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The COVID-19 pandemic will change customer service in significant and lasting ways. More people will recognize the value of work at home agents, and collaboration tools will become essential to connecting your agents and turning them into an effective team. And contact centers that experienced a painful, corona-induced transition to a work from home (WFH) model will need to come up with a more viable disaster recovery strategy to better cope with the next crisis.

But one of the most profound impacts of the current pandemic will be the harsh economic fallout many companies are likely to face. The numbers are stark. Tens of millions of Americans have lost their jobs.

Research shows that the COVID-19 outbreak negatively affected 75% of small and medium companies in the US with almost two-thirds of those businesses expecting a 30% revenue drop over the next several months.

Businesses try to cut costs

Nobody is yet sure how our new ‘normal’ may look like. But it’s certain that we’ll not be enjoying the record-setting bull market as companies will look for ways to save every penny. Economic challenges will also lead some companies to look at tactical ways to cut costs without neither understanding the impact of such a move nor exploring other options that may put them in a better competitive position.

Businesses will be tempted to automate as much as possible and customer service might seem to them like a good place to start. After all, dealing with customers through self-service tools such as a bot or IVR is vastly cheaper than using a human agent. Gartner’s pool identified that phone, email, and other live channels cost an average of $8.01 per contact, while self-service channels cost only $0.10 per contact.

Many companies will find it hard to resist the lure of cost-cutting. They will introduce half-baked automation solutions and throw customer satisfaction out the windows to save a few dollars. But those willing to take a different path and look at a big picture ROI are bound to dominate the market in the future. A few, simple investments will provide them with a significant competitive advantage.

Don’t risk losing your customers

Over-automating to save a few bucks comes at the high cost as you risk losing customers. According to research, 97% of consumers in the US reported that bad customer service changes their buying habits. In other words, they’ll either buy less from you or turn to your competitors.

Fortunately, making sure this doesn’t happen requires no big investments such as buying workforce management scheduling or a full quality management suite. I’m talking about investing in simple things that can make a huge difference to your customers quickly and cost-effectively. 

And I’ll close today’s blog with a plea. Think of the full experience you offer to your customers. Don’t just try to force every question to an automated system. Consider how bots can handle the initial interaction before giving your agents everything they need to solve a customer issue.

Make your customers happy and allow your agents to save you money by handling more interactions than ever before.

In my next blog, we’ll talk about six easy steps you can take to get bots, self-service, and customer engagement right.

Originally published May 19, 2020, updated Dec 30, 2022

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