2020 has been a memorable year for all the wrong reasons. The pandemic has touched all segments of the UK economy and businesses are still struggling to grapple with the consequences.

Whilst all have struggled, the customer service sector has been front and centre dealing with distress calls, complaints, organising refunds and trying to cope with increased demands for services in an ever-changing – and challenging – environment.

Brands now need to reimagine what serving the customer and providing a good customer experience looks like in the ‘new normal.’ As consumers interact with brands from the safety of their own homes, their needs and expectations have changed. It’s the beginning of a new kind of relationship and each customer needs to be convinced and won again. Consumers expect to be listened to and for action to be taken on their rapidly evolving needs, so engagement and dialogue are critical. Brands that succeed will be rewarded as consumers make decisions on who they will remain loyal to.

How the pandemic has shaped Customer Experience across industries

While the dawning of the pandemic initially meant that customers were more forgiving of customer service delivery challenges, over time, customers’ expectations for frictionless, highly personalised experiences have increased. In fact, as we now begin the countdown towards the holiday season, the level of expectation may even kick into a higher gear.

Those industries which were hit the hardest throughout the pandemic – travel and hospitality to name but a few – are now being forced to remodel their business operations, and ultimately reimagine how they engage with their customers and the experience that they provide. Brands seeking to get customers back under their roofs or keep their loyalty must reconnect with their most valued constituents to understand their changing needs and evolve flexibly. 

This is especially true in industries such as retail and automotive, which are headed into their prime selling seasons. In the run-up to the holiday season, it is critical that businesses in these sectors have their eyes open and their ears to the ground to effectively listen to their customers and adapt. This is important right now, when revenue preservation is top of mind for most businesses. And what this means for customer service teams is agent training, employee engagement and putting the customer at the centre of every call. 

To prepare, it’s key to understand and leverage the technologies which make tapping into customer insight easier.

Three technologies helping businesses bring their mid-pandemic A-game 

1. Speech analytics

A phone call is sometimes the last touchpoint before frustrations with an unsatisfactory service or product lead to brand abandonment. This makes the phone a valuable customer retention tool – especially when complemented by speech analytics technology. As humans naturally convey more emotion and information by speech than by text, calls are a gold mine for actionable insights. Modern speech analytics solutions leverage AI to pick out sentiments and predict impact from the tone the customer uses, talk time, silence time, overtalk and agent/client emotion. This not only helps agents respond better but enables the business to establish a consolidated, single view of the customer and their journey. Oftentimes, the artificial intelligence behind the insights can reveal customer pain points inhibiting revenue growth and can help in avoiding churn. 

2. Video feedback and analytics

While connecting with brands via video might not be an obvious, or first choice for many customers, the channel is now rapidly growing in popularity. It’s not hard to see why. For one, phone wait times and the time and effort required to type down a complicated pain point into an email or chat window are themselves enough reasons to turn people to alternative channels. On the other hand, most of us are now more comfortable with connecting via video than ever – and not just the younger, tech-savvy generation.

While a year ago most of us would have only considered video calling our friends and family, the idea of capturing a 30 second video about a website experience, call centre experience or delivery experience is the new norm. Customer feedback videos are now making their way to the boardroom where revenue-impacting decisions are being made.

Brands that implement video analysis technology are able to pick up on more customer feedback signals than via any other channel – in fact, six times more information than an equivalent open-end text response. AI-driven video analysis tools today can not only rapidly transcribe the text from multiple languages, but also interpret expressions and emotions. This enables organisations to understand their customers using the same key barometers of perception in the physical world of human interaction, including speech, facial emotion and physical actions. Technology can even enable object recognition within videos. By humanising the process of customer feedback, businesses are not only generating more customer data with better quality insight but also encouraging customers to engage more frequently, too.

3. Social listening

Then there are customers who simply want to voice their frustrations or offer their opinion without necessarily looking for a brand response, or those who feel more at ease talking to a brand under a social handle. Businesses should be ready to interact with these customers – and potential customers – on their own terms, especially now when the pandemic is putting brands under increased scrutiny online. Social listening tools can be used to help track social feedback, understand customer perceptions, recover at-risk customers, identify systemic issues to drive business improvements and even gauge how they compare to their rivals and competitors. The insights gleaned from social listening – when acted upon – can improve both the customer experience and the organisation’s online reputation.

Keep customers happy with truly omnichannel communications

It is more important than ever for companies to listen to customers – and technology makes this easier than ever. The onus is then on brands to take this information and be agile enough to adapt operations based on customers’ changing needs.

This pandemic is the biggest challenge to customer retention most businesses have ever faced – especially as new players continue to spring up to fill gaps in the market, which will similarly prioritise the Voice of the Customer to gain foothold in the long run. To succeed, businesses must reimagine what great CX looks like, using technology to listen to customers, keeping them always at the heart of their operations.

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