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The Pandemic Is No Excuse For Neglecting The Customer Experience

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Matt Wujciak
06/29/2020

business

There is no denying the struggling customer service landscape in modern commerce. However, with challenging economic times comes great opportunity for customer-centric brands to differentiate themselves from competitors – competitors that refuse to adapt to a more permanently and digitally driven environment, or refuse to recognize the emerging trends customers are providing customer service departments. 

The difficult part is being able to capture those trends so that we can provide employees and customers the resources to differentiate our brands by delivering better customer experiences.

Read More: Special Report: Building Better Caller Experiences

For many organizations across various industries, the pandemic is not the sole reason many businesses have shut down, filed for bankruptcy, or found themselves with their backs against the wall. The pandemic is merely the nail in the coffin, unfortunate circumstances that have expedited outcomes - neglecting the importance of advanced customer experience (i.e. AI driven customer service) results in failed customer management and ultimately, business continuity.   

As consumer demand continues to shift towards digital customer experiences, many customer-centric brands have responded well to the consumer behavior trends and have doubled down on advanced operational infrastructures.

According to CCW Digital research: 

62.4% have adapted to easier-to-use digital interfaces. This can mean easier API’s (application programming interfaces), delivered by the UX (user experience) team so customers have a frictionless experience when interacting with a brands app – say a drop-down menu, purchasing process, or visible customer history. On the reverse side, it can also mean new CRM capabilities for agents and front-line employees to aggregate data, personalize, or predict customer inquiries, again for a frictionless experience. 

73.3% are making remote work a more permanent option (for at least some workers). This can reduce operational costs, office leasing, and continuous and expensive updates in legacy technologies, such as on-premises customer service hardware.

A staggering 0% (not one marketing, CX, or contact center leader) responded that improving their analytics are “not at all” important moving forward. This is the most obvious need that the pandemic has provided. The analytics revolution has been evolving exponentially for years, only to be expedited by COVID-19, and not one would argue with that statement. While the challenges are clear, the solutions aren’t for many. But when you think about the response many customer service solution providers are, well, providing, the customer service challenges most brands are facing don’t have to be as difficult as the vast majority of business media outlets and research hubs are telling you. 

Read More: How To Scale Conversational AI

Arguably most notably, 4% say their COVID response was temporary. That means a whopping 96% of customer experience leaders have at least recognized permanent changes in how they deliver their products and services, and accommodate customers after a pandemic. If customers have gotten used to new ways of purchasing products or interacting with businesses, and there’s not a significant reason to change (again, even after a pandemic), then they won’t. Your customer service technologies, way of gathering consumer insights, and delivering those products and services should match emerging consumer behavior trends – not the other way around. 

Here’s one short example of what this looks like for a meal delivery service. 

With more than 123,000 customers, Mindful Chef delivers pre-portioned ingredients and fresh meat, fish and produce sustainably sourced from small award-winning British farms. Mindful Chef enables customers to cook nutritious meals in under 30 minutes with a weekly recipe booklet. The company reported a 452% increase in customers since the end of March 2020 as the recipe box market saw unprecedented demand amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mindful Chef is no different from many other brands that have experienced an influx in consumer volume, demanding more personal products and digital services from retailers, financial services, media, steaming subscriptions, etc. The problem is rarely of a marketing, sales, or supply chain nature, but rather accommodating customers through handling the increase in inquiries, personalizing and predicting services. 

If there was never a problem with a customer experience, then customer service wouldn’t exist. As certain markets surge and COVID-19 related inquiries (and sales) surge as a result, naturally, so too should the business’ capabilities to accommodate that influx. That is the most common problem in e-commerce right now. 

Read More: Special Report: The State Of The Voice Channel

(If you want to learn more about this concept, visit one of our recent articles on how customer volume and inquiries are crippling brands business continuity and financial forecasting). 

“We’ve experienced incredible growth in recent months as consumers have become increasingly dependent on food delivery services and this has presented us with the unique challenge of how to quickly scale amidst a national lockdown. Having such a small team still working both Nationally and Internationally it’s important to be able to maintain the same personable and prompt support to all of our customers and prospect customers,” said Siobhan Taylor, Head of Customer Service at Mindful Chef. 

However, the one difference that does differentiate Mindful Chef from their competitors, as well as any brand struggling to accommodate changing customer experience trends, is not merely marketing or sales efforts, but rather customer service technology, adapting to the trends we’ve identified to accommodate the changes in consumer behavior and respond with more active, predictive, and digitally driven solutions. 

As brands lagging behind in technology and AI find their outcomes expedited, ones that turn to digital customer service solutions and contact center providers often find their outcomes expedited in the reverse direction. 

Mindful Chef turned to the Vonage Contact Center, as one example, that integrates all communications channels without expensive, disruptive hardware changes and plugs straight into a business’s CRM platform, enabling Mindful Chef to better handle the increased volume of customer requests and minimize wait times. Regardless of location, having cloud capabilities in customer service can help the brand’s customer experience strategists and front-line customer service agents know their customers better over time, while working remotely to fulfill a digitally based subscription service. 

All advisors log into the same system wherever they are, and Vonage’s real-time dashboards provide a wealth of real-time and historical data within Mindful Chef’s reporting solution. No longer are real-time CRMs and cloud-based solutions a nice to have; they are a staple to business continuity in a more digitally driven environment of commerce. 

“Contact centers play a vital role in supporting customers as they are often the first line of defence. And in uncertain times, it’s crucial for businesses to stay connected to customers without disruption,” Rodolpho Cardenuto, President, Vonage Applications Group, added. 

“Mindful Chef is experiencing an unprecedented surge in demand, exemplifying the increase of importance for a flexible, scalable, contact center solution or customer relationship management platform. 

A cloud-based contact center solution provider can provide customer service departments the ability to help employees and customers utilize frictionless interfaces to achieve their goals, work from home, and deliver better AI and actionable analytics-based solutions for both customers and employees. And as the 96% say, these capabilities are not temporary. They are oxymoronically, permanently advancing customer service capabilities. In other words, the pandemic has reminded us that the only constant in business is change. 

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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For media coverage, lead gen, and digital marketing inquiries, contact me at matt.wujciak@customermanagementpractice.com.

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