How Companies Can Rethink the Customer Experience Amid Current Conditions

April 9, 2020 | 3 minute read
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Five years ago, a peer of mine opened a yoga studio with her husband. Within a year, their business grew to a point where her partner was able to leave his investment banking job and focus fully on their joint venture. That success was interrupted this year by COVID-19, which forced the studio to close its physical doors.

But they didn’t shut down operations. They pivoted to an online, stay-at-home service model with subscriptions for live and on-demand classes. This change has sustained the business and allowed the couple to reach clients in multiple continents. After hearing their story, I wondered: “How will the coronavirus change the way other industries do business?”

During March, brick and mortar retailers began closing stores across North America. As a result of social distancing, grocery delivery services saw incredible demand that pushed their workforces to capacity. The job market has responded with hiring increases across not just the grocery business, but also healthcare, package delivery, telecom, and other industries.

The key takeaway? Businesses now have the chance to reduce their losses and better serve their customers through new channels. Specifically, they can do this by providing digital, self-service customer experiences.

Several months ago, I met the VP of sales from a North American construction materials manufacturer who provided insight on representatives’ time spent on small, transactional reorders. These interactions drove up selling costs and reduced reps’ time on strategic deals. Even before no-contact orders became a health imperative, he understood the value that focus could bring his organization. Consultancy McKinsey cites e-commerce as one of several ways companies can reimagine the way they endure difficult times and simultaneously support their customers.

Buying stuff isn’t the only thing affected by this global health crisis. Amid stay-at-home mandates, companies have to worry about insufficient headcount to carry on basic operations.  A peer recently told me about a service call he had with a major airline where he waited 2 hours to speak with a representative before the last leg of his transatlantic flight. Sounds exhausting, but at least he made it home safely.

There are firms that are helping their customers and service teams combat this fatigue. For example, Exelon deployed a 24/7 chatbot in less than two weeks, improving its ability to quickly respond to customer requests such as billing and service outages. This could apply to numerous other industries.

Exelon Readies AI Driven Chatbots for Millions of Customers

Firms aren’t limiting their efforts to point solutions like chatbots. Many are undergoing big transformations to bring digital, self-service experiences to their clients, customers, and constituents. Two years ago, a large South American healthcare insurance company recognized a problem with meeting time-to-market goals. Customers had difficulty with the buying experience and service levels were below acceptable standards. To solve the problem, the insurer sold directly through e-commerce and utilized omnichannel services. The results were 2 million new online plan configurations per month. The company also dramatically increased its call center deflection rates.

Every industry will face different challenges as we move through this time of uncertain buying and service behaviors. This uncertainty will create challenges, but also allow space for opportunities to re-evaluate the models organizations use to create great experiences for their customers. Based on what I’ve seen in the marketplace, these next-generation experiences will start with digital self-service throughout the customer lifecycle.

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John Culver

John Culver is a solutions consultant at Oracle with a focus on customer experience transformation. As a former orchestral musician, John has brought unique perspectives on communicating insights and solving problems throughout his near 5 years in the technology industry. His passion for enhancing the customer journey stems from his work in Apple’s retail division, a fundamental part of whose culture and success is customer experience. John is an avid LinkedIn blogger on topics that cover industry trends and professional development.

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