The Coronavirus pandemic has disrupted business operations, supply chains, and livelihoods across the globe, ushering in a new reality. Contact centres are no exception: There has been a rapid acceleration in distributed workforces, expanded self-service options and increased uses of automation. After the crisis subsides, look for some of these temporary fixes to become permanent.
More than two-thirds of all Australian businesses reported taking a hit to revenue or cash flow because of COVID-19. Organisations had to act fast to move workers home and find new ways to do more with fewer resources. Now that the dust is beginning to settle, companies want to maintain efficiencies and drive down costs for FY21 while improving customer experiences, especially as the country’s economic picture remains unclear.
As companies prepare for a rebound, here are seven customer experience lessons learned during the pandemic that will continue to impact contact centres well into the future.
1. Distributed contact centre workforces are critical to long-term resilience
The crisis has completely turned the Australian contact centre model on its head. Traditional industries with only a few centralised brick-and-mortar locations or those with limited remote capabilities were surprised by the speed that business continuity plans had to be enacted. Organisations that fared better had a distributed global footprint already in place, so when the unexpected came, they had resources across the map and were ready to disperse. Work-from-home proved to be a viable option for companies that had never considered it.
I predict that post-crisis the old distribution model will be forever changed into a hybrid of remote and brick-and-mortar work. De-centralised physical locations allow for maximum diversification in skills, resources and locations. The flexibility of being able to deploy workers from anywhere creates a workforce that can be used to suit various volumes and support needs, depending on the situation.
2. Plan for disaster-proof CX scalability and remote resources
Leaders don’t want to be caught flat-footed when the next disaster strikes. Natural disasters and human factors will always be cause for unexpected volumes of support. The flexibility of service capabilities brought on by remote work will enable organisations to more readily deploy emergency staff in times of distress.
When future customer demand surges unexpectedly, businesses that can pivot and scale support capacity quickly will be invaluable. Additionally, organisations will need to invest in infrastructure and digitally driven training to have all the pieces in place now, ready to spring into action when another immediate need for contact centre scale arises.
3. Digital-first businesses are the new norm
Digital transformation tools were once seen as an investment that could be saved another time. Not anymore. Customer-facing organisations promptly woke up to the mission-critical benefits of digital tools when they had to deploy solutions quickly. Automation, AI-enabled learning, messaging and cloud-based systems are just some of the digitally driven CX enhancements that are here to last. In many cases, companies have already seen costs decrease while contact resolution, employee productivity and customer satisfaction increase through a mix of people and technology to deliver great customer experiences.
4. Expanded CX self-service is essential
Massive effort was needed to support the most urgent needs in financial services, telecommunitions, energy/utilities, logistics, travel industries and public sector when the pandemic hit. The shift of available labour resources to the most pressing issues made self-service deflection a strategic imperative. Smart IVR, online FAQs, automated chatbots and enhanced knowledgebases became critical call deflection solutions for non-emergency calls and common questions.
The push for self-service has enabled organisations to get more out of their service capacity with the same units of labor in this time of emergency. The advancements made here will be incredibly useful for providing customers with relevant information quickly without having to force everyone into the voice channel.
It’s also worth noting the investment made in CX knowledgebases will be critical down the road. Self-service is only as successful as the core knowledge assets and the units that use them. For example, augmented attended service are chatbots being deployed to ride along with agents to suggest relevant content and services to make their jobs easier.
5. Rethink corporate security policies
As remote work becomes more common, historical security and other policies may need to change. Technology like VPNs and cloud systems make BYOD (bring your own device) options possible. Video monitoring allows for more flexible work arrangements without breaking the bank. Security leaders will have to rethink what works best and not be limited by what has always been done.
6. Restart your sale engines
In-person sales visits just can’t happen like they used to. And broad, untargeted sales strategies won’t cut it when budgets are tight. Advanced analytics to help target the most likely sales leads paired with an optimised inside sales team will help sales organisations be more effective and improve speed-to-close. From a tactical perspective, an at-home inside sales model also allows for greater flexibility and more personalised meetings. For example, a field sales team could line up meetings and pass them on to an at-home inside seller within the prospect’s geographic footprint to provide more relatable conversations.
7. Move training and learning outside the classroom
Training is an often overlooked but critical piece of great CX delivery. And for many companies, traditional classroom training is not feasible. Instead, leverage digital tools such as gamified learning to engage and improve knowledge retention, AI-driven training practice scenarios, and immediate feedback on individual strengths and weaknesses to tailor training to produce the highest-producing agents.
Rebuilding from the top & pivoting for FY21
The pandemic is indiscriminate—it has affected all walks of life and all types of businesses. As we move past this crisis, the lessons and innovations we are seeing right now in both the private and public sector are being applied to prepare the claw back initiatives required to recover their bottom lines in FY21.