Brands are caught in a maelstrom of change, the impact of which will be felt for years to come.
The pace of digital transformation has accelerated dramatically, and it has brought increased consumer demand for self-service and social media-based interactions, on top of human assistance as required. This is compounded by an ever-rising expectation for informed, relevant and authentic experiences between business and customer.
This is placing significant pressure on brands to transform how they connect with customers. Compounding this are shifting workforce dynamics. We are all still reeling from the fastest, and biggest, move in how we work in history, and that’s before we consider how massive generational shifts, already well underway pre-2020, are having an impact on how employees approach, engage in and consider work.
Add to the mix the constant rise in new channels, and with teams working anywhere there is a growing risk of existing silos becoming much more entrenched and fatally undermining the flow of information. The possibility of a consumer having to repeat themselves to a variety of colleagues over the course of a single interaction is only going to increase, along with the potential degradation in experience and engagement.
Mind the Gap
It all points to brands having to work much harder to ensure that customers receive a consistent real-time experience across the entire organisation. Unsurprisingly, many businesses are struggling to deliver all this with their current resources – according to a new report Verint has published, 82 percent of brands believe the challenges of managing customer engagement and experience will grow in 2021. At the same time, 74 percent were unable to make planned hires in 2020 due to COVID and related economic challenges.
This is creating the Engagement Capacity Gap – the chasm between what organisations know they need to do in order to manage customer engagement, and the resources they have to do it. For a select few organisations, it’s non-existent; for most, it is only getting wider.
It’s an issue that will have a negative effect on the bottom line, at a point in time when recovery is harder than ever before. But despite this, the flip side is the opportunity; that those brands that can deliver high-quality customer engagement will have a huge competitive advantage in the post-pandemic marketplace. Business leaders know this; the same study found that three of the top five senior executive priorities were directly related to customer engagement – 53 percent highlighted customer acquisition, 51 percent were focusing on upskilling customer support professionals, and 49 percent were evolving customer experience and engagement strategies to address new challenges.
Building a bridge with limited resources
But knowing what you need to do and delivering it are two different things. How do businesses meet these objectives, and ultimately close the Engagement Capacity Gap, with limited resources?
Clearly, hiring more workers is neither a quick nor sustainable solution. This means looking at current processes and roles, and working out what can be automated, and where digital tools can be deployed to free up human agents.
This might be artificial intelligence, in the form of bots and back-end analytics, to capture intelligence and forearm employees with everything they need, faster than if they did it themselves – certainly, more than three quarters of brands have a moderate-to-high investment in AI currently, with 62 percent seeing it play a moderate-to-high role in managing shifts in channel usage and interaction volumes.
But it goes further than this – from workforce management to compliance, security, and fraud solutions, voice of customer and customer experience management platforms to knowledge management tools. All solutions that can automate as much as possible, and free up workforces to only work on tasks and demands that need human assistance, insight and creativity.
Underpinning new capabilities with cutting edge technology
Bridging the Engagement Capacity Gap requires a new set of capabilities that means businesses not just survive, but thrive in the current environment, underpinned by investment in the right tools. This means empowering the workforce to deliver the right engagement and response to customers, and in doing so creating an organisation that can adapt and act quickly.
It means being able to strike a balance between automation and human touch, supporting employees without overloading them. It means breaking down silos with intuitive collaboration to improve the flow of data, intelligence and analysis across functions. It means having the ability to listen, understand and act on the billions of interactions, both digital and in-person, that make up the modern customer experience.
With these capabilities, brands can drive a better level of customer experience, thanks to improved engagement, without overburdening existing teams. In doing so, they can tie it all to tangible business outcomes and, ultimately, improved company performance.