How to Future-Proof Customer Service Strategies
Customer and product support has to evolve in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis. In Southeast Asia alone, the pandemic has caused a permanent spurt in digital adoption, with more than 1 in 3 consumers being new to digital services, of which 90% intend to continue their newfound habits post-pandemic, according to Bain & Company. As more people adopt digital platforms, such as online shopping, food delivery and digital payments to meet their daily needs, so too has the need for businesses to adopt digital customer service capabilities.
At the same time, employees are also beginning to challenge traditional workplace practices. They want more flexibility and are impacting how companies attract and retain a more diverse workforce.
To meet the growing demand for customer services and transform the customer experience industry to make it fit for the future, organizations can embrace automation and artificial intelligence (AI), build a geographically distributed and hybrid workforce, and perfect remote training and support for their employees.
Automation, AI and a Global Approach
By making use of automated, AI-powered customer-facing tools, companies can fill service gaps and ensure continuity of service at all times. Use cases include chatbots and virtual assistant technology to improve customers’ experience and relieve the pressure on customer service employees during peak periods.
Even with the increasing effectiveness of AI technologies, however, trained agents are still needed to handle more complex queries. The business disruption caused by the pandemic has shown that new customer experience strategies are required going forward.
For example, the Philippines’ outsourcing industry, a popular offshore location, was hit hard by the pandemic initially, having had to rapidly switch agents from brick-and-mortar offices to a secure work-at-home solution. The industry bounced back with home-based agents but they were impacted once again when Typhoon Vamco hit Manila, the capital city of the Philippines. This cut power and internet to most of the region for a few days, which meant that outsourcing companies had to work closely with the country’s internet service providers to ensure that agents had reliable internet access. This shows that delivering resilient customer experiences extends beyond a remote strategy.
Companies can reduce potential risks and other market uncertainties by collaborating with reliable customer experience firms that have built up geographically distributed and digitally enabled workforces. Such partnerships can also optimize customer service performance and costs.
By assembling a mix of onshore, nearshore and offshore teams, with each of these leveraging remote and socially distanced workplace options, companies can call on support as needed in the short term, while cross-training and redeploying talent to meet evolving demand over the medium term.
Combining multi-shore customer service teams can also give companies the advantages of reputable outsourcing regions without the risks of over-relying on any one of them. This approach mitigates the potential fallout of geopolitical upheavals, natural disasters or other unforeseen market risks.
At Everise, we call this strategy “flexshoring” because it provides the flexibility of blended work-at-home and centralised office teams on a global scale. For this to be successfully implemented, the right technological tools are needed to facilitate communication, enhance service delivery and enable agent monitoring. This includes agile cloud contact center architecture to easily manage and reroute volumes, as well as enable root cause analysis to find and solve any issues in specific locations. Powerful business and agent intelligence platforms with analytic capabilities are also needed to optimally route volume and enhance coaching strategies.
The Future of Recruitment and Training
To reap the full benefits of “flexshoring,” firms may also need to rethink recruitment and training practices for customer support agents. Well-designed and comprehensive virtual programs may be the most cost-effective way to attract and interview potential employees and train existing agents who are scattered across the globe. Companies now have both the responsibility and ability to attract and hire a more diverse and inclusive workforce.
Additionally, they require the expertise and technology to attract and retain high-performing talent worldwide. This can include smart candidate screening products, new hire onboarding chatbots and virtual classroom training. At the same time, customized solutions may be required to meet specific needs.
For example, a food logistics company needed to urgently improve agent efficiency to manage surging live chat inquiries. The solution was a self-directed, video-based training program, which shortened the time needed to train agents in soft skills by 25%, without any drop in customer satisfaction.
As the COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated, the customer experience industry is overdue for a revamp. With people placing a larger premium on good customer service, and firms looking for ways to elevate themselves from competitors, now is the time for businesses to build stronger bonds with their consumers through impeccable customer experiences.