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Is It Time To Move On From The “New Normal” Of CX?

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Matt Wujciak


“What we’ve done over the last few months has been adaptive and adoptive… it’s like Zoom has become ‘hey get me a Kleenex when you want a tissue,’” Shep Hyken WSJ, NYT bestselling author and #1 CX influencer recently told me. 

Kleenex is a brand just like Zoom is a brand. Kleenex (as a brand) has become so wildly accepted that it’s synonymous with the product that they sell, tissues. Similarly, Zoom (as a brand) has also become synonymous with the product that they sell – video conferencing, or digital communication.  

The “new normal” embodies the idea of a handful of wildly accepted COVID-19 norms - Zoom meetings, remote working, wearing masks in public stores and restaurants, curb-side pickup, and so much more. Personally, I can’t stand to hear the words “new normal” anymore. Why? Other than the term being overused, it has a complacent feeling – as if our business continuity planning is not capable of evolving to new societal trends and consumer behaviors. Quite simply, there is nothing “normal” about the time we are living in. The only constant, oxymoronically, is change. And those who can remain agile by adapting to evolving consumer behavior trends can deliver better customer experiences during the Darwinism of business. 

Re-thinking the employee environment

First, let’s talk about the environment of our employees, the ones responsible for delivering quality customer experiences. According to our research, we’ve found that 73% of CX leaders are looking to make remote work a more permanent option, meaning that many leaders have found advantages to their work-from-home infrastructure, but that doesn’t mean the concept can’t improve. Blending remote and on-site work, having different teams come in to the office on different days, and sharing public “working spaces,” after a pandemic can have many advantages. 

In the U.S., the average one-way commute time is 26.1 minutes, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. If you commute to a full-time, 5-day-a-week job, roundtrip that adds up to 4.35 hours a week and over 200 hours (nearly nine days) per year.

A mix of remote and on-site work may include better work life balance (and productivity) for some employees, little to no fixed leasing costs for office space, and so much more. However, a pitfall for many customer service departments and customer experience-centric businesses has been technology. But it doesn’t have to be. 

Evolution of omnichannel and self-service

Our research also suggests that 90% are more committed to improving self-service after the COVID outbreak. Only 2% of respondents said that they are less committed to AI and digital engagement, suggesting that the exponential growth of CX technologies such as chatbots, IVR, and digital communication have been expedited, in turn helping us serve consumers better in the long run.

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

Consumer behavior continues to shift towards a digital environment, as well. For example, we are experiencing stronger consumer engagement with messaging apps and SMS, such as Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Apple iMessage and other messaging platforms. Time spent by US adults on mobile messaging will grow by roughly 20 percent throughout 2020.

Recently, I was discussing some of these trends with Dan Gingiss. Dan is a Forbes contributor, bestselling author, and a former CX and social media leader at McDonald’s, Discover, and Humana. Here’s what Dan told me: 

“The second titanic shift [after social media] that I would say happened in the last year or so is that now there’s this move to messaging and that is part social because obviously we have Facebook Messenger and we have Twitter DMs… but it also includes other chat categories like SMS.”

Capitalizing on the e-commerce boom

For many brands that have recognized the digital engagement increase in consumer behavior, (as a result of consumers having more time in the day), these brands have been able to better target consumers where they already are, contributing to higher conversion rates from social engagement to e-commerce sales. 

There was a 129% year-over-year growth in U.S. & Canadian e-commerce orders as of April 21 (arguably the “peak” of the pandemic) and 146% growth in all online retail orders. As consumers spend more time on digital channels such as chat, SMS, and social media, customer service and marketing departments are engaging with them where they now spend the most time, ultimately leading to surging e-commerce and digital subscription based models. 

Read More: Special Report Series: Retail Customer Experience Trends

Of course, more online sales means more customer inquiries coming in through digital channels. As seen in a recent CCW Digital webinar, customer contact volume has increased ten-fold during the pandemic. At the same time, agent capacity declined by 20%. As you might imagine, this contributed to a 28% decline in customer satisfaction with buying online. This should be anything but the “new normal” when you consider the advantages of new technology capabilities (i.e. advanced, AI-driven SMS or chatbots) that many are not exploiting.  

In fact, I recently wrote an article titled “How Commerce is Shifting Towards Uber Style Service.” In the piece, I interviewed Colin Crowley, the VP of Customer Experience at Freshly, a service that delivers chef cooked meals to consumers, usually in bulk. Colin told me this: 

“We have escalated pre-existing strategies and implemented them faster. We were already looking at a world where we wanted to invest a good deal in AI solutions and [specifically] chatbot technology.”

For Freshly, they didn’t have to drastically change their customer experience model, they simply had to do more of what they were already doing. 

Turning the “new normal” into frictionless CX

“We knew coming in 2020, this was going to be the year of the chatbot where we really wanted to embrace chatbot technology to allow customers to get answers to their questions as soon as possible in very, very basic use cases and be able to repurpose our agents to more complicated and evolved tasks and also more specialized areas so they could typically help customers through difficult circumstances. So that’s something we doubled down on with COVID.”

Once we are able to start thinking about instantaneous service through advanced digital communication, or the click of a button in real-time, we can further develop the channels we use to communicate with our customers to accommodate consumer engagement and volume as inquiries match the influx in e-commerce demand. As customers expect more instantaneous services, consumer demand increases in on-demand services – and our ability to answer the call through new technologies should match these increased expectations and demands. The “new normal” is continuous evolution, not complacency. 

No one’s safe from the behavioral economic consequences brought upon by the coronavirus. But adapting to the right CX strategies and consumer behavior trends will give you the best chance at being on the favorable side of financial Darwinism. 

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