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What the pandemic has taught us about customer experience

21 May 2021

The pandemic put customers centre stage. Shops, bank branches and tour operators emptied overnight, sending customers online. Delivery and click and collect boomed as businesses changed how they worked. Servicing customers in new ways that met their needs became critical to business survival.

Fast forward to 2021 and businesses are still cramming in a decade-worth of business change and learning important lessons about customer experience management along the way.

AI in customer experience

The pandemic has accelerated the use of customer-facing AI. Large contact centres and support teams dispersed, using digital tools to keep on serving customers from home.

This contributed to an increase in the use of chatbots, leading to a 426 per cent increase in chatbot-driven customer service sessions in April 2020 compared to the preceding February.

Many businesses can now use intelligent chatbot technology to relieve human agents of routine tasks, leaving them free to add value to the customer experience by handling more sophisticated issues.

Consumers want self-service options

Many people are now doing more online than simply buying groceries, books or clothes. For example, many school children took virtual lessons for the first time in 2020. It’s now easier to apply for and be granted a mortgage digitally, as providers have enhanced the digital online application experience – and may be the only way when physical branches are closed.

When digitising the customer experience, there’s a lot to get right. Customers must have secure, easy access to their account. All the information they need must appear seamlessly. The online or app experience must be accompanied by efficient delivery and returns.

Businesses that get this right and make the customer experience easy and appealing can start to get customers to carry out more self-service options, such as checking into flights or liaising with logistics providers on deliveries.

Looking ahead to 2030, Gartner predicts that consumers will start using their own bots to handle self-service.

Human contact is as important as ever

Alongside the increase in low touch, digital customer journeys – businesses have also become more human in recent times.

During the crisis, high performing businesses have acknowledged the challenges facing customers and employees.

Now that digital technologies are taking on the grunt work of customer admin, employees are free to jump on a video call or spend more time on the phone, adding value and the human touch to the customer experience.

Happy employees = happy customers

When employee ratings of their workplace are mapped against customer ratings of their experience, there’s a direct correlation. Happy employees mean happy customers. That became clearer in 2020, causing many businesses to focus on employee experience alongside the customer one.

Employees who support each other at work help create a shared sense of purpose. That’s really important – it gives people a reason to get up in the morning. One of the perks of office life was the social interaction. Recreating that for teams working from their bedroom and kitchen tables was a challenge thrust upon businesses last year. As a result, digital technologies that bring people together, even when apart, boomed.

High-performing businesses are more likely to provide clear channels of communication between employees, sharing ideas about how best to respond to changing customer experience priorities. While 78 percent of frontline employees say their leaders prioritise customer experience, nearly 60 percent say they believe that their ideas for improving that experience often go unheard.

The response to the pandemic has fast-tracked the learning process, putting businesses in a good position to maximise the benefits of employee and customer experience investment.

Find out more about optimising your customer experience.

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