The lockdowns caused by the pandemic have created a unique scenario for consumers. As in other recessions, people have become more restrained and seek more value when shopping. Many people, even when restrictions have been loosened, are reluctant to leave their home to shop, dine, and socialize. Instead, they have turned to digital services, such as online shopping and video conferencing, to meet these needs.
Companies must respond by being where their customers are. This not only means stepping up online marketing or social media presence, but also providing digital customer service that is tailored to the increasing adoption of digital lifestyles by users.
How To Change The Customer Service Model Using Digital Capabilities
1) Modifying Consumer Behavior
These are some of the ways the pandemic has changed consumer behavior, at least in the short term.
- More Shopping Online: As nonessential businesses were forced to physically shut down, people turned to the Internet to buy what they needed. But even when businesses, like grocery stores, were still open, many consumers did not want to risk their safety by shopping in person.
- More Socializing Online: Most people are social beings; not destined to be confined to their homes alone. Therefore, people turned to digital media to satisfy their need for human interaction.
It is difficult to predict which of these behaviors will revert to pre-pandemic habits once the threat of COVID-19 has passed, but activities such as online shopping are likely to remain. Regardless, returning to “normal” appears to be in the distant future, so companies must continue to adapt to remain viable.
2) Changing To Survive
Meeting user needs is one way to approach today’s business environment, but some organizations also focus on creatively reducing costs. For example, research firm International Data Corp. estimates that 40% of companies worldwide are increasing the use of automation in response to the outbreak.
Businesses have had some success increasing their digital advertising and social media activity, reaching more users who are now spending more time online. Additionally, SMBs have embraced digital technology to offer services and are investing in digital collaboration tools to help their remote employees be more productive.
3) Driving Digital Customer Service
Organizations need to incorporate more digital channels, such as chat and social media, into their customer service models. If more users are online, the demand for digital media will increase. Offering these types of channels is a way for companies to differentiate themselves and improve the customer experience.
For example, chatbots can automate some or all of individual interactions on websites and within messaging applications, making it a very profitable option. And even the most tactile digital channels like chat can be cheaper than phone support because agents can handle multiple sessions at once.
4) Modifying The Customer Service Model
While the implementation of digital support channels makes sense given the current circumstances, it was not the first thing the call centers did, as they had to worry about continuity in the very short term. How would you support customers when their non-essential facilities had to temporarily close? For many operations, this meant a quick transition to a remote agent model.
But for some companies this was not enough. They continued to reshape their customer service models by implementing digital channels. These channels include:
- Email. Email is the “oldest” of the digital channels. Allows customers to provide a wealth of details about their issues (including photos).
- Chat. Chat is a great support option for website users because it allows customers to immediately connect with agents or chatbots when they need help. Like the phone, chat involves real-time interaction, which has implications for agent training.
- Mobile Applications. Although mobile apps don’t make sense for all business models, they can be very effective in facilitating customer self-service, which is of course good for the bottom line. According to a research, mobile apps are the most widely used digital self-service channel and the one with the second highest satisfaction score.
- Website. Company websites are an important part of any customer service strategy, as they are often the first place customers go for answers. Therefore, they must have features such as effective Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) to help customers self-service.
- Chatbots. Chatbots are beginning to be more effective and more widely adopted, thanks to advances in artificial intelligence (AI). They are good at answering basic questions and performing strictly defined tasks, such as helping customers check the status of their orders. And when they can’t help a customer, they can seamlessly deliver them and their data to a live agent.
- Text (SMS). SMS is not as widely used as many of the other digital channels, but it has good satisfaction scores.
- Social networks. They are used to support the rest of digital channels in customer service.
Companies using cloud contact center software can add new digital channels easily and quickly. Focusing specifically on digital capabilities to automate contact handling or increase self-service opportunities is the right approach when call volume is high and users need immediate help.
In conclusion, the pandemic has been an ordeal of continuity plans and organizational resistance for companies. Contact centers are improving their plans to deploy cloud-based software because the pandemic has demonstrated the ability of the cloud to offer organizations the flexibility they need to manage a crisis.
Many of the other changes in customer service are also likely to become permanent. Now that more businesses and users have seen the value of digital support, organizations will refine these services and expand their use.