The Coronavirus pandemic has led to tectonic shifts in how people live and work all around the world. Social distancing and stay-at-home orders have upended traditional societal norms for work, commerce and play. And though the future is uncertain, what is known is that things will not go back to exactly how they were before the crisis started.
There has been a rapid acceleration in direct-to-consumer business models, remote workforces, and digital technology as companies shift their workers home and streamline operations for a new reality. After the crisis subsides, look for some of these temporary fixes to become permanent.
Here are five customer experience innovations made during the pandemic that will continue to impact contact centres well into the future.
1. Distributed contact centre workforces
The crisis has completely turned the 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. 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 business
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
Massive effort was needed to support the most urgent healthcare, financial services, travel, public sector, and other needs when the pandemic hit. The shift of available human 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 labour 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. Unconventional corporate security policies
When employees moved home, desktops, laptops and related systems to make a brick-and-mortar centre run had to be brought home or shipped out, as well. The influx of at-home work opened a huge gap in security concerns. In addition, traditional onboarding steps such as drug testing proved were put off due to support organisations being focused on much larger priorities like quick ramps and moving to a remote model.
As remote work becomes more common, security and policy factors need to be planned for. Security leaders will have to rethink what media can be allowed on agents’ computers, blocking USB storage or enforcing hardware restrictions. Alternative monitoring through remote video programs will be also essential to assess an agent’s workspace, as well as providing valuable face-to-face contact for staff and management.
Rebuilding from the top
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 can be applied to move forward and get business rolling again for the long term.