Fixing the gaps in CX supply chains

1st Dec 2021

As we’ve seen over the last several months, it only takes one small event to have a significant knock-on effect on supply chains. From toilet paper to crisps, the production side of things has been totally crippled by teething problems relating to Brexit, the pandemic, and more. 

Despite the fragility of the product supply chain, the customer experience economy is just as delicate and subject to significant disruption. Before brands encountered the unprecedented challenges seen over the last 18 months, the fragility of the CX supply chain was somewhat overlooked. 

With disruption seen across the board – ranging from consumer household goods to clothing and more – one thing that remains consistent is the growing need for customers to access customer service teams whenever and wherever. With the first onset of the pandemic, customer service teams soon found they had a new challenge on their hands. Not only were they suddenly dealing with a huge influx of customer enquiries, but the customer service workforce was taking a hit too.

Gaps soon surfaced, and if employees cannot work, customers cannot be served. How can brands best future proof their customer service workforce and mitigate future disruption unharmed?

The CX landscape revolution

When it comes to battling the fallout of CX disruption, it’s worth keeping in mind that the entire customer service landscape has evolved significantly in a short space of time. Long gone are the days of the 9-5 call centre – alternative models are making their way into the frame and are completely reshaping the outsourcing ecosystem. On one hand, some are relying heavily on AI-driven technologies, replacing large call centre teams with fully automated chatbot solutions. 

On the other hand, some brands are utilising a mix of technology and people to ensure that customer demands are met across all communication channels. No doubt, the accelerated shift to remote working has transformed the CX landscape, offering customers and employees alike way more flexibility. The trend is also unlikely to roll back as people no longer want to work in full-time offices, meaning the barriers preventing the use of remote workers in customer service have been removed by necessity, and the fears completely disproven.

At the very forefront of this changing landscape are huge multinational brands who have ditched the fully-outsourced model in favour of new approaches that address a range of customer-centric challenges. These brands are investing huge amounts into their own customer service functions, boosting their capabilities from the very core to ensure that customers don’t need to wander far to access the support they need. For example, Facebook (now Meta) recently acquired Kustomer to revolutionise its customer service function, all utilised within the Facebook platform.

Customer service from the very core

Despite the advancements in customer experience technologies, these tools are not fault proof. AI chatbots can, at times, give incorrect answers and offer – unsurprisingly – very monotone and emotionless responses. In the event of an unexpected event, such as the pandemic or another disruptive situation, customers can be sent in circles by tools that are trying to aimlessly find an answer to the query. Think: square peg, round hole. It’s no surprise that this does nothing for customer satisfaction or loyalty. And, it causes leakage into other channels as customers desperately try to find a way to speak with a human agent.

Technology has played a huge role in advancing the CX landscape, but to go the extra mile, brands are realising that humans need to be kept in the loop, regardless of whether they are dealing with the fallout of supply chain disruption or something else. Emotional connection is at the forefront of good customer experience, particularly in the competitive trading landscape in which brands now find themselves. By building a true connection with a customer service representative, brands can differentiate themselves from competitors which is particularly important in providing value by increasing conversions and fixing issues that often result in customer churn.

Keeping humans in the loop is all well and said, but with the CX supply chain challenges presented by the pandemic and changing consumption habits , brands have needed to think strategically about how to keep the human aspect of their CX function safe and steady. Without it, gaps in the CX supply chain will soon surface.

Customer connection without compromise

With the dire need for empathetic responses and human connection in the early stages of the pandemic, the sector saw a rise in the number of companies using brand advocates as customer service representatives. Some brands enlisted the services of their most loyal and long-term customers to deliver customer service on their behalf, often on a remote gig-basis. As recently noted in a report by McKinsey, more organisations are turning to agile customer service functions that offer real flexibility, are quickly scalable, and offer the human touch in volatile times.

Remote-first models are offering a welcome antidote to the gaps seen in customer service teams. Days of missing staff are over, and as a result, service never suffers due to disruption. Likewise, as customers demand more personalised service, dealing with unexpected circumstances will have little to no impact on the quality of service received. Being served by a person who has been a loyal customer of the brand for many years, offers product knowledge, as well as the ability to talk with experience is something that can’t be interrupted.

Using brand advocates to fill the gaps in customer service teams is also helping to augment the CX supply chain. By connecting loyal and passionate customers with other consumers to either buy, set-up, or resolve any product queries, it cannot only bring a real brand loyalty benefit, but it can also creatively solve the customer service supply chain challenge in a way that is endlessly scalable and flexible.

The bottom line

The CX landscape is changing, and disruption is not an excuse for poor customer service anymore. With demands higher than ever, customers will easily click elsewhere should their needs not be satisfied. Adopting customer service models capable of true agility is crucial for brand survival - both for customer satisfaction, and for keeping customer service teams as solid and in-tact as possible at all times.

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