The pandemic has disrupted businesses at every operational level, including their ability to innovate, maintain revenue streams and respond effectively to customer enquiries. To gain a clearer understanding of the situation, we interviewed customer service, AI-powered human translator, Unbabel, to discover how customer support teams have been affected, and what businesses are doing to help ensure their recovery in the months ahead, and reminage their future.
How did businesses respond?
- Cementing customer loyalty by:
- Talking to customers in their native language - 65% of consumers say they're more likely to buy a product again if they can get support in their own language.1
- Improving customer support response times, even if it is an automated response - 37% of customers expect a response in the first hour when they reach out to support.2
- Becoming more empathetic One of the most important steps companies have taken during the pandemic has been to simply stay in close communication with their customers. In some cases, this has meant relaxing the rules — for example by offering more flexible returns, or training staff to be more empathetic and solution-minded.
- Relocating call centre operations - Initially, to ensure 'business as usual', some companies moved their support centres to regions less affected by the pandemic - such as India and Philippines - before moving to a WFH model.
How are businesses rebuilding their customer experience?
Investing in their support network
With call centres under pressure to respond to rising demand, businesses have been busy onboarding new customer agents in a diverse range of languages across their markets. This allows businesses to distribute volume across different languages, resolving issues faster and freeing up their English queue.
Contingency readiness planning
Contingency plans are a useful tool for businesses to make financial, technical, logistical and human resource decisions in advance of circumstances that could potentially have damaging results. While many countries have now entered the recovery phase, the future is by no means certain — and businesses are, understandably, planning for a range of less than positive eventualities.
Protecting customer relationships
With customer loyalty taking a higher priority, many businesses are adapting their customer service teams to a 'work from home' model — allowing them to deliver a seamless service while adhering to social distancing laws.
Steps you can take to help your business reimagine
Develop new operational models
The businesses that win will be those that have successfully embedded agility into their DNA and culture; have contingency plans in place; and embrace disruption as an opportunity to rethink their model.
Seek operational flexibility
With today's technology, customer care centres can remain operational in all but the most extreme circumstances. They should be designed in such a way that, if needed, they can be immediately lifted and shifted — whether to pop-up facilities or even individual homes. Call centres should also be adapted to overcome a decrease in headcount.
To cope with the instability of workers on sick leave or ones that are unable to work from home, businesses have been investing in technologies such as AI and chatbots - this allows for more flexibility and automation of the workforce.
Prepare for increased demand
While demand for customer service and support may have dropped in some industries (for example, airlines, accommodation, sports and retail), businesses should ensure they're ready for when customers return. Considering that most people have been largely isolating for several months, this surge in demand could well be rapid.