Around the world, businesses have undergone rapid digital transformation in response to the pandemic.
Entire workforces are now operating remotely and we’re seeing new offerings, particularly in the retail and hospitality sectors, crop up all the time as many are having to adapt to survive.
Lockdown restrictions are a huge driver of these changes, but so too are consumers. Expectations around convenience have grown and customer experience strategies must evolve to reflect that.
Recently, I was lucky enough to join the FT Live Digital Dialogue on Enhancing Digital Customer Experience, as a guest speaker to discuss these changes and talk about how to match innovative technologies and processes with what customers need in a less certain, more digital world. Let me take you through some of the key takeaways from the event.
At the start of the year, on the day we went into lockdown, Vodafone Business sent out a survey asking our customers how they were, so that we could start to understand what challenges they were facing.
The response was huge and opened up conversations about how we could better help our customers.
This isn’t about personalisation or marketing. It’s about humanisation.
Suddenly we were, and are, all in the same boat and can empathise and connect with one another, in a way we couldn’t before. Our personal and business lives are merging, as many balance working from home with other priorities, and this should be reflected in how we speak to customers.
People want to feel supported right now and trust that the organisations they are dealing with have their best interests at heart. Starting conversations with empathy and sensitivity will go a long way in helping build that faith and will create stronger relationships that go far beyond the current crisis.
This needs to stretch inwards to your own people too.
At Vodafone, we’re regularly surveying our teams to continue monitoring their wellbeing and to see where they need additional support.
Simple things like blocking out time in everybody’s dairies each week, to be used as thinking time, allowed our employees some much needed breathing space as we adapted to this new normal.
And it seems we weren’t alone. Richard McCrossan, Strategic Business Director at Genesys, confirmed it had similarly implemented no meeting days and gave everyone a day off in October for Mental Health Month.
A workforce who believes in and respects the organisation it works for can be a powerful tool and your team is arguably your biggest advocacy programme.
We, of course, can’t ignore technology when we talk about supporting our employees. Collaborative tools and video calls have made business continuity possible during recent months.
For customer services, management portals, apps and chat bots have helped deliver a better customer experience. Enabling everyone to self-serve is what customers tell us they want, but the pandemic has highlighted how important it is for the digital interaction not to replace the human interaction. Both are equally important and the right balance needs to be found.
Digital tools can only get you so far.
For example, virtual interactions struggle to deliver the right emotions and feelings, so there is a big opportunity here to learn and understand how better to use technology and the emphasis needs to be on training your team to get the best out of it.
When it comes to customer experience, it’s important to start with the business or customer need and the outcome they want to achieve. Then you can start to think about which set of tools or architecture can help you deliver that.
Which leads us onto the topic of data.
As more businesses move online, the size and scale of data lakes will grow exponentially. The biggest challenge now is how to use this information to improve decision making and to change the way we interact with our customers.
Our Future Ready Report found that while 78% of businesses agree that data is becoming an increasingly important strategic asset, 73% said effectively harnessing the data they collect is a major challenge. 22% even admitted they feel less than reasonably well equipped to securely store and process their data.
Data scientists are few and far between, and expensive. Upskilling people to be able to make sense of the information and data mining capabilities are key focusses for businesses now.
Richard McCrossan from Genesys used a great analogy. Think of your car satellite navigation system. It constantly tracks and adapts your journey, in real-time, based on the information it is fed, to get you where you want to go. It knows the final destination and will get you there regardless of any wrong turns or road bumps along the way.
This is what data can do for your business, and more importantly for your customers.
It’s the customer leaders who can apply this insight and innovation with empathy that will win big in the world of tomorrow, building strong relationships that will endure well beyond the crisis.
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