Customer Experience in the Post-Pandemic World
By Donna Fluss
What a strange year it’s been. It started off well, with companies planning to invest more in customer experience (CX) initiatives than in any prior period. Then the pandemic hit, and all but essential investments were stopped as companies did what it took to keep their doors open and, if they were lucky, remain profitable. The world has changed, and so must businesses that want to thrive in the future. A majority of the changes are positive and would have happened anyway, although they were accelerated by the pandemic. It’s time to move ahead and not wait for things to go back to “normal,” because the meaning of normal has changed, and consumers’ expectations have been permanently altered.
PREPARING FOR A POST-PANDEMIC ECONOMY
There is no recent precedent for coming out of a pandemic of this magnitude and severity, but businesses have a great deal of experience in recovering from recessions. The companies that have the best chance of surviving and thriving post-pandemic are those that have already started to alter many aspects of their business, in the following ways:
- Identifying products and services, including new ones, that they plan to sell when the market is receptive; in some cases, companies may have already started to quietly introduce their new offerings.
- Gearing up their revenue engines so that they are ready when the market is more receptive.
- Finding ways to reduce operating costs via restructuring, use of automation, and more.
- Transitioning to a more flexible workforce, as not all employees are going to return to the office once the pandemic is past.
- Figuring out how to improve the CX, as this has increased in importance during the tough times.
SHIFTING BUSINESS MODELS LEAD THE WAY
The pandemic has had a devastating effect on many retail-oriented businesses, such as air travel, restaurants, hotels, and theme parks. Any company that could shift its business model to a virtual one has done so, mostly with positive results. The need for large retail or office space has been reduced. As more activities move to the web, fewer people need to travel for business. Zoom and other videoconference technology providers have filled the gap for business meetings, education, classroom learning, exercise, entertainment, and many other activities. Online visits have become the standard for medicine, dental care, therapy, and other healthcare needs. The transition to the web and mobility have driven many companies to simplify their sales methods and approaches to make it easier for prospects to make acquisitions.
The need to be more socially responsible started to pick up momentum at the same time as the country was trying to get accustomed to a socially distanced world. High unemployment rates awakened the United States to the need for social change. The pandemic and social unrest are two drivers of change that can no longer be ignored.
THE FUTURE OF CX
Companies need to respond to new social dynamics, and this includes the need to deliver the service experience demanded by their customers. Self-service has become the channel of choice, although users of these solutions expect them to be much more effective than the interactive voice response systems of the past. When self-service can’t do the job, consumers are turning to digital channels. Virtualization is here to stay as a primary method for delivering service, which is forcing companies to revisit their presence on the web. This is reducing the need for storefronts and physical office space. And when it comes to traditional customer service and support, companies are finally going to do right by their customers and employees and begin the process of combining front- and back-office functions.
All of these changes are going to drive a wave of new investments. As companies look for new systems to help them deliver on their goals, they are going to take into consideration the social and health requirements of their customers and employees. DMG expects to see major spending in the following service-oriented system categories during the next few years, as companies strive to remake themselves in the post pandemic world: contact center as a service (CCaaS), self-service applications, interaction analytics, workforce management, robotic process automation, knowledge management, and customer journey analytics. And all of these solutions will be enabled in various ways by artificial intelligence. The pandemic may have changed many things, but that’s one trend whose trajectory will remain unchanged.