Outmaneuver uncertainty with responsive customer care

  • Posted on June 8, 2020
  • Estimated reading time 3 minutes

Everything is out of equilibrium, and customer care is no exception. Just last week, I was surprised to find myself waiting in an hour-long queue for chat support with one of my (previous) favorite retailers known for great customer service. The delay in service was inconvenient and frustrating, leading me to explore other companies who could understand my needs and help me faster.

In the shift to work from home, some call centers had to drop phone support and rapidly expand the use of chat, resulting in long wait times for help. Some brands have been slow to provide meaningful updates on their digital channels about product availability, office hours and changes in process. This leaves customers to look elsewhere or pick up their phone and call – a proposition that often prompts a switch to more helpful, accessible competitors. 

The global pandemic has exposed an acute experience deficit, which exists between what customers need and what many brands provide. The impact is significant: In a recent global study, Edelman cited that 65% of respondents said that a brand’s response in the crisis will have a huge impact on their likelihood to purchase it in the future. Adaptive organizations that shifted key marketing and service technologies to the cloud and mapped out a path to future readiness may be in a better position to meet customer needs. But for many, it’s time to rethink customer care.
Protecting customer care employees, protecting the brand
Some organizations were already thinking ahead. Well before social distancing began, manufacturer ABB Turbocharging was empowering its field engineers to service turbochargers remotely. We helped design a solution combining Microsoft HoloLens mixed reality and Microsoft Dynamics 365 Remote Assist to keep front-line workers digitally connected to specialized experts. By uniting engineers virtually, ABB can keep customers’ turbochargers running – pre-empting avoidable service calls and providing a better overall customer experience that should help keep the company in good favor.
How to charge forward in a new, changing world
Superior experiences have long been expected, and now there’s a need for more intelligent and touchless ways of interacting. But for organizations that were still on the fence about investing in CX, it’s clear now that it’s a true differentiator. Revenue is on the line, and the pressure is on to deliver. 

While the path ahead is not linear, organizations seeking to protect revenue through a responsive customer care experience can accelerate by facing these waves of change head on:

1) Respond now with a quick service redesign
The global situation is changing in real-time, with unexpected customer care tensions bubbling up left and right. Organizations need quick-hit tension-relievers to patch these issues up immediately so they can meet customer needs while implementing more permanent care solutions. For instance, enabling work-at-home customer care agents and empowering field engineers with remote help is a practical and immediate step to take while building resiliency. Adding capacity with virtual agents is another way for organizations to flex up, but in the people-centric customer service business, virtual agents are under-used. My own wait for chat support could have been radically improved using a virtual agent. Even if a bot couldn't solve my issue, it could have been used to validate my identity, gather information on my issue, triage my request and route me to an agent as soon as one was available. The agent that I was finally connected with would have been able to resolve my issue in half the time, freeing her to resolve twice as many issues and likely improving her job satisfaction. Augmenting call center and field service talent with smart, touchless technologies can resolve issues and support customers at a much faster pace. 

2) Reset for a new equilibrium by modernizing your core customer care capabilities
Be proactive in your messaging about what to expect when everyone is calling in with similar problems, because the lack of proactive communication will exacerbate customer call volume and churn. If you understand your customers and really listen to them, you can proactively provide relevant, authentic communications. And the more dependable you are to existing customers and prospects, the greater your chance to earn their loyalty. Authenticity pays off: a separate study showed 60% of consumers value brands authenticity in everything it does, and those companies that do this were already outperforming the market by 5-7% per year. 

Give your contact center a big boost with AI and machine learning to analyze patterns across a high volume of voice calls, chats, and more to indicate growing problems. This gives you time to fix problems – by improving your products/services or adjusting your website messaging and internal contact center scripts - before they become unmanageable or excessively costly. Using marketing automation can also help to better understand customer engagement to improve communications and campaign performance; by seamlessly integrating Adobe Campaign and Dynamics 365 and using predictive analytics, retailer Venca personalizes campaigns with contextually relevant offers and messaging.

3) Renew for future growth by going faster with digital
To compete by providing superior care, you must anticipate which products/services your customers need now, and in the future. Customer data and frequent testing can reveal new insights that will help you connect and enhance your existing channels and expand to new channels that may better meet customer needs. That’s how Avanade has helped clients like Subway increase loyalty by offering customers a hyper-personalized omnichannel experience. Identifying and testing these new elements rapidly can lead to extraordinary new breakthroughs, but it requires a fail-fast-and-iterate mindset. 

How can brands sustain momentum, and prevent themselves from sliding backwards into old habits? Organizations must instill a culture that embraces this approach and remain optimistic that it will lead to growth and increased market share. Perpetual learning and incremental successes – from customer data and new areas of testing - will be the gift that comes from this new spirit of customer care.

The future is uncertain. But we predict the brands that will evolve and thrive are those that rise to the occasion with a proactive, empathetic and data-driven customer experience, made possible by safe employees empowered with the right technologies. 

For more guidance around designing responsive customer care, please read our guide.

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