “Working from home could provide flexibility for colleagues and the business, but we need to track the customer experience to ensure it also delivers for the customer before taking any decisions.”
Proactive Multichannel Comms is Now Crucial
With the fight against Covid-19 rendering all in-person meetings, events, conferences or interactions impossible, digital channels have become virtually every brand’s primary mode of communication.
But with so many companies competing for the same customers’ attention via email, it’s increasingly necessary to use a range of channels in unison to cut through the noise and get key messages across.
“The biggest challenge we’ve got is actually, ‘How do we continue to engage with our clients?’” says Brian Stewart, Global Head of Insight, Analytics and Reporting at AXA Investment Managers. “The primary channel has moved from face-to-face to digital and that has been a massive shift.”
“We’re very quickly having to look at digital events in the short-term,” he continues. “And we firmly believe that working practices will change when we come out of this.”
This increased focus on digital channels will also play a role in alleviating the strain on inundated call centers. Proactively arming customers with the right information before they need to call a contact center has the potential to reduce the number of queries they receive.
Meanwhile, launching new digital offerings such as British Gas’ virtual boiler repair service will help to plug the gap left by in-person services that have been disrupted by Covid-19.
Customers and Staff Expect Genuine Empathy
Right now, customers need to be reassured. They want to know what measures brands are putting in place to support them in these strange and uncharted times.
Launching initiatives designed to help customers who may be in tough situations is obviously a great idea. But Ajani argues that brands should also be doing the same for their employees. While there are benefits to working from home, not everyone takes to it naturally.
“If your colleagues are not looked after, customers cannot be looked after,” he quips. “So, we are now building a calendar of engagement activities for colleagues, while we also do something for customers.”
Whether brands are communicating with customers or their own staff, the key here is to put people’s needs first and craft CX plans that show empathy and understanding.
This is a lesson that CX leaders have been trying to teach their colleagues for many years. But as we all come together to face this crisis, taking it to heart has never been more important.