The world has been fighting COVID-19 for the better part of the year. We all witnessed dramatic changes in our lifestyles, some of which we never anticipated. One could not have imagined a near-global-scale lockdown with local mom-and-pop stores, malls, supermarkets, factories, and industries all shutdown. Individuals and businesses have come to a complete halt. However, as human societies always have (and hopefully always will), we adapted!
For businesses, the year 2020 may be remembered as the year of uncertainty and confusion. However, with diligent planning and technical adaptation, one could not only safeguard their business but also help it grow through these belligerent times.
Keeping the same spirit in mind, we bring specially curated advice from top marketers and customer service experts, exclusively for Servetel clients and readers.
Shep Hyken, customer service and experience expert, Chief Amazement Officer at Shepard Presentations, and a New York Times and Wall Street Journal best-selling author, suggests,
“Customers will expect the companies they do business with to be more flexible. COVID-19 has taught businesses that they must pivot as needed—and do so quickly. Alternative ways to buy, product delivery, and customer service management are just a few areas that will have to quickly adapt as the business landscape changes.”
In addition, Frank Eliason, a corporate executive and author—known as the most famous customer service manager by BusinessWeek, consultant at Frank Eliason, LLC—said,
“Many businesses will survive by focusing on the needs and understanding their customer. In many cases, they will pivot. As an example, a microbrewery near my home started home delivery of their beer and their pizza is frozen so you can cook at home. It is fantastic.”
Ready adaptability and flexibility are the new pillars of business management. It is vital for organisations to be able to re-invent itself, while also being ready to engage customers through innovative mediums. Without frequent communication and lack of stability within an enterprise, businesses would rapidly lose their customers and getting them back even after the crisis shall be a difficult task.
We all witnessed micro-changes in shops around us, especially grocery stores, which gradually incorporated home delivery. Similarly, professionals in other fields need to delve and think of solutions to counter the crisis. For example, door-to-door sales have been drastically impacted and call for new customer service tools, be it in B2B or B2C sectors. Virtual communication and cloud telephony tools provide innovative solutions for the same. Reaching out to customers (existing and new) through voice broadcasting, SMS marketing, outbound IVR, etc., needs to become the reality going forward.
The second aspect highlighted by Shep Hyken was regarding safety and health concerns.
Scientists are still researching this rapidly evolving virus. Updates and associated changes about its behaviour are pouring in weekly (if not daily) through several independent research bodies and international agencies, including the World Health Organization (WHO). Hyken continued,
“Customers will expect the companies and brands they do business with to keep them safe from health risks. This (COVID) is a new one that won’t go away any time soon. There is a big part of the customer population that will remain fearful for a long time to come. Companies must use best practices in safety and health to give these customers what they want. The confidence that comes from health and safety measures will be an important part of the customer experience.”
First and foremost, business owners and administrators must ensure a safe workplace along with safety directives for all its staff members, especially the ones on the field. Without building confidence within the company, one cannot expect to project it outwards onto the customers. Offices need to transform into the remote working model (if they have already not) and transition into virtual call centres to safeguard their employees from any harm while empowering them with unbound benefits over traditional setups.
Contactless delivery, sanitised rides, and certified safety have become not just buzzwords but also marketing tools to attract and ease customer sentiments. Customers of the day demand a guarantee from businesses regarding sanitation, social distancing, and other norms while engaging to purchase any product or service.
As we head towards the subsequent unlock phases in India, one can expect to see several changes. Spas, salons, restaurants and other service-intensive businesses may opt for an appointment-based structure. Customers shall be required to fix a time, on mutual convenience, to ensure seamless operations. It is equally important for businesses to prepare for such a scenario and equip themselves with relevant technology to facilitate the same. Interactive Voice Response (IVR) integrated with CRM, chat bots, automated SMSes, etc., are some of the powerful tools that can enable businesses to automate customer contact points while cutting down on expenditure and optimising human resources.
To conclude, Shep Hyken points out,
“Automation and digital technology will be more important to customers. The last three months have accelerated the use of technology by at least three to five years. The same way customers adapted to using video programs (like Zoom) to communicate with work colleagues, family members and friends, they will adapt to digital business experience. Customers are going to want more contactless transactions (like Apple Pay, for example). They will desire a frictionless experience—which is often driven by technology. Companies must embrace technology and at the same time, find the balance between digital and human-to-human experiences that makes sense for them and their customers.”
The time has come to embrace digitisation more rapidly than ever before. Most human interactions will take place virtually. Businesses need to employ the latest and innovative customer engagement services for any communication.
Cloud computing and telephony show the way ahead. Advertising, lead generation, sales, marketing, procurement, planning and other operations need to adopt the aforementioned technologies. Virtual meetings and collaboration have become the norm for most; however, it is time to engage customers through similar mediums.
IVR or interactive voice and video response system, on-demand video assistance, remote guidance, etc., are some of the ways to conveniently interact with customers. While the average time spent by individuals online has dramatically increased in the past few months, marketing efforts now need to be more digitally intensive with a focus on an omnichannel experience. Simultaneously, in a developing country like India, in order to ensure last-mile engagement with customers in rural areas with limited Internet connectivity, tools like voice broadcasting, toll-free numbers, and missed call marketing are important.
The times ahead are tough and to some extent uncertain. However, with careful preparation and swift adaption businesses can sail through these turbulent waters. As Frank Eliason mentions
“We also have to recognise the divided world and the current breakdown of many societal norms. I expect many companies will handle any economic fallout the same way they always have (cut employees). It will be a dark time, but as we have seen throughout history, we will come back from all this with a renaissance. We will see artistic and human abilities come to the forefront. The world will be very different but I expect it will become a much better place.”
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