New norms and future storms
As the world hopefully starts to open up again this year, organizations are going to be increasingly pressed to balance their service needs across different channels. Years of customer-insight-driven assumptions will be turned on their head as consumers actively seek new types of information, services and products, increasing demand across different contact channels. The dependency on digital channels over most of last year will remain, but as customers crave more detail and immediacy of information, the organizations with the ability to deliver superior service seamlessly across channels will truly differentiate and be the ones to thrive this year and beyond.
There are few organizations in the world that haven’t been impacted by the rapidly shifting demands on their customer relationships. Regardless of whether an organization has remained open or not, the type of dialogue has changed, a change that will remain for several months more and, perhaps, indefinitely. Consumers will expect to interact in different ways; buying patterns will change and queries related to health and safety protocols in store or on delivery (previously rarely considered) will become more of a priority. In fact, a recent report by the Capgemini Research Institute, The Consumer and COVID–19, revealed that 59% of consumers prefer to shop with companies that assure them of safe delivery practices.
This will drive a significant shift for organizations: in how they engage with customers, how they support the changing expectations of their own employees, and in how they better integrate different functional silos, ensuring increasingly emotional customer priorities are addressed across the end-to-end value chain, from manufacturing to post-sales support. The response to COVID-19 will accelerate the move towards more flexible, dynamic customer service organizations, a move that that has been underway for the past few years.
The urgent question is: how do you meet demand and reduce costs?
In the past year, customer service organizations have faced the challenge of rapidly moving contact center personnel to homeworking, adjusting KPIs, technology and working practices, and have needed to support a cultural shift among sometimes hundreds of contact center workers spread out over different locations. Reduced service levels coupled with increased contact volumes have accelerated the shift to digital self-service. These changes could permanently reshape customer engagement. As the world starts to open up again organizations have the opportunity to use the changes to drive greater customer intimacy and meet increased demand while also controlling costs.
One organization that is already outfitted for future surges in customer engagement is Aegon, the multinational life insurance, pensions, and asset management company. During the pandemic they responded with agility to meet customer expectations after seeing demand for their service center increase significantly. Remarkably, they were able to adjust their service model and launch a web chat in just five days. This provided support to thousands of customers and financial advisers. And all these interactions of course give the customer analytics team invaluable data in order to serve demographics more effectively. Aegon agents now handle 200 online conversations a day to service their 400,000 customers.
Because you don’t get a second chance to answer a customer’s first query
To address this, organizations need support to relaunch their service capabilities in the right way, prioritizing key business tasks (for example customer retention, sales, or insurance claims) while focusing on the employee, customer experience, and changing customer behaviors. Optimizing operations is critical at a time when cost efficiency is becoming more of a business priority. It’s imperative to be able to scale as the economy grows while retaining the flexibility to adapt to any future adversities.
Organizations should now accelerate change in three key areas:
Developing new capabilities and moving to the cloud
Implement CRM and Contact-center-as-a-Service platforms to support more flexible working across service organizations, ensure greater ability to flex resources in line with contact volumes and improve the experience customers get when they engage across multiple channels. Increase process automation and embed intelligent routing to react more rapidly to demand fluctuations. Ensure you are one of the organizations that has a continuous improvement capability in place!
Digital channel shift
Build on the “enforced” channel shift that many customers have experienced with the closure of physical stores and reduced capacity of contact centers, ensuring consistency of experience and supporting the capabilities to scale self-service and other digital channels now and in the future.
The creation of a flexible, dynamic customer service organization
Develop an operating model that puts service-driven insight at the heart of cross-functional decision making. Learn from new, COVID-19-enforced ways of working and seize the benefits of home working, flexible workforce management, and new resource models.
Customer service teams are at a pivotal point between adapting for the current crisis while having the flexibility and capabilities to deal with life getting back to a new normal. Organizations that are flexible and scalable enough to adapt to future challenges, COVID-19-related or not, will be those that continue to thrive.
Director, Customer Transformation
Principal Consultant – Consumer & Shopper Engagement Lead