As businesses navigate their way out of the COVID-19 pandemic with incredible vaccine rollouts across the globe, this period allows for some much-needed hindsight. Many experts have been drawing comparisons between the effects of the coronavirus pandemic to the financial crash of 2008, which also derailed the economy in ways unimaginable. Whether those affected worked in retail or global banking, the impact of a 1.7% decrease in global output was devastating. Now, it is predicted global output amid the pandemic will fall 5.0% this year, possibly 7%. Whichever the figure, and the devastation caused, the behaviours of businesses remain strikingly similar.
A McKinsey study revealed the impact of resilience and investment plan in terms of shareholder value, with one interesting aspect of the data being the immediate impact of an innovation and investment strategy. While the point of the study remained long-term value, it found that the performance gap between those labelled ‘resilients’ and ‘nonresilients’ was significant, even as early the first year of the financial crisis.
A business recovery kit compiled by Calabrio, the leading workforce optimisation and analytics solutions company, reveals a COVID-19 recovery plan consisting of obstacles to overcome and how best to achieve this via pandemic-driven change. Let’s take a closer look at some of the key tips for surviving and thriving in the new world of work and consumerism.
Fully grasping your customers’ views of your organisation post-pandemic will act as the very foundation to accelerating full recovery. For many, this will be a case of re-understanding to help improve retention and potentially increase the economic value of each customer. This has the effect of reshaping the innovation process for business leaders as targets set for creating future offerings have shifted since March 2020. Whether that change is temporary or permanent, businesses need to understand it.
Kris McKenzie, the company’s SVP of International Sales, says that now, more than ever, it’s crucial companies listen to their customers and really understand their needs. He says:
“We’re all now having these digital experiences and freely giving away our personal information on where we live and the things we want to buy. In return for that, we as consumers expect these businesses to know exactly who we are.
“But with a lot of companies, it’s as if it’s the first time we’ve interacted despite the previous history we might have with them. A lot of customers who perhaps have given information to them again and again and again are left wondering ‘why am I doing this?’ especially when they’re paying good money to engage with that brand. This is making consumers go elsewhere where they have that instant customer recognition.”
Calabrio recommends a customer journey mapping tool to aid this, which works by helping businesses meet those all-important customer needs. The map will effectively inform key processes, such as innovation, pricing, messaging and omni-channel communications.
Winning a Slice of the Pie
A dramatic shift in the way consumers pick their brands is a behaviour that has since emerged from the pandemic, with availability, accessibility and digital experience being taken for granted at the start of the crisis. This has influenced brand evaluation and selection criteria. Brand relationships have adapted as customers develop affinities for those able to meet their demands, such as the timeliness of delivery and the ability to simplify online and mobile experiences. Consumers have consequently shifted away from long-time brand relationships. In the U.S. alone, more than 75% of consumers have altered their shopping behaviours and changed to new brands during the pandemic.
These new trends have created a huge landscape of customers available for pursuit. This is where rebranding comes in, McKenzie adds, using the example of restaurants to illustrate his point.
“I’m in an investor forum so I get pitches from new start-ups, and many of them are innovative food businesses. Previously these businesses would have created physical spaces such as pop-ups, concessions or actual restaurants, but now they exploit our willingness to order online whilst harnessing the third party delivery infrastructure to get their product to market quicker and at scale.”
If your business model needs to adapt, so too must your brand. Adopting a brand messaging framework using analytics extracted from the contact centre is a tool to use. Purpose, brand story and values are details that for many, with the help of a revamp or recalibration, should be clearly articulated to build up trust.
A brand messaging framework can be the tool to aid businesses with winning a slice of the new consumerism pie. The brand’s story is one of the most important aspects of messaging to get across to the customer, along with the organisation’s purpose and values. This doesn’t have to be a complete revamp of the story, just a recalibration, and in doing this it allows a company to align who it is, what it does and why it matters.
Introducing the Brand Ambassador
Bringing a brand story to life is vital in the road to post-COVID recovery and the best way to activate this is to get agents talking about it. There is an overwhelming deluge of information passed onto consumers in the form of social media, newsletters and email which they simply will not read. It makes perfect sense to have those at the very core and frontline of the business discuss it.
Thus, the brand story template may well be the most important tool to provide agents. It comes with an ability to understand the meaning of the brand and how it stands to boost any customer experience (CX) engagement, McKenzie states.
But agents need to understand your brand story at a granular level to do this. It must be part of their thought process to achieve this, McKenzie says.
“Businesses have to give an amazing experience from the data they’ve harvested from customers. How do they connect and engage with customers and understand how to give a great brand experience while at the same time fulfilling the consumer needs?
“That’s the mindset these companies need to have. We have really moved forward with digital transformation as a society because people have a lot of time to think given the pandemic, and are truly really evaluating how we’re interacting, giving our time and what we’re getting back from these experiences. it’s really heightened these CX senses we all have across the board. Those experiences definitely translate into creating brand ambassadors.”
For this, a brand story training template ensures agents really understand the brand story at a granular level. The brand story should be part of the live agents’ thought process when engaging with customers.
The Omni-channel Experience
Time spent on business apps by consumers has increased more than 220% since the beginning of 2020, with e-commerce also spiking. And perhaps unsurprisingly, consumer spending online has increased more than 30% from 2019 to 2020. In line with the way consumers are picking their brands differently, customers are getting savvier with digital channels, interacting by phone, text, social media, online or through apps.
Creating a seamless experience for customers required to achieve this, and it can be done with a simple workforce management checklist. Contact centre managers should schedule the highly skilled agents to take on the more challenging calls, and those newer to the work to take the simpler interactions such as social or less immediate, such as email. A workforce management system lets contact centre managers schedule the right agents to be available at the right times, meaning the contact centre is not only properly staffed but also run efficiently. Key capabilities of this include real-time self-service agent mobility, tools that optimize schedules to channel-based skills, work rules and agent preferences, and, of course, accurate omni-channel forecasting.
Whatever the channel agents are scheduled to work, automated quality evaluations and analytics of all interactions allows for measurements on agent performance and understanding customer responses.
Agility and Getting There First with the Cloud
A study by Calabrio technology partner, Twilio, shockingly revealed COVID-19 condensed six years of digital transformation into mere months. Work from home was quickly put into place, supply chains stabilised and customer connectivity was maintained. Top analysts believe organisations will maintain this rapid pace of digital transformation, and that those that move the fastest will win the new landscape. Moving away from on-premises software solutions paves the way for speed, flexibility and agility. New features can be added, users expanded or decreased instantly, and agents experiment with new technologies.
“If you look at what’s happened in the market, clearly there’s been some industries that have been much more affected by the pandemic.
“And those that have been able to keep going are the ones who have continued to invest, so they’ve got infrastructure, systems and applications to be able to adapt their businesses.”
He’s right. Moving to the cloud isn’t an option if customers expect responsiveness and agility to be maintained in the new normal. That said, all cloud solutions are not created equally. Cloud platforms should consist of the following examples: remote working configurations, service level agreement flexibility, security and privacy, backup and recovery systems, and customer-driven customisation.
Expect the Unexpected
In summary, while it’s vital to future-proof a business with more flexibility and move systems into the cloud, business leaders must adopt a forward-thinking mindset to claw their way back from the pandemic.
McKenzie concludes: “Businesses need modern architecture across the organisation and to be prepared for the unexpected, to a level they never were before. In some countries in Asia, they have dealt with the pandemic so much better than the West because they’ve seen it all before and have invested ahead of the curve. We, in the West, have a mindset of ‘don’t worry, it’ll never happen to us’ but look where we are now. The resolution to all of this is to make that all-important digital transformation. It’s the only way organisations will survive.”
The key to healing wounds inflicted by the pandemic is to embrace the change instead of blaming it. Aligning to these key opportunities will enable businesses to build a fightback tailored not only to the needs of the brand or organisation, but to their customers too.
To access Calabrio’s full business recovery kit, click here.