Man shopping online enters credit card information as there is an overlay of a virus to the right.

When the pandemic began, people huddled in their homes eagerly awaiting the return of normalcy. At first, it seemed it might only be a month or so before routines could resume. A month eventually became mid-summer, and then mid-summer became September. We now know that COVID-19 reshaped the world in profound ways, a shift that is not only influencing how people feel, think, behave, and interact today, but will likely linger for the foreseeable future.

It’s only natural that something felt so deeply across the globe is redefining the customer experience too. Initially, in less than desirable ways, such as hold times that stretched several hours or more, online queues were stacked into the hundreds, and contact centers were wholly taken offline. However, as companies prepare for the road ahead, they’re making decisions with intent and adapting to this COVID-transformed world.

Authentic Concern is the Cornerstone

We’re already seeing a shift in the gestures that companies use to show customers they care. There’s the beverage company, which used its $500,000 sports marketing budget to bolster the Red Cross, the national storage chain that’s giving displaced students 30 days of free rent, countless credit card companies pausing payments and interest, as well as dozens of auto insurers mailing out refunds and scaling back premium payments.

These large gestures aren’t the only ones people notice, though. Mainly as emotions run high, customers are hypervigilant about how they’re treated as individuals. Companies that respond with genuine concern create a strong immediate reaction and cultivate lasting bonds with those they serve.

Sales Pushes Are Falling by the Wayside in Favor of Delivering Value

Since the pandemic began, nearly one-third of consumers have reviewed their monthly bills and expenses with the intent to reduce them, according to Vector research, and McKinsey data shows spending is down 20 to 40 percent in most discretionary categories compared to pre-COVID rates. This in mind, leading companies are using every opportunity possible to create a positive experience and demonstrate the value they bring to the table. It’s a sound strategy, considering 82 percent of customers will decide to stay with a company after a value-enhancing service interaction, per a recent Gartner survey.

Yet, Gartner analysts note just 15 percent of customer interactions include value enhancements. The number could easily reach 35 to 50 percent if representatives ensure one of five things occurs on a call:

  1. The customer’s purchase decision is validated.
  2. The customer’s needs are anticipated.
  3. The customer receives help in achieving a goal.
  4. The representative educates the customer on better or best uses of a product.
  5. The representative advises the customer on newly introduced or untapped product features.

Customers Are Shifting to Digital Channels

We recently talked about the best customer service channels and the shift to digital. At the time, there was a clear trend with younger audiences beginning to gravitate toward digital service channels, while older audiences seemed almost resistant or reluctant to shift. Before COVID-19, pwc research echoed these sentiments and indicated that nearly 60 percent of consumers felt companies had lost touch with the human element. In all, 75 percent of global consumers said they’d want to interact more with a real person as technology improves. The number skyrocketed to 82 percent in the U.S.

Today, however, customers have had little choice but to conform and adopt the technology. Research from Interactions shows 21 percent of consumers are now more comfortable having a conversation with an AI-powered system, and 45 percent say they prefer AI over a human representative when it’s faster. Of course, that means the majority (55 percent) still want a reassuring human voice on the other end of the line.

“Meet your customers where they are today,” McKinsey cautions businesses. “Digital-led experiences will continue to grow in popularity once the coronavirus is quelled, and companies that act quickly and innovate in their delivery model to help consumers navigate the pandemic safely and effectively will establish a strong advantage.” While this certainly applies to service options, analysts note that companies moving services once provided only in-person to digital platforms are actively seeing dramatic growth.

Cost-Cutting Measures Are Paramount for Businesses and Consumers Alike

More than 77 percent of Americans are trying new brands, places to shop, or shopping methods since COVID-19 hit, a decision largely driven by value and convenience, according to McKinsey analysts. They want better deals, and as noted earlier, are slashing their spending whenever possible. This makes it all the more imperative for companies to find ways to decrease costs customers’ costs, a serious challenge for businesses cash-strapped by reduced revenue.

While some have changed their offerings and rolled out value-based products, others have turned their focus inward. As a result, business process outsourcing (BPO) companies, particularly those with the technology, processes, and people in place to take over outsourced contact center operations for them, have seen dramatic growth.

Businesses Are Building Agile Teams to Adapt

Going lean doesn’t just empower companies to save money and provide improved service, though. Organizations tapping into BPO have found they’re better able to focus on core operations, so they can tune into changing customer needs and pivot business strategy as the situation develops.

Explore How BPO Can Help Your Company

Whether your organization needs to “meet your customers where they are today,” create more value-enhancing service interactions, become more agile, improve focus, or reduce costs, BPO is the vehicle that will see you through COVID-19 and beyond. With more than 30 years in the industry and services ranging from outsourced contact centers through digital mailroom transformations and business reengineering, DATAMARK can help your company too. Contact us to discuss which BPO solutions are right for your company.

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