The customer-centric movement that defined transformative business models over the past decade shows no signs of stopping. Even in a tough economy, most brands remain committed to improving the customer experience (CX) and emphasizing retention. Nevertheless, it would be foolish to think that changes won’t have to be made or that resources are unlimited especially in a potential recession. That’s why companies have to stay prepared for the good and hard times, balancing their CX strategy to prioritize meeting service expectations while reducing operational costs.
Unprecedented labor shortages and geo-political instability have created significant risks that can disrupt operations and brands’ relationships with their customers. To prepare for economic headwinds and maintain resiliency this year, companies should consider the following tactics to recession-proof their business.
Adopt A Flexible Workforce Model
One of the tried and tested methods of making CX delivery more affordable is through geographically diverse delivery. For decades, brands have outsourced critical business functions, including customer support, to other countries for cost efficiency and business continuity. This strategy has become much more robust with new technologies, workforce models and geographies that create new opportunities for brands. As budgets are strained, inflation rises and geo-political issues fuel an uncertainty in demand, the focus should be on how to shift and augment service-related functions to markets with strong talent pools that offer a balance of improved continuity, reduced cost and flexibility to meet changing market conditions.
To do this, brands must design a balanced workforce model that is built on flexibility and redundancy. A workforce model that not only embraces offshoring, but also multi-shoring is a great place to start. That way, if there is unforeseen disruption in a given market, brands will be able to shift resources to other hubs so that delivery does not have to pause, let alone stop entirely. Second, hybrid workforce models that allow work-at-home delivery is a necessity in the post-COVID environment. A distributed workforce attracts more talent while providing resiliency against points of failure, such as a storm, allowing companies to adapt in the wake of crisis. Finally, including flexible workforce models like gig and part time expand your reach for talent and can support short term spikes to efficiently cover peaks in demand.
Bridge the Performance Gap
Flexible workforce models should be driven in large part by a brand’s north star: the customer. Once brands identify key outcomes expected at each stage of the customer journey, they can begin to focus on an employee experience that meets those expectations throughout the employee lifecycle, using analytics in a way that optimizes CX. Companies can do this by creating an analysis that highlights shortcomings and facilitates a quick response. One of the best ways to do this is to harness the Voice of Employee – collecting feedback on employee confidence in providing support that aligns to the customer journey. For example, if customer service representatives report a lack of confidence in their training or tools to support a new product launch or they receive customer complaints, it should direct leadership to focus on where support is most needed.
Customer service leaders today have a bevy of analytics and tools to evaluate the employee experience. From interaction analytics, which provides advanced customer call insights, to knowledge management, which provides agent response efficacy data, and agent assist, which provides next best action insights, brands should deploy focused technologies that support the customer experience using data as their guide to efficient prioritization and deployment.
The most sure-fire way to stave off financial downturn is to improve operational efficiencies. Beyond external talent and workforce optimization tools, companies can also tap AI-powered solutions that automate elements of CX. Brands can streamline service throughout the customer journey by adopting digital tools that automate functions that are less complex – leaving their staff to focus on solving customer needs that require empathy and advanced problem solving, such as technical support and sales. AI and process automation solutions today can quickly and accurately manage tasks, activities, and processes that have repeatable support requirements, require 24/7 availability and benefit from high accuracy and throughput.
One of the greatest innovations that has transformed contact centers in recent years is intelligent routing, where customers are seamlessly connected to the optimal resource to deal with the issue sometimes through a digital flow, or when appropriate, with an agent as a backstop so customers are never left in the cold. Technology like this integrates the power of AI with the delicacy of human intervention. This is vital in modern CX, as customers see contact center associates as brand ambassadors and a direct extension of the represented brand. Automation should never be deployed in isolation as efficiency gains will backfire when a customer is lost because they couldn’t reach an empowered resource to resolve their issue.
AI tools aren’t just helping CX teams react to support tickets. They also unlock proactive service delivery. Whether that’s account resolution or revenue generation, leading tech solutions available today empower sales activities that tie directly to profitability. These types of actions include follow-ups regarding an abandoned shopping cart or when engagement with a product is waning. The intended outcome with a proactive model is to captivate customers while giving CX agents the time and the ability to manage the most critical problems. According to recent estimates, brands are already eying proactive capabilities, as 98 percent of organizations plan to implement some level of proactive customer engagement in the contact center by 2025.
This year, brands in almost every vertical will need to build strategies on how to effectively balance customer acquisition and retention while managing strained budgets. If it is a sales & marketing teams’ role to bring in customers, it is customer service’s role to retain them. This focus on customer retention yields a higher return on investments by building brand loyalists and recurring business. Optimizing this important business function is an effective marketing strategy and will determine whether a brand can overcome challenging economic environments.