Contributor: Owen Stone, Senior CX Consultant, Enigen

COVID-19. A disease that has changed the world. No-one in 2019 could have predicted the impact that a global pandemic would have on modern business, leaving us facing challenges we had never considered.

Except, of course, that a lot of smart developers actually had considered them.

Now, I’m not saying that software developers accurately predicted a viral outbreak… but plenty of them have been putting a lot of time and effort into making CX applications that could handle the kind of business disruption cause by… well, a global pandemic. In fact, if you’d been paying attention, you might have been able to spot who had and hadn’t properly implemented such solutions. If you think back to the summer of 2020, a lot of consumers were shocked when major businesses effectively just shut down their customer service for months in the face of the pandemic. Customers were greeted with warnings saying that at best they would have to be on hold for prolonged periods to get a response, and at worst, companies just stopped responding to customers altogether. The reasons at the time were understandable: companies couldn’t staff busy contact centres safely. I heard of several companies that rushed to clear their entire offices and re-build the working space just so they could safely get a handful of contact centre staff back in to handle calls.

Of course, everyone understood; global pandemic, unprecedented situation, difficult times, etc… but that conveniently sidesteps the fact that plenty of businesses managed to handle this situation with far less impact. Why? I suspect because many of them had already invested in a decent CX solution, which made them far more resistant to the disruption COVID-19 caused. But just how did they help?

  1. Most modern CX Solutions are cloud based. It doesn’t matter where you are in the world, you can always get access to them. I know of contact centre staff who were simply issued a laptop and a headset, and told to work from home. Some were even asked to work on their personal machines. The build and distribution of these laptops was simple because they only needed to be able to do one thing: open a browser and let the agent log into the cloud application. From there, the telephony and call handling was all integrated and ready to go. Compare that with how things probably were for businesses who were working with legacy systems that couldn’t be accessed from outside their office, or worse yet, something that simply wasn’t intended to share data between teams (yes, plenty of companies still use Outlook alone for Customer Support). That’s when you understand why so many contact centres just shut down operations when they couldn’t safely access a physical office.
  2. If you’re using a CX application with a decent front end and customer self-help tools, it is very quick to get information out to customers. Some businesses were very quick to get information out on the web and available to customers in regard to how they were handling COVID-19 related issues. Travel companies were a pretty good example of this. Even if they couldn’t respond directly to every query, the ones that had invested in self-help tools were able to quickly update their content to advise on their policies on refunds, cancellations, travel risks etc. making it clear to the customer how their case would be handled. The ones that couldn’t… well, they very publicly struggled. I know several people who won’t be booking with certain companies again because of the lack of information they received during the pandemic.
  3. Good internal CX tools help with onboarding. The pandemic created a huge amount of disruption in the job market, with some sectors desperate to bring on new staff but not knowing how to train them up at a time when physical meeting and mentoring wasn’t possible. Many companies I’ve worked with will proudly say things like “Our people are our knowledge”… which is fine up until you can’t reach those people due to sickness or absence. As someone who helped onboard quite a few people over the pandemic, I know first-hand that having a tool that collects all your business knowledge in an accessible way, and better yet automatically applies that knowledge to customer interactions, makes remotely onboarding new staff a much easier prospect. If you know the application itself will prevent your new starters from making major mistakes, you can be much quicker to turn them loose on real customers, with the software itself handling a lot of the responsibility some businesses expect of a supervising staff member.

Now, hopefully we’re not going to see another global pandemic any time soon, but the above points give a few examples of how moving to a cloud based CX application can give you greater resilience to unexpected disruption. The global nature of COVID-19 means that a lot of companies got a free pass when they were unable to adapt quickly… but not all disruptions are global, and if your business isn’t ready for the next disruption that comes your way… Well, your customers might not be as forgiving second time around.

Continue the conversation & participate in discussion by visiting Owen’s original blog on LinkedIn here. Read past articles in Owen’s B2C Service Blog here.


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