In a recent post, we discussed the importance of having a personal touch when dealing with customers during the COVID-19 pandemic. It is good to remember that actions speak louder than words, however. Platitudes such as “we are here for you” and “we’re all in this together” offer cold comfort for folks who are experiencing heightened levels of stress, anxiety and depression during these unprecedented times.
It’s not just a nice thing to do, either — it’s a business imperative. As business losses mount, companies must redouble their efforts to satisfy and retain customers. Empathetic messaging has a role in the process, but companies must also demonstrate they understand the extraordinary challenges their customers face.
There are a number of ways to engage and reassure customers by helping them deal with pandemic-driven challenges. Some companies do this by extending payment deadlines, waiving fees, offering free upgrades or providing complimentary services. Others concentrate on providing solutions and services that help customers cut costs, improve operations or win new business. Either way, the idea is to maintain a sharp focus on delivering value.
Technology also plays a critical role in customer engagement. Creating a customer-centric culture requires consistent and effective communications across a range of channels, making it easy and convenient for customers to reach you. Unfortunately, many organizations are limited by older contact center technology that can’t accommodate customers’ increasing reliance upon digital communication channels.
While most U.S. consumers say they still prefer to engage with customer-service representatives by phone, more than half say they have been using online channels more frequently during the pandemic. They haven’t been entirely satisfied.
In many cases, companies are using older platforms built primarily for phone and chat communications. Many digital communication capabilities were bolt-on additions that aren’t well integrated with other channels. A recent study by Mitel illustrates the challenges with this situation. The study found that nearly half of U.S. consumers have a negative view of online customer-service options, and about the same number say organizations need to introduce tools that are easier to use.
Older platforms have also made it more difficult for companies to transition to remote contact center operations. In many cases, agents are working from home with their personal phones, computers and Wi-Fi networks, making it impossible to use some platform features and also creating data privacy issues. Additionally, unreliable Internet connections can lead to disrupted calls or chat sessions that only serve to aggravate and alienate customers.
Leveraging the Cloud
Cloud-based Contact Center as a Service (CCaaS) solutions make it easy for organizations to move away from outdated technology and take advantage of advanced toolsets to provide fast, effective service across a range of channels. These platforms provide seamless omnichannel interactions, intuitive self-service and comprehensive reporting. In addition, most offer tools for workforce optimization, predictive routing and 360-degree customer journey analytics.
Running your contact center operations in the cloud also ensures that work-from-home agents can easily access the tools they need to help customers get answers, guidance, solutions and services. With no hardware to install, a CCaaS can be fully operational in days, and additional features or upgrades can be delivered on demand.
Disrupted business operations may be the new normal, but companies must maintain a strong focus on the customer experience. Cloud-based contact center platforms can help you remain engaged and connected with customers by facilitating effective communications over a variety of digital channels. In our next post, we’ll discuss other steps companies can take to improve the customer experience in 2021 and beyond.