Digital Economy Companies Need More Flexibility

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A recent feature in Nearshore Americas talked about the huge recent gains for e-commerce and digital economy companies. In the past year these companies have seen an enormous boost because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Many analysts believe that the gains in e-commerce will become permanent because many consumers now prefer to order products online – even if it was their only choice during lockdown.

Data from the U.S. Commerce Department suggests that 2020 sales in online retail grew by 44% on 2019, hitting a value of US$861 billion last year compared to US$598 billion the year before. Canada has grown even faster, registering a hike of 72.7% in online spending – excluding foodservice and catering purchases – this makes Canada the fastest growing e-commerce market on the planet.

All this growth means more pressure from customers on these companies. All that growth is fantastic news, but it does mean that the customer service processes need to keep up, or there will be a detrimental effect on the customer experience.

I was interested to read a comment from the Frost & Sullivan analyst, Sebastian Menutti, Industry Principal for Argentina. Sebastian said: “BPOs leaned a lot on call deflection, automation and AI. Many customers who did not previously leverage those tools began to in 2020 driven by necessity. We have seen a large increase in the demand for bots, intelligent virtual assistants and RPA because they were fundamental in helping BPOs deal with the brisk increase in interactions.”

That got me thinking. All the BPOs in this story reported their success in bagging new contracts from e-commerce companies, yet this analyst is saying that one of their key strategies is to deflect the customer from ever reaching the contact center.

Here are a few of my immediate thoughts on this:

1. Automation will happen, but not like this: brands do need to get smarter about self-service and automation. You need to think about what customers find when they search Google for help before ever calling. However, intelligent automation should not be used as deflection. If you are deliberately deflecting customers away from ever reaching an agent then your customer service strategy is not flexible enough to cope with your growth.

2. Flexibility is essential for these companies: just look at the growth being reported in e-commerce. These companies cannot afford to sign a three year deal with a BPO that has out of date KPIs after three months. The digital economy needs flexibility at the heart of all services.

3. There is another way: I’m surprised that the article didn’t once reference Gig CX as an option. Take a look back at some of my earlier articles explaining how a Gig CX strategy can build all the flexibility you need into a customer service strategy – certainly enough to handle all the growth a fast-moving e-commerce player will be experiencing.

Let’s face it, deflection isn’t really a CX strategy, it’s a coping mechanism. BPOs take on clients that are growing too fast for them to manage because they want the volume. I understand why – I’ve been there myself. Everyone promises that they can grow as fast as their e-commerce client and then something like Covid-19 happens and turns normal business strategy upside down.

If you want to avoid deflecting customers, if you want all of them to be able to have a great experience each time they interact with your digital economy brand then why not explore some digital economy ideas for managing customer service processes?

Photo by Rodion Kutsaev on Unsplash

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