How Adapting to COVID Unlocked New Omnichannel CX Strategies

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Delivering superior customer experience (CX) is more difficult in an omnichannel world. Research shows that 100% of companies offer at least one digital channel, 43% offer nine or more digital channels, and 65% of companies have at least one channel powered by artificial intelligence. More companies are also offering better customer self-service tools. The challenge is to support multiple customer channels simultaneously, making the right channel and tool available when you need it.

That was the challenge we had to overcome when the pandemic upended our customer service operations. Many of us had to quickly pivot and restructure our service operations to accommodate work-from-home staff and higher inbound service volumes. Not only were we contending with this operational challenge, but it also created downstream technical challenges. Our work-from-home agents had no way to collect payment and make sales in a PCI-compliant way. A difficult position to be in when you typically capture revenue this way tens of thousands of times each day.

We needed to think outside the box – and quickly – to find an elegant digital solution that would allow us to transact with customers remotely. We brought together our best CX minds and partnered with digital CX automation partner FICX to find a solution. In a few weeks, we were able to build a digital customer experience capable of collecting the needed information right from the customer’s smartphone – without exposing any of it to the agent. In addition, we automated all backend processing for customers and service agents, saving thousands of work hours, and increasing customer satisfaction in the process. 

This was a dramatic shift. We’ve all been conditioned to believe that we can have it one of two ways – fast or well. With the help of a no-code digital CX platform like FICX, we were able to focus on the ideal customer experience and then turn the vision into reality in record time. The big surprise? In the end, we avoided using workarounds to respond to COVID. Instead, we implemented a digital solution that we continue to use and scale, and our customers are consistently happier as a result.

What this means for CX moving forward

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a major, and lasting impact on customer service. During the pandemic, Gartner reports that 41% of businesses polled saw customer contact center volume rise. To handle the increased volume, 87% of companies report that digital communications are critical to survival during the pandemic. Most companies accelerated their digital strategy within two to four weeks of a lockdown. However, the changes brought on by the pandemic look like they are here to stay. Ninety-five percent intend to increase their investment in customer engagement post-pandemic, and 51% of IT decision-makers are investing in contact centers.

That’s because customer interest in self-service options has not decreased in the wake of COVID. Forty-five percent of customers are more likely to use self-service today than before the pandemic. Eighty-two percent of consumers are willing to use self-service but 46% don’t expect it to work. The need for better self-service options drove us to further prioritize omnichannel support and the need for frictionless interaction.

The pandemic didn’t only hit customers and the bottom-line, COVID placed incredible pressure on customer support staff. After working from home, more employees are resigning rather than returning to the office. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 4.43 million Americans quit their jobs in September. According to Call Centre Helper’s 2021 report, call center turnover also is among the highest of any industry, averaging between 30% and 45%.

It’s critical to remember that a great customer experience almost always leads to better employee experiences. By automating repetitive work and providing agents with tools that allow them to be successful, it is possible to turn this tide. With work-from-home becoming a permanent part of employment, the ability to offer and support remote work will become increasingly important to recruiting and retaining the best talent.

Four COVID CX Lessons to Carry Forward

We learned several lessons from equipping our homebound service reps with new digital CX automation tools.

1. Move from Pro-Code to No-Code.

Adopting a no-code approach makes it easy to create customized processes without having to rely heavily on IT support. No-code development means rapid deployment and the ability to create the same customer experience across channels. Using a cloud-based platform also ensures easy access by remote contact center workers and customers, and it makes processes more agile, more scalable, and more portable.

2. Move from tools to processes.

While off-the-shelf tools are valuable, their usefulness comes down to how well they map to and automate your specific business processes. Modular, adaptable platforms can help you build the exact workflows you need – integrated with core technologies and channels you want – without much of the risk, complexity, and costs associated with an in-house build.

3. Move from channels to journeys.

Customer service needs to be an omnichannel experience. Customers use interaction channels interchangeably to engage a brand. Rather than focusing on improving channels, you’ll be more successful if you focus on digital solutions that don’t require customers to adopt a channel, download an app, or engage in a specific way.

4. Move from solutions to platforms

When seeking the right technology to automate CX it makes sense to adopt platforms rather than single solutions. While solutions may be ready to implement today, they are often are harder to integrate, limited in adaptability, and are hard to scale to new use cases. Platforms are designed to adapt to changing needs and situations while providing the speed and efficiency of re-usable code, components, and integrations. This is key for staying nimble in a dynamic marketplace.

Conclusion

There is no question that the pandemic has changed customer support and created new expectations to deliver a superior customer experience moving forward. To meet these expectations, companies need to be able to provide their agents with the tools to promote a frictionless omnichannel customer experience.

We need to re-evaluate what was/is commonplace and push ourselves to innovate. When pushed by the unexpected, we discovered that by building a new kind of digital customer experience we could remove bumps in the customer journey, increase customer satisfaction, and give agents the adaptable support tools they need to be more effective in the process.

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