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Adapting Your Customer Experience Strategy in the Time of COVID-19

Posted by Kathy Sobus on Apr 7, 2020 10:00:00 AM

Now that we’ve thought about customer engagement and satisfaction, and remote employees/contact centers, we should turn our thinking to strategy. None of us at this time know how long we will be working remotely, or when life will return back to a level of normalcy we had prior to March of this year. One thing is certain, especially during this uncertain time: employees and customers will have questions and requests outside of the norm we experienced earlier this year. Because of perceivably higher volumes of contact into your organization from both employees and customers, perhaps it’s time to think about how you can enable those elements in a mid-term strategy that you can maximize when we return to “normalcy.”

There are five key areas to address: 

  • Workforce Management
  • Virtual Assistants
  • Automated Messaging
  • Robotics for mundane tasks
  • Proactive Outreach

Workforce Management

Let’s face it: Things are different right now. Many employers have asked their employees to work from home, and this is a big change. Not only are they working from home, but many children and spouses are, too. Perhaps for the demographic of contact centers, there may be young children, too, since schools and daycares are closing for at least a couple of weeks, if not longer.  Allowing the employees the option of rescheduling their work in an easy manner via shift bidding can be really helpful to the employees. Remember that happy employees make happy customers! There are automated workforce management packages available to assist with this.

Virtual Assistants

OK, so you’ve sent your employees home. What tools did you provide them to help them navigate the new policies, procedures, and systems? How are you replacing the good old “ask your cubicle neighbor”? Agent virtual assistants can be used to help guide agents through your systems, especially when things are changing so rapidly. Agents can also ask the assistants questions. Agent virtual assistants are easy to embed for these types of processes. I recommend keeping the scope short for now, maximizing the benefit, and then continuing to develop this as other areas of importance become known.

Automated Messaging to the Masses

This is a standard message that can be changed as needed. It may take place on an IVR. How are you managing the workload? If agents are answering the same questions over and over, can you use this device to standardize the responses? Can you use it to confirm what was just discussed? If your IVR says, “Please listen, as prompts have recently changed” and you haven’t changed it in the last two weeks—who will listen? They will “0” out and take the next person.  You haven’t helped anyone in this case.

Robotics

Robotics are another form of virtual assistants that are completely or near completely automated, and customer facing. How many times today are your agents answering the same question, over and over—and yet your volumes are rising, and you are strained for resources.  Automate now, and quickly. Offload those tasks or information in a fashion that is consistent and repeatable. This can be personalized based on the customer or customer group.

Proactive Outreach

Now that we’ve handled the employee / agent environment and mitigated routine tasks that customers are asking about, it’s time to think about completely offloading questions you’re getting or minimizing the impact of the current volumes. Proactively outreaching to them with items that are relevant at the time is a great way to do so.

I don’t know about you, but over the last weekend I heard from no fewer than 20 companies telling me what they are doing during this pandemic. Did I need to hear from the rental car company, hotel, or airline even though I don’t have any travel booked? No, I didn’t. These emails weren’t structured in a way that I can benefit from the information. It doesn’t pertain to me.

However, my brokers, banks, mortgage companies, universities, doctor’s offices (for appointments that are scheduled)—they do need to communicate. They should reach out to me via email, voice, or SMS, depending on the personal nature of the communication. They should reach out via SMS if I’m on my way to an appointment and they’ve closed the building, and they should make sure I’ve received it. There are many systems available that can allow companies to do this. Please look into them as a way of helping your customers, stemming the inbound volume, and keeping the information current, timely, and relevant.


 

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Topics: Customer Experience, COVID-19