We need to socialise. It is just in our nature to communicate and work with each other. This critical need for interaction is the reason why many people struggled with the COVID-19 lockdowns. As Nicholas Christakis at Yale put it “The world called on us to suppress our profoundly human and evolutionarily hard-wired impulses for connection: seeing our friends and getting together in groups.” This is the reason why communication platforms such as Zoom saw a dramatic rise while everyone was stuck at home.
This yearning for interaction is driving an important shift for customer service teams. The customer experience must run on empathy and connection in order to cater to the new expectations set by consumers. Additionally, these changes need to be implemented whilst a large part of the workforce are still working remotely.
Even before the pandemic, the customer experience was seeing a shift in consumer expectations. Good customer service involved a personalised experience. However, personalisation alone is not enough; Microsoft found that many of their customers expected customer service agents to be knowledgeable and friendly as well.
This need for personalised, human engagement has increased as we ease out of lockdown. For most businesses, this means that focus needs to be placed on balancing empathy and efficiency. With organisations looking to maximise efficiency while streamlining operations, a sensitive, empathetic experience is not as counterintuitive as you may think.
In order to deliver a customer experience befitting of these unsettling times, agents will need to be driven by empathy and possess the means and will to resolve customer problems proactively. Technology plays a crucial role in enabling teams to better meet the social needs of customers. By taking away administrative tasks and equipping customer service teams with data-driven insight, it will be easier for agents to have positive, empathetic conversations whilst speedily resolving issues.
People are not as adverse to chatbots and automation as one might think. Yes, customers crave human interaction, but there are areas where automation can streamline processes and make the overall experience better. Enterprises need to identify these areas and implement automated processes accordingly.
Customer service staff have also been affected greatly by the COVID-19 pandemic. Many are working remotely and need support and upskilling to help them reshape customer experience for the current climate. Companies must do their best to accommodate their customer service teams in order to ensure peak efficiency and a better experience.
With the chaos that COVID-19 has caused around the world, it is understandable that companies might think that revamping the customer service seems like a daunting task. However, taking a digital-first approach that supports staff and customers alike makes it possible to drive change fast, effectively and affordably.
We cannot know for sure what will happen next, as we head towards 2021. But if we make the right decisions now, businesses will be able to delight and surprise customers when things do get back to normal.