How some customer support leaders are using the pressures of the Covid-19 era to establish a new gold standard for service.
Here’s a thought: If there was ever a “good” time to weather a global shutdown due to a deadly pandemic, it’s now. Not to underplay the havoc COVID-19 has wreaked on people’s lives and the economy, but imagine if this had happened thirty, twenty, or even ten years ago?
In 2010, the number of internet users was 2.03 billion worldwide. That number more than doubled to 4.13 billion in 2019—making the rapid, en masse shift to working from home much more feasible. And while we may be jockeying for broadband, at least we all aren’t suffering through the molasses-like speed and diabolical eardrum torture that was old-school dial up.
Our capacity to connect digitally has been critical to business continuity.
Our modern technological infrastructure has made the pandemic more bearable than it would have been in the past. Difficult, but manageable—and it may be the catalyst for innovation that makes companies more resilient than before.
Innovating on the fly
Customer service has had a unique vantage point into the good, bad, and ugly of the coronavirus crisis. Stationed on the frontlines of the customer conversation, they have become an increasingly critical conduit of information. They are also stretched thin—with customers of airlines like WestJet experiencing 10-hour wait times and banks flooded with callers.
While the pressure is significant, so too is the opportunity for innovation.
In a recent article on WorkFlow, ServiceNow’s research-based thought leadership publication, ServiceNow SVP of global technical support Dean Robison writes, “Everybody has had to learn, and innovate, on the fly. The COVID-19 pandemic has inspired companies to rethink not only how to support customers, but how to support the teams who support those customers. From this pandemic, new approaches are emerging that I expect will change customer service operations for years to come.”
Robison conducted roundtables with a number of customer service leaders in telco, banking, retail, and beyond—and found that necessity is indeed the mother of invention when it comes to responding to the customer service crunch.
One bank he talked to used robotics and AI capabilities to deploy a front-of-line chatbot. “The interaction feels like a Siri or an Alexa,” says a customer support leader at the bank. “It’s crisp, it’s simple, and it feeds straight into our automated system or a case management ticket for manual processing.
Nitin Badjatia, head of customer service management product strategy at ServiceNow, believes the pandemic will inspire companies to double down on the move to digital transformation. “The infrastructure to serve customers must be adaptable to rapid changes, able to ramp up quickly when the unexpected happens,” he says. “In times of systemic shock, resilient infrastructure enables your employees to focus on human factors, their own safety and the success of their customers, and not worry about how work will flow in a rapidly changing environment.”
The consensus is that, once this pandemic is behind us, customer service will be more seamless and responsive than ever before. Customer service leaders have the chance to remake how they operate, free of the baggage and legacy thinking that has kept the industry from embracing digital transformation.
Robison concurs that the opportunity is in front of us, should we be bold enough to break from the past. “When the Covid-19 pandemic passes, let’s all try to untangle ourselves from bureaucracy. The crisis has demonstrated that we can be nimble and make decisions quickly. Our hard-working teams deserve no less, as do the customers they support.”