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In times of crisis and digital disruption, companies can strengthen their customer service by focusing on customer satisfaction, improving existing customer retention, optimizing processes and continuing to invest in technology!

Customer service in crises and digital disruption: How they emerge stronger from the recession.

The crisis is here. Experts and executives expect a very dramatic situation in the near future. Inflation, supply chain bottlenecks and labor shortages are meeting problems we already face today: Budget cuts, overworked employees, the expectation of steady growth despite diminishing resources. So at first it seems that managers and executives are being asked to do the impossible.

But every company that offers a service center now has a great opportunity: improving the customer experience – especially in times of crisis! Service centers must continue to ensure a high level of customer satisfaction – even when conditions are difficult – in order to avoid a decline in customer loyalty. Traditional service centers tend to operate very inefficiently, so management would do well to focus more of its attention on this area of the business. What is needed are intelligent automated models, viewed from the customer’s point of view, that meet the high expectations.

Those who swim against the tide win

We have learned from past economic crises that the companies that emerge stronger from a downturn are those that have acted countercyclically. The 4 biggest mistakes companies can make now are these:

Cost cuts at any price

Those who cut current costs at any price, with only short-term goals in mind, will fail in the long run. Cost savings that are too short-sighted demotivate employees, slow down innovation and reduce customer satisfaction.

Focus on new customer acquisition

In times of declining sales, there is only one group that ensures the economic survival of a company: existing customers. Various studies have shown that existing customers are 60% – 70% likely to buy more products. Also interesting: 80% of future sales are generated by 20% of current existing customers. And if you increase customer loyalty by even 5%, you can look forward to 25% profit growth.

Terminate staff instead of optimizing processes

High-performing departments always consist of high-performing employees. Building these success-relevant teams costs not only time, but also a lot of money. Companies that make the staffing cut during an economic crisis negate the previously needed effort while creating a future staffing problem.

Stopping technology investments

Extensive research by the Upjohn Institute of Employment Research has shown that since the 2008 crisis, investment in new technologies has increased significantly. Innovative business models and revenue-generating brand differentiation come about primarily because digital solutions enable data-driven process optimization – and thus bring a clear competitive advantage.

What can intelligent customer service look like that counters crises and digital disruption?

Traditional service center concepts have had their day. Companies that want to deliver on their brand promise and retain their customers even during a time of crisis need completely new strategies than before. The ever-evolving digital economy brings with it technologies that must be harnessed. Automation solutions e.g. clearly create a win-win situation – you just have to implement them specifically in the existing processes that are used and accepted by the end customer. But before new systems can be implemented in customer service, those responsible must always first change their perspective:

What are the customers’ expectations?

Countless studies and surveys have proven this: Customers expect 24/7 service every day of the year. At the same time, they use different end devices and channels, which also tend to change during the course of the day. It is also important to know that studies already showed in 2017 that for 76% of customers, one (!) negative experience with the service center is enough to make them think about switching providers.

Companies therefore have a duty to set up a self-service portal that, supported by virtual assistants, offers valuable content at any time of the day or night, thus optimizing the customer experience. Based on qualification, capacity and availability, the appropriate call agent must then – or for accompaniment – enter into exchange with the customer as quickly and easily as possible. This can be realized, for example, through proactive intelligent callback pop-ups. 😉

Applied Intelligence and Integrated Data in Service

Sometimes it is not apparent at first glance that, in addition, the internal networking of all departments brings a significant advantage to the customer experience – but this is exactly the case. An internal system must ensure that the true problem behind a complaint can be filtered out, the necessary data must be quickly accessible to those responsible, and all tasks must be able to be tracked to the final conclusion of the customer’s concern.

We all know that data is the basis for being able to implement these and other improvements. But an accumulation of facts and figures is far from sufficient – they must also be stored in such a way that they can be processed intelligently. And that requires next-level cloud technologies that are ahead of human processing and decision-making capabilities and save employees and managers a lot of effort through Applied Intelligence & Integrated Data.

Applied Intelligence here is the extension of the human mind, information processing and decision-making capabilities. Applied Intelligence is defined by three core technologies: Advanced Analytics Solutions, Robotic Process Automation (RPA) and Artificial Intelligence (AI). Advanced analytics helps companies make better decisions by predicting what is most likely to happen. RPA automates recurring activities and processes, primarily rule-based. AI automates activities that require more complex assessments.

The reality is, unfortunately, that these changes are usually quite slow to get underway. The solution: Involve an external service provider who can take over selected process sections and is responsible for their implementation. Testing such collaboration does not require large resources in IT, because Minimum Viable Products (MVPs) can be rolled out to users quickly and easily.

Where do you see service in times of crisis and digital disruption? What can your company do to strengthen service?

I welcome any ideas and input, no matter how crazy – especially, of course, on the question of where the hurdles lie and what concerns or reservations there are when new technologies are to be implemented.
Customer service meets crisis (again): Which strategies have you had good experiences with?

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