2020 witnessed multiple governments across the world imposing lockdowns to control the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic. Throughout this period, government policies and regulations kept changing and organisations had to adopt a dynamic approach to function efficiently.
Consumer behaviour, needs and expectations also evolved drastically during this period. Organisations have realised that customer experiences (CX) cannot remain the same. Therefore, organisations have been confronted with the need to significantly alter their CX services in India and abroad.
Let us explore CXM (Customer Experience Management) industry techniques prior to the lockdown and how they have been modified:
Multiple research reports have accentuated the importance of empathy in selling as well as building customer experiences. However, due to the pressure of BAU (business as usual), a brand’s focus while interacting with customers would be to maximise ROI across multiple touchpoints during the pre-lockdown era. During the lockdown, brands realised that it is important to be considerate rather than being perceived as trying to profit at the customer’s expense.
Hence, brands are leveraging emotional intelligence to devise customer experiences that highlight the humane aspects of a brand. They are building their businesses processes around customers. Brands are investing heavily in offering digital experiences. They are also establishing continuous and robust feedback loops.
Apart from implementing these practices, brands have started weaving empathy in their communication with customers. They are enquiring about the well-being of customers, finding their pressing needs and offering meaningful shopping and servicing experiences.
Across the most hard-hit geographies, companies were quick to build and deploy mobile apps, digital delivery and contactless payment options for continuity of services. For instance, Ping An Bank in China rolled out a new “Do It At Home” functionality that saw 8 million page views and 12 million transactions within fifteen days. Similarly, retail outlets, restaurants and sundry providers were quick to roll out apps and QR codes for contactless scanning of menus and payments.
Although the advent of AI and automation has been occurring at an exponential pace, it was believed that the application of these technologies in customer experience related operations would occur at a steady pace. The involvement of humans has always been pivotal in ensuring holistic and gratifying customer experiences. Incidentally, as per a survey conducted by a leading research and consulting firm in 2018, it was predicted that approximately 25% of customer service-related operations would be augmented by artificial intelligence and chatbots.
However, the restrictions imposed due to lockdowns seem to have expedited the adoption of AI and Automation across customer experiences operations. A recently conducted survey reveals that 71% of decision makers across IT departments of different organisations fervently believe that AI and automation could improve customer service. Unsurprisingly, 64% of these respondents are already preparing to increase their spends in automation from henceforth.
Organisations offering CXM services in India have realised that chatbots have become an integral part of several customer service teams across enterprises. Hybrid models are emerging where simpler, minor and repetitive queries are handled by chatbots. Examples would include - resetting passwords or acquiring transaction statements or getting access to a particular month’s bill etc. Chatbots would also be able to weave personalisation into their interactions with customers. By humanizing your brand’s voice, they can practice consistency across conversations with customers. For instance, chatbots can quickly analyse buying preferences of a customer and make suitable recommendations while chatting with them.
Asian Paints, India’s largest paints corporation leverages AI and machine learning to offer dealers personalised product suggestions. When the company first set up a call centre, they were concerned the tele agents wouldn’t be able to match the familiarity and trust of a traditional customer relationship manager but customers interacting with the call centre soon started sharing high satisfaction rates.
Organisations have invested heavily in customer support and servicing teams. However, due to the lockdowns, customer service capacities were considerably impacted. Hence, firms stepped up by enhancing their knowledge bases and refining self-service through multiple touch-points.
A knowledge base is a comprehensive repository of relevant and actionable information for customers. During the new normal, customers are inclined towards seeking resolutions through self-service. For instance, a survey revealed that if knowledge sources were accessible through self-service, then 91% of respondents preferred to use them. 75% of respondents were satisfied with online support as long as it was reliable. Hence it is clear that if a knowledge centre provides information that is easily available and fairly reliable, then customers are happy to service themselves.
A case in point is Panamax, a leading telecom company that enabled 4x more website traffic, leading to 5x increase in new customer sign-ups and 7x more monthly revenue using their self-service customer portal.
Democratising access to best CXM talent thanks to remote opportunities
It would be an understatement to claim that the pandemic and the subsequent lockdowns ended up disrupting workforces across the globe.
Prior to the lockdown, customer service teams had to operate on-premise. Hence highly talented and skilled customer experience management professionals who may be unable to work from a location defined by the organisation were unlikely to be hired. This meant that organisations were compromising on their recruitment strategy.
Secondly, due to data-security compliances and the requirement of relevant infrastructure, it was mandatory for customer service professionals to work from their offices or customer service centres.
However, post lockdown organisations have invested heavily in redesigning their processes and infrastructure to enable remote working. This has also opened up the possibilities of hiring talent from any part of the globe.
Working remotely has also become acceptable to professionals almost overnight. Since the imposition of the lockdowns, professionals across the globe, including those in the customer management arena, are actively looking out for remote positions.
For instance, a UK based e-commerce retailer can hire an expert who can offer CXM services from India without having to relocate abroad.
Despite the gargantuan growth in spending across digital media marketing platforms throughout the last decade, certain brands were still not keen on creating or scaling their digital presence. Their loyal customers were forced to shop through offline outlets or explore online marketplaces. Small and medium enterprises also took their time for adopting digital platforms. For several firms, the inability to go digital was due to internal resistance. Therefore, apart from being a business problem, this was also a challenge caused by culture.
The occurrences of 2020 have been a rude awakening for such firms. Apart from the rise of new customers, there was a pronounced shift in online consumer habits. For instance, 55% of users accessing online education from Southeast Asia in 2020 were new consumers. 34% of respondents from the same region admitted that they were ordering food more than before the lockdown.
The adoption of digital platforms to browse, transact and offer feedback by consumers has exponentially increased.
Brands have realised that going digital is no longer just an option. According to a survey conducted by IBM, 59% of respondents admitted that digital transformation has accelerated in their organisations. Recently, Etsy partnered with creative visualization studio The Boundary to develop a virtual house they call The Etsy House that helps customers with a virtual walkthrough enabled by AR to explore curated items from their marketplace displayed in a 360-degree tour.
In fact, organisations have no choice but to adopt a digital-first approach.
Such an approach would include
● Building and refining customer journeys through online channels
● Enabling digital to promote offerings and interact with customers
● Simplifying buying experiences using applications
● Offering consistency in service levels across online and offline platforms
● Creating online content that enables customers to remain informed as well as transact
● Fostering a digital championing culture, especially in delivering customer experiences
As organisations and institutions are opening up, they are realising that the ‘new normal’ isn’t temporary. Reverting back to pre-lockdown practices isn’t an option anymore as customer expectations have been remoulded. With brands wanting to bring about a paradigm shift in delivering customer experiences, it is clear that firms offering CXM services in India will be in high demand for their offerings.