It’s hard in the face of the economic and physical pain gripping so many, for the rest of us to think clearheadedly about the growth opportunities offered by this moment in history. Certainly, as a nation (a few grandstanding politicians to the contrary), it’s Job Number One to get the epidemic under control while simultaneously helping those who have been affected economically by this unique and unrelenting disaster.
But for some of us running businesses–those who have even a bit of spare bandwidth–this unrelenting crisis is also available, by turning our lenses slightly askew and glimpsing the possibility) as a once-in-a-generation opportunity for customer experience (CX) and customer service innovation.
Some companies (including, in some cases, customer experience consulting clients of mine and of my firm), have been making changes that include technical upgrades (hotels that are now delving into touchless systems like Ivy from Go Moment; B2B and B2C companies at long last introducing MyAccount functionality for their customers) as well as sweeping procedural changes (including some truly massive contact centers that are now finally embracing, rather than grudgingly going along with, WFH).
Often the COVID-sparked changes are ones that looked attractive even in the “before times” but were never implemented because the countervailing forces pre-COVID were such that the hassle factor held back the change. Now, with the old ways not even available, those countervailing forces have surrendered and the field is wide open.
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SugarCRM, the company perhaps best known for its “time aware” CRM approach, has proceeded apace with acquisitions and AI innovations “that now seem even more essential than they would have prior to COVID, considering the new demands of WFH and a virtually-delivered customer experience,” Sugar’s CEO, Craig Charlton, told me recently. “And, as far as our customers, we’re finding many of them using this enforced opportunity to ‘sharpen the saw’ when it comes to their own offerings and invest in technology that will give them a high-definition and clear view of their own customers.”
Likewise, “what we are seeing,” says Daryl Gonos, CEO from CommunityWFM, a long-time (and growing) provider of contact center (“call center”) workforce management solutions “is companies that were only considering going to the cloud have accelerated their timelines [to transition to a cloud-based platform] as a result of COVID-19.” Furthermore, now that they have made that commitment, many of these operations have proceeded to go all-in with companies like CommunityWFM to take full advantage of being in the cloud; they can now achieve schedule optimization, automated shift bidding, and internal communication tools optimized “in a way that keeps everyone involved in the process regardless of location–particularly essential of course, with agents working from home in record numbers.”
One of these changes I find particularly apt is the transformation some healthcare institutions are bringing to their existing hospital waiting room setups. Consider the example of Memorial Health System, one of the largest healthcare organizations in Illinois. MHS has just gone operational with LifeLink “virtual waiting room” technology that allows patients to wait in their cars or otherwise off-campus until the very moment of their appointment, all the while being kept up-to-date and in-the-know via conversational AI. Wow! It’s too bad that it took COVID to make changes like this happen, but it’s impressive nonetheless.
And then there are the opportunities to improve your customer service training and customer experience (CX) training approach and implementation. With in-person training now impossible, there are ways to react that range from the mildly innovative to the “Wow! This is our chance to finally do this right.”
So, how are you going about your customer service training now? If it’s based on mimeographed (okay, photocopied) sheets held together with sticky tape and glue, led by someone who learned something from someone now long departed from the company, maybe this is the time for a soup to nuts revamp.
From my vantage point as a customer service trainer/customer experience training designer and customer service turnaround expert, I always strive to create virtual training programs that are just as (or nearly as) personable my pre-COVID in-person approach.
And the advantages of virtual training are multiple. Most stunningly that it can be offered asynchronously, without the need to shut down the operations of your workforce to all attend at once.
Take this moment. Your business, now as well as after the dust (and germs) settle, will thank you.