Sign up to get full access to all our latest content, research, and network for everything customer contact.

Does Your CX Team Have A Long-Term Plan For Remote Work? Research Shows They Should

Here’s How To Deliver One

Add bookmark

Matt Wujciak
07/28/2020

data

We are nearly half a year into the coronavirus pandemic, and trends continue to emerge.  

Customer service departments, contact centers, and marketing leaders are finally discovering that if they want to withstand any potential impact on the business, then they need to have a strategy not merely to make it to 2021 (or whenever a vaccine is developed) but to operate as a fully digitally driven, remote, or innovatively efficient operation that can “do more with less.” 

Mark Zuckerberg recently shared his plans for the future of remote work at Facebook. By 2030, he promised, at least half of Facebook’s 50,000 employees would be working from home. “We are going to be the most forward-leaning company on remote work at our scale,” he declared in a follow-up interview. A few days before, Jack Dorsey had announced that Twitter and Square’s employees would be allowed to work “where[ever] they feel most creative and productive…even once offices begin to reopen.” Many will take a similar approach. 

Additionally, thirty-five percent of the customer experience (CX) workforce will WFH by 2023, up from 5 percent in 2017.

Even more interestingly, as COVID-19 subsides, work-from-home will remain a fixture of the customer contact space, specifically. According to CCW Digital research, nearly 75% of companies say remote work will be a permanent option for at least some employees.

Read More: Special Report Series: Retail Customer Experience

Released at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, CCW Digital’s Market Study on New Standards for Customer Contact Performance confirmed digital engagement, including self-service, as the #3 response, as we’ll dive into later. What beat out self-service? Only work-from-home and remote collaboration of course.

As they transform their remote work models from crisis response necessities into permanent strategies, customer-centric businesses will reconsider all facets of the remote environment. This process involves adopting a cloud platform that makes it easy for all remote agents and employees to access vital systems and engage in high-quality, empathetic conversations. 

As Brian Cantor, CCW Digital Principal Analyst recently stated:

“Customers should not ‘feel’ any impact - let alone endure frustrated agents, impersonal support, or less reliable conversations - when interacting with members of the at-home team,” that may be here longer than most anticipate. So here’s how to deliver it. 

Empathy

Make no mistake, self-service and AI driven customer engagement platforms such as machine-learning and conversational automation are imperative. We see many contact centers and solution providers, using ML to improve and automate customer-facing applications now more than ever – at an exponential rate. And they should, to alleviate tasks that fall on agents’ shoulders, when they don’t have to. Chatbots are today’s most common example, as business is booming for cloud-based contact center solution providers that help customer service departments handle the influx in customer inquiries brought about by the pandmeic.

However, the vast majority of chatbots won’t pass the test of simulating human interactions, despite recent improvements in the effectiveness of these tools.

CCW Digital research suggests only 9% of customers trust chatbots to solve their problems, as one example of the missed opportunity (or need for improvement) of self-service functions like chat.

Our analyst team would argue that the purpose of chatbots is actually NOT to simulate human interaction, but to learn from experiences to deliver better service (which is ML), aggregate customer data for predictive inquiries (and solutions), and handle simple tasks that automation can solve.

A significant majority of customers are more than ready for brand humanization during these times of isolation and siloed communication. According to Salesforce research, 84% of customers say the experience a company provides is as important as its products and services — up from 80% in 2018, heavily dependent upon the right formulaic approach to personalization and empathy, which in part, is dependent upon technology that saves agent time and resources. 

“Increased focus on human factors (like empathy) during interactions and training” has been a strategic priority for roughly 50% of CX leaders during the pandemic, according to CCW Digital research. This number is and should continue to grow as consumers continue to grow more sensitive to marketing tone or language, have less money to spend on services and products (as a result of the macroeconomic state we’re living in), and support brands that align with their social beliefs (especially younger demographics such as Gen Z consumers - accounting for roughly 40% of buying power). 

To put it simply, conversational AI and automation allows agents to do what they’re paid to do – provide efficient and empathetic human support to customers who are quite frankly stressed out or downright angry by the time they reach a live agent – more times than not. This is why IVR and phone support has increased in call volume for inquiries that are more serious, and video or face-to-face interaction continues to emerge as a newly popular channel in the contact center. 

Keeping a pulse on your agents

Stressed customers = stressed agents = lower efficiency, and ultimately, higher operational costs for missed opportunities in customer service. Most contact centers tend to focus on providing an excellent customer experience while forgetting about the ones running the show—front-line agents. Don’t be one of them. Working from home has highlighted the importance of employee engagement from management or HR to front-line employees or customer service reps.

Read More: Special Report Series: Building Better Caller Experiences

In fact, nearly a fifth (19%) of fully-remote employees say loneliness is their biggest struggle when working remotely. Customer service agents are one of the greatest culprits, victims, or whatever you want to call it. 

Making it crucial for contact center leaders to implement strategies that foster a sense of teamwork, reduce anxiety and feelings of isolation among their agents becomes imperative in a remote environment. 

Use instant messaging tools and video conferencing like WhatsApp, Microsoft Teams, and of course the reigning champ of the pandemic, Zoom, to stay connected with your agents in this remote working environment. Consider adding a personal touch to your meeting by using video calls as there’s a lot of power in face-to-face communication that is lost in the contact center. Observe your agents in these calls so that you can provide them constructive feedback, real-time coaching, or general human connection.

Blending self-service and human connection

As promised, here’s the run-down of the self-service market. For all the talk about self-service, it remains a fringe option for most companies and customers. A staggering 65% of companies say very few (if any) of their interactions are resolved without agent assistance. You can look at this in two ways. Self-service is not effective. Or self-service should complement human service (or agent assistance). I lean with the latter. 

An immense 96% of companies value digital engagement, and many specifically put self-service, digital capabilities, and artificial intelligence on their short and long-term priority lists, and for good reason. The customer ones who are successful in the contact community resoundingly believe digital can yield service experiences that are more customer-centric and more efficient, as they should. And as it prepares for the second-half of 2020 and beyond, the community plans to take meaningful action. As they look to turn their COVID-19 lessons and responses into long-term shifts, 78% of companies plan to meaningfully emphasize AI and digital engagement according to CCW Digital research. 

By 2025, 54% of companies believe at least 40% of their interactions will be handled entirely through self-service. 

This is a time when the world is vulnerable, where every person and organization is adapting to life with a live virus in their midst, where no one is operating from a best-in-class pandemic playbook to survive modern financial Darwinism. Brands, including marketers and customer service departments must become the very people they’re trying to reach. This means that among innovation, compliance, time and technology, humanity must become the greatest application. 

Read More: How-to Guide: How To Create An Omnichannel Contact Center

With over 150,000 global members, join the largest research hub for customer contact and customer experience professionals by subscribing here. Through our complementary offerings, you’ll have access to the latest research, news, blogs, podcasts, webinars, whitepapers, events, training, and technology insights in customer experience. 

For media coverage, lead gen, and digital marketing inquiries, (or to say hi), contact me at matt.wujciak@customermanagementpractice.com, or connect with me on Linkedin at Matt Wujciak.

RECOMMENDED