While no one knows what relationships between businesses and consumers will look like in the post-pandemic world, we do know that things will be different, leading to changes in the way organizations interact with customers and provide customer service.
Many of the changes brought on by the pandemic will be around for the long term. Our world is now virtual, as video interactions have replaced our personal interactions with physicians, teachers, religious leaders, exercise instructors — the list goes on. WFH, video meetings, and online shopping will be with us for the foreseeable future, and organizations are finding ways to adapt to these changes and their impact on customer relationships.
We’ve all heard the phrase “necessity is the mother of invention,” and the current crisis is causing organizations to find innovative ways of serving and interacting with customers. With a majority of contact center agents now working from home, at least temporarily, contact centers are grappling with finding new ways of meeting growing customer demands and expectations while ensuring the health and safety of employees.
Empathy — the New CX
Empathy has taken on renewed importance as customers crave a humanized experience and personal touch when it comes to service and support. Since the start of the pandemic, customers have increased their desire to interact with an agent who will listen and provide empathy while helping to find the right solution for the customers’ needs. Consumers’ issues today are not only more complex, but more personal. It’s not about just changing a flight but rescheduling an entire vacation, cancelling a wedding venue, or restructuring a payment schedule because of financial hardship. Finding the right balance between efficiency, convenience, and empathy is the latest challenge for organizations and contact center agents.
To deal with the influx of contact center calls, many organizations expanded and enhanced their web chat, email, messaging, and other digital channels, as well as self-service technologies such as IVR and bot-enabled web chat. However, providing the empathy that customers crave through these channels is challenging.
Displaying empathy is more than using certain phrases in a script — it’s about being authentic, truly listening and recognizing the customer’s issue, followed by the willingness to take action and make commitments. Contact centers may need to throw out traditional metrics such as average handle time in favor of metrics such as customer satisfaction or Net Promoter Score.
Showing Empathy Through Video and Visual Interactions
Since contact centers are the frontline to customers, companies need to re-imagine them, while continuing to focus on the customer experience. This requires finding the right combination of technology and human touch. Self-service is great for basic interactions and transactions where speed is more important than personalization. For more complex interactions or those requiring empathy, live agent interaction is best. Video and visual tools such as screen sharing or co-browsing can enhance these interactions, while reducing the time it takes for customers to describe their issue or for agents to solve customers’ problems. These tools help create aha! moments allowing customers and agents to truly collaborate — and relate.
Creating more personal connections, video interactions help break down barriers with new customers, while strengthening relationships with established customers. During stressful times, seeing a friendly face helps consumers feel more comfortable, while helping to build trust and credibility. Video provides context and visual cues, while seeing the facial expressions of the other person increases the interaction engagement — for both agents and customers.
Looking to the Future
As organizations look to the future, here are some essentials to consider:
- Deploy a work-from-anywhere architecture
- Support omnichannel engagement and customers’ preferred channel options, including video
- Determine where to use self-service and assisted-service, striking a balance between the two, and don’t forget the human element
- Focus on personalization and empathy
- Deploy screen sharing, co-browsing, and other tools to simplify the customer experience
- Consider using AI and bots for basic interactions
- Create a collaborative contact center and bring in subject matter experts when needed
For more insights into ways to prepare for the next phase of customer service and contact centers, read my recent whitepaper
To meet today’s challenges and tomorrow’s expectations, contact centers and customer-facing organizations must reimagine themselves.
Fortunately, today’s digital tools and technologies make it possible to initiate, maintain, and even strengthen relationships. Digital and visual tools that let agents see, show, and share with customers can deliver the personalized and effective experiences that customers want.
With the right digital tools and the proper balance of automation and the personal touch, organizations can reduce the customer effort, while enhancing the customer experience.
Going forward, organizations need to be flexible and open to change. Using the COVID-19 crisis as an opportunity to learn and prepare for the future can help organizations improve and enhance their customer service operations.
This post is written on behalf of BCStrategies, an industry resource for enterprises, vendors, system integrators, and anyone interested in the growing business communications arena. A supplier of objective information on business communications, BCStrategies is supported by an alliance of leading communication industry advisors, analysts, and consultants who have worked in the various segments of the dynamic business communications market.