Companies across the globe are under immense pressure as they continue to tread along the tricky waters of a once-in-a-lifetime occurring pandemic. Changed customer attitudes and behaviors alongside new workforce challenges and priorities have essentially transformed the way things are done, pushing organizations into a new era. One with a digital-first approach.
We caught up with Vishal Sharma, SearchUnify’s CTO, to get answers to the most crucial questions that have left service and support leaders at sixes and sevens. He shares tips from his ‘new rule book’ about how business leaders need to adapt for augmenting workforce productivity and lowering customer churn.
This year wreaked havoc on businesses, made the mighty kneel and unusual ones flourish. How would you say 2020 panned out for you & your enterprise?
I read an article in the Financial Times and couldn’t agree more. It said, “Historically, pandemics have forced humans to break with the past and imagine their world anew. This one is no different.” I believe this year converted the digital transformation ‘bandwagon’ into the default option for companies. And since we have always strived to transform customers’ and employees’ experiences with our platform; the crisis has only accelerated our velocity. So, I would say the year went pretty well for us.
Are you vouching for remote work personally, or do you miss the office setting?
Wow, that’s a real Sophie’s choice. Well, I would like to answer this question in two parts. Firstly, I am not big on being glued to your cubicle from nine-to-five and getting dragged into fruitless meetings. If you can get work done, it doesn’t matter whether you’re in the office, home, or a cafe. But having said that, I certainly miss the face-to-face conversations and impromptu chats around the coffee machine with colleagues that made work fun. I am hoping for a hybrid model moving forward; why not have the best of both worlds?
The other thing is that the work-from-home model has ensured workforce safety without compromising customer experience and interactions. These are the two most important things right now. If you’re able to pivot your company to deliver seamless experiences for customers as well as employees, it will yield business outcomes that are better than before.
Is experience still at the heart of success, given that businesses are struggling to survive? Shouldn’t leaders de-prioritize it for now?
Not at all! Customers are expecting more from brands in terms of convenience, experience, and accuracy; this pandemic has only increased their willingness to experiment with different brand offerings. According to a recent report by ESG Research & Zendesk, 89% of organizations believe CX stagnation will lead to business disruption. Hence, you need to uplift your CX capabilities.
The report’s key takeaways emphasized two things that are worth mentioning.
- “Becoming a CX Champion requires a culture focused on CX, driven from the top down: 81% strongly agree that CX is considered a critical business priority at their organizations.”
- “CX Champions invest for success: Nearly three-fifths (57%) of Champions expect their organization to increase investment significantly over the next 12-24 months.”
On a related note–where should a business start when thinking of investing in technology to future-proof themselves in CX or be profitable in the new world?
Moving forward, self-service channels are going to get even more dominant for customer engagement. Hence, invest in apps that make your existing models fluid and intuitive to lower customer effort. For instance, you can employ chatbots that are AI-powered and leverage natural language processing (NLP) to take care of L1 queries. They use cognitive intelligence and unsupervised learning to drastically reduce training time and maintenance, all the while providing contextual responses.
Automate whatever you can. From proactively monitoring and responding to community discussions round the clock to identifying, merging, and closing duplicate discussion threads, there are AI-powered apps that do most of the heavy lifting for maximum customer engagement.
I must add, to complement all these customer experiences, companies must equip their workforce with the latest tools as well. Reason being that the traditional role of service agents is going to expand as they operate from multiple locations.
Can you elaborate on this as well–the new role of service agents and how companies can provide them with the right tools to work effectively?
The service agents will have more strategic roles; companies will rely on them to create digital experiences that are more humane at scale. Currently, they are solving complex issues, personalizing each customer interaction, and in some cases, upselling or cross-selling as well. To add to that, service agents will have to take up the role of ‘knowledge architects’ to maximize speed and precision in customer interactions.
AI solutions augment agent productivity and help speed things up by accelerating knowledge creation and curating a list of relevant KB articles on the fly. You need to create an agile workforce that delivers timely and relevant responses. Equip your agents with apps that suggest useful information like top articles and related cases to the one at hand. Also, giving them a clear view of customer journeys and showing SMEs will reduce the average total time to resolution, drive agent efficiency, and help achieve CSAT goals.
And while you’re at it, don’t forget empathy. As customers tread these tricky times, demonstrating empathy by analyzing various aspects of a ticket such as sentiment, type of query, time of ticket creation, etc., is of profound importance. There should be some way of predicting escalations so that your service agents can take pre-emptive corrective actions and minimize the damage.
Any message or wise words you’d like to pass on to business leaders?
The dinosaurs were mighty but didn’t adapt; hence ceased to exist. Don’t be a dinosaur. Adapt, innovate, and thrive.
Want to Make Your Service Org Future-Ready? Here’s Your ‘Starter-Kit’
Read this carefully curated white paper to grasp a firm understanding of the inevitable challenges, new priorities for service & support leaders, and how cognitive search can help deliver flexible, dynamic, and exceptional service. Alternatively, you can also tune in to this webinar where Matt Wujciak, Analyst & Editor, Customer Management Practice, talks about building the AI dream team for future-proofing your customer service strategy.