The need and opportunity to create digital customer experiences has become critical in the wake of COVID-19. Retail stores are shuttered and bleeding money, customers are moving online, and service is done remotely.
Customer service centers are also experiencing an unprecedented uptick in volume. As people scramble to resolve service disruptions, businesses struggle to keep up.
These events further widen a communication gap that already existed between businesses and customers. Businesses are way behind on customer communication preferences, and increased demands on customer service teams only worsen the issue.
Call centers are flooded with cancellations and complaints
Call centers are overwhelmed as panicked customers rush to change trips, cancel payments, and update service plans. Phone lines are clogged and businesses simply do not have enough employees to handle current call volumes.
Despite this, the pressure is on for call centers to continue serving customers at a time where they need it most. Their reliance on traditional operating systems and hardware has left them ill-prepared. This pressure is felt most by call center employees, and their complaints are making headlines.
Reports detail how employees are still working less than a meter apart from each other, sharing headsets and other facilities. Call centers, described as "breeding grounds" for the virus, raise public health concerns.
Businesses and government organizations have found relief in messaging channels. The World Health Organization, for example, took to WhatsApp to deliver trusted health information on a global scale.
The new service answers questions from the public about Coronavirus, and gives prompt, reliable and official information 24 hours a day, worldwide.
It's clear that businesses that use WhatsApp and messaging channels have an advantage. Messaging channels are ripe for automation, helping businesses save time and money when it matters most.
Businesses that rely on phone and email will find it difficult to recover. For them, the transition to remote environments creates a whole new set of challenges. Connectivity issues, system complexity, and security concerns make it impossible to remain efficient.
Empathy from customers is scarce
Long before COVID-19 rocked the world, brands used messaging to provide better experiences. It was a necessary tool for businesses to offer the personalized, immediate service that customers expect.
Long hold times and email exchanges weren't cutting it before the outbreak, and they're definitely not cutting it now. While it may seem safe to assume that customers’ expectations would shift during a global crisis, that is unfortunately not the case.
Businesses are doing their best to serve customers with limited resources, but empathy from customers is scarce. Patience is wearing thin as panic, fear, and uncertainty set in.
Many customers are taking to Twitter to express their dissatisfaction with customer care. These tweets show just how much businesses (and customers) stand to lose.
Planning for a fast recovery
During times of uncertainty, cost reduction is a critical part of an organization’s strategy. But, cost reductions must drive efficiency improvements that add value to the organization. This calls for a focused, intelligent approach.
With customers moving online, improving digital customer experiences is a clear place to start. Combining automation and messaging, specifically, presents an enormous opportunity.
Messaging helps businesses achieve two urgent needs: the need to cut costs, and the need to keep customers.
Amidst the volatility, customer retention is a real issue. Customers are looking for ways to save money, uncertain of what’s to come. With people looking for ways to cut back on spending, businesses cannot afford to lose customers due to poor service.
The reality is, customer service teams are overwhelmed, and customer retention is at risk. But, businesses can't bear increased costs per contact. Instead, they need a scalable solution that cuts costs.
Cost reduction that drives efficiency
Messaging emerges as a key tool to weather this storm. And, businesses that invest in messaging will continue to benefit from it long after COVID-19 concerns fade.
Messaging is a proven tool for increasing customer satisfaction and saving money. It's cheaper, faster, and increases customer satisfaction over other remote service options. This is because:
- Messaging is an asynchronous tool
- 3-5 inquiries can be solved at the same time
- Most businesses automate 80% of customer queries
- Automation frees up a lot of time for human agents to focus on higher-value work
- Faster resolution times mean more time and money is saved
Messaging also creates more personal relationships. With fewer opportunities to have meaningful, one-on-one interactions, this is more important than ever.
Chatting with a brand is the next best thing to in-store experiences. At a time when brand loyalty will be tested, these digital customer experiences are critical.
Customers’ changing preferences are not likely to go back to pre-outbreak norms
It's clear that brands need to adapt now to survive. And we're not just talking about surviving a two-week quarantine ordeal. Businesses must understand and anticipate the long-term impact on the global economy.
According to McKinsey & Company, businesses that navigate disruptions better often succeed for one main reason; they invest in their core customer segments and anticipate their behaviors.
"In China, for example, while consumer demand is down, it has not disappeared—people have dramatically shifted toward online shopping for all types of goods, including food and produce delivery," explains McKinsey's executive briefing.
"Companies should invest in online as part of their push for omnichannel distribution," says the report. "This includes ensuring the quality of goods sold online. Customers’ changing preferences are not likely to go back to pre-outbreak norms."
Even when the dust settles, brands will still need to serve a growing percentage of customers online. Thus, the need for a scalable solution is not going away.
Messaging is the way forward
Successful brands recognized that serving customers on messaging was urgent before this global crisis. Their customers preferred it, and it was the only channel that helped them provide great service at scale.
Now more than ever, brands can't afford to serve customers on channels that cost more and result in poor experiences. Messaging is the way forward, and brands must act now.