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How digital solutions will save businesses: CX in a COVID-19 world

We are all still coming to terms with the incredible change that has swept across every individual and company across the globe. What remains unclear are the long term structural changes that COVID-19 will leave behind. Much of that will depend on the length and depth of this pandemic wave washing through our lives and businesses.

One of the most powerful shifts from our quarantine-imposed isolation is the way we conduct our commerce. Traditional business models are tossed aside, with product and service strategies turned inside out as customers evaporate or are diminished beyond recognition.

The strategies we employ to run our businesses are being amended overnight.

The way we sell and service our customers has shifted

Pre-COVID-19, physical stores provided reassurance to many customers. Even digitally savvy customers often completed the sale at a brick and mortar store, preferring to engage with real people for sales and support.

Until the pandemic, businesses would have marketed, sold, delivered and supported customers across multiple channels, each one supporting the different aspects of the customer experience lifecycle. Customers were using digital channels, which led to bricks and mortar offices and stores, and Contact Centres through IVR and live chat, providing any post-sales assistance they needed.

A customer used to fit a pair of shoes or touched furniture fittings in-store before buying; they now need to rely on online research and company support channels before making a purchase decision. Even piano teachers must adapt their lessons to video conferencing to continue serving their customers. The loss of physical interactions means that businesses need to make the transition from digital-first to digital-only.

From Digital First to Digital Only

COVID-19 has forced a change in the ways that businesses operate, no matter the industry. While restaurants and cafes can only offer takeaway now, essential retail such as supermarkets must consider the safety of their staff and keep them protected. Retail businesses have seen a shift towards digital channels, and this growing demand is putting pressure on delivery and product availability.

The problem is that many businesses or industries are not ready to make these changes. Schools have moved to online classes, but not every household is properly equipped for this, leaving the burden of homeschooling on parents. General Practitioners offer consultation online now but may lack the capabilities to attend to the surge of phone calls.

COVID-19 has removed the physical connection of the customer moment, with many customers struggling to cope with what is now a digital-only world.

Human-centred Customer Contact Centres are more important than ever before Customer Contact Centres need to bridge the gap between the Digital and the Human. Rather than being an afterthought for companies providing service to their end-users, human-assisted sales and service teams must be incorporated earlier and more often into the sales process to avoid customer frustration and abandonment.

Injecting human engagement centres (whether via voice or Live Chat) into the relationship early helps soften the loss of physical interactions. Furthermore, this instantly improves brand connection, especially when your competitors reduce or shut off their contact connections with customers. Being there for your customers in difficult times improves sales conversions and customer retention.

Without physical interactions, businesses must further nurture human connections by empathising, understanding, being patient and trusting. Customer experience policies must be reevaluated and modified to go from contact to engagement.

The Human Engagement Centre must be remote in a modern, COVID-19 world But if workers around the world can’t go into their offices, how does it work?

Around the world, traditional Contact Centres have been providing reliable and affordable sales, service and operational backbone for many businesses, large and small. However, the operational rigidity built into these models means that many have failed to keep up with customers’ ever-changing needs. Principles like remote working, immersive collaboration, business transparency through technology innovation, and cloud-first approaches are still in the early stages for many businesses.

So, while remote working began as a luxury, businesses are now scrambling to restructure to continue operating. Businesses need to create their own remote customer service capability. If they don’t know how to, they need to partner with companies to provide modern customer sales and service capabilities.

COVID-19 is not a short term crisis

We should seize this opportunity to connect with our employees and customers. Removing physical contact is like removing one of the five senses for a business. We must now strengthen the other senses to compensate for its loss.

We need to evolve our business models by improving digital self-service, real-time sales and post-sales support.

And we all need to move fast. Businesses are struggling, and the best way to deal with this is to connect the digital and the human-like never before.

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