Predictions for post-COVID-19 customer service

10th Jun 2020

Whilst we are still in the midst of a global pandemic, it’s already apparent that we will be living in a very different world post—COVID-19. Across industries, businesses have had to take an agile approach to transforming their customer experience strategy, including empowering their service staff however necessary, as they have been forced to adopt a digital-only business. And whilst this won’t be the case forever, businesses must accept that customer expectations will have evolved during these unprecedented times. 

As businesses begin to look to the future of CX, here’s a taster of what they can expect for the state of customer experience post-COVID-19.

Contact centers will permanently pivot to remote: Pre-pandemic, contact centers occupied large and costly physical spaces, and were nearly always on-premise operations because of security and other productivity and efficiency factors. However, post-pandemic that will be a thing of the past for many contact centers. Now that businesses have started to realise that successful remote contact centers are attainable, secure and efficient, many will continue to implement remote work as an all-in go-forward strategy. This will require that contact centers take a digital-first approach to all aspects from shift/resource planning, to remote work tools, onboarding, training and enablement. 

  Journey mapping takes a permanent detour: Brands will need to either throw out or drastically redraw their customer journey maps to accurately reflect the new mode of customer behaviour post-COVID-19. This will require taking an outside-in view of how customers have been engaging with the brand during the pandemic rather than simply expecting them to revert back to the old ways of interacting once shelter in place restrictions have been lifted. A big part of this shift will be moving digital to the first point of entry, particularly for brands with physical locations, and building a broader digital engagement strategy that provides actionable insights on where to invest next, from messaging to chat to conversational chatbots. 

  Concierge-like services will be in hot demand: While recent years have seen brands begin to move towards providing more of a personal touch, we’ll see that advance even further as they move to take a true concierge approach to offering a better virtual/digital shopping experience that most aren’t currently providing. This might encompass everything from more pervasive video chatting, face-to-face options to adoption of the “Warby Parker” direct to consumer (DTC), in-home model taking greater hold across industries like retail and consumer tech. Forming these tighter bonds, either through service or flexibility is especially important now as brands compete harder than ever for customer mindshare and wallet share. 

Self-service will save customer service: Moving forward, self-service will become even more important as consumers look for service options that operate on their own time and fit their preferences, and as businesses look to mitigate the spike in customer service requests and long wait times. As brands look to “flatten the curve” in regards to the degree of disruption to the business, self-service can immediately deliver a more consistent and improved customer experience plus dramatically reduce the volume, and burden on already strained contact center teams. The initial investment in digital self-service can be the foundation of a broader digital engagement strategy and provide the actionable insights on where to invest next. 

There will be a trade-off between efficiency and resiliency: Pre-Covid-19, contact centers focused on creating efficient, even hyper-efficient, systems to ensure top-notch results. However, as the work force is required to shift to remote working, adaptability is key for both operational resiliency and agent productivity. Since managers won’t be able to oversee daily activities in-office, optimising agent and customer experiences with the right tools based on remote environments and behaviours becomes more important than the efficiency that’s been drilled as the be all and end all in past years. 

Adaptability needs to be data driven: Companies simply will not have the budget to continue on their current path, whether that’s the magnitude of tools they’re using, how they’re training agents, or even where their field and service teams are located. The severity of the economic impact will determine the degree to which CX changes and the time until we get back to some degree of normal, but it’s the changes that happen through the turmoil that will help redefine what normal CX is. Some of these COVID-19 based changes will be stop-gaps until we can return to best practices, others will prove worthy of becoming the new normal – using data and insights around customer behavior to identify which is which will separate those who come out of this successfully and those who fall to the back of the pack. 

CX budgets will decrease, expectations will not: The effects of COVID-19 will remove the term “extra budget” from the business vocabulary for the foreseeable future, but that doesn’t mean that customers will settle for anything less than the level of service they’ve grown accustomed to. As such, there is less space to be wrong. Businesses need to compete harder to win and delight customers because there simply is no room for error. As businesses put together their strategies and tactics to meet expectations with less, there are a few key areas to focus on, including over-indexing in self-service, adopting remote functionality, and committing to flexibility and adaptability. 

The effects of COVID-19 are set to have a lasting impact on the customer experience. Despite the difficulties and challenges along the way this new era of customer service presents a number of opportunities for businesses to serve and engage with their customers in more consistent, scalable and memorable ways.

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