Written by Nick Glimsdahl
We find ourselves in unprecedented – certainly, the word of the year – times. While America and the globe continues to #stayhome for the health of our fellow man and woman, we all would do well to reflect on and capture lessons learned. One question asked repeatedly in this season is, “When will we return to normal?” But, in the rush to return to normal, let’s all take time to consider what is worth hurrying back to.
Business leaders will benefit from reflecting on how these changes – shutdowns, communication changes, and working from home – have impacted their relationships with their consumers and consider how this season has improved or harmed business continuity. Further, these same leaders will need to consider how this crisis has forever impacted their company-to-employee relationship.
Without a doubt, Covid-19 will leave an indelible impression on our planet, and it may even cause a paradigm shift for businesses and the way they meet their employees’ and customers’ expectations, especially regarding communication channels.
This article will cover the following:
· Business Continuity
· Changing Expectations
· Digital First Mentality
As a consumer, I was forced to change the way I interact with businesses. Since mid-March, my family has made many changes, including:
Before: I ate inside a dining establishment with no concern.
Now: I order online through a delivery service or schedule a pick-up.
Before: I scheduled an appointment and went when the time came.
Now: I have to call when I arrive to see if I can enter the waiting room and I am required to wear a mask during the appointment.
Before: Scheduled all my meetings at coffee shops and restaurants.
Now: Schedule online meetings.
Before: A hairdresser cut my hair.
Now: My wife cuts my hair!
Businesses were also forced to adapt. Rather than in a coffee shop or conference room, meetings are online and video solutions are now being used. Restaurants must now deliver. Grocery stores without curbside pickup are losing business to those who offer it and delivery. Celebrations are done through a 15-inch screen rather than around a dinner table. Everyone is adjusting, and it isn’t always pretty (including my hair).
Companies with business continuity (BC) plans and with digitally transformed solutions found it easier to adjust. Even for prepared companies, this pandemic definitely battle tested the maturity of those BC plans and their digital maturity. When the country opens back up, companies will certainly need to revisit their BC plans to see how they can better prevent future threats, continue operations during one, and recover.
Working from home (WFH) is the core of business continuity today. There are three kinds of business approaches to WFH:
First, those with WFH capabilities who are able to continue operations, at least to some extent. Many of these companies have their entire workforce working from home now.
Second, companies who have been hesitant to allow their employees to work from home. And, maybe to the disappointment of some who clung to the traditional in-office structure, leaders and employees are learning working from home isn’t so bad after all. With the proper tools in place, employees have adapted to their new normal. While virtual hiccups are bound to happen, employees likely prefer the reduced commute from 45 minutes to 22 steps.
Third, companies who are not set up to work virtually or it is not possible.
This crisis has certainly shown a spotlight on the need for a comprehensive WFH policy, and one will likely be built into future business continuity plans.
Before Covid-19, customers chose companies that differentiate on experience, and 81% of customers switch to another brand as a result of bad customer service (American Express). Now more than ever, the customer experience is the battleground for brand loyalty. Your team needs to focus on empathy, putting themselves in the shoes of their customers. Consider questions like: What do customers need to know during this time of crisis? What’s the best way for them to communicate with us? What has changed that our customers need to know about?
Knowing this fact, companies have increasingly shopped for cloud solutions. However, those who were planning to move their contact center to the cloud in 2021/2022 are now faced with increased stress and frustration and regret for not changing sooner. Two specific examples come to mind.
One company asked their customer service employees to connect to VPN and haul their desktop computers home with them. Yikes!
Another large call center (over 900 agents) with an on-premise solution was doing their best to physically distance agents, but only 52% of their employees came to work out of fear of getting sick. This company bumped up their 2022 digital transformation strategy to 2020. Now more than ever, technology is vitally important.
Crisis or no crisis, employees are a company’s most valuable and most expensive resource. This season requires flexibility and trust. By giving employees the benefit of the doubt and not micro-managing them, you will improve morale and strengthen your relationship with your employees. And, morale boosting ideas - welcoming kids or pets during set calls and times, scheduling a virtual happy hour, or planning a “spirit week” – may also add an element of fun to the current state of normal we find ourselves in.
Here are five tips to have a successful digital transformation:
Understand your digital transformation objectives and create a strategy, marrying business and technology in the final deliverable.
Consider the current customer experience and how transforming will improve it. What are current pain points? What do you want the reputation to be? How can you turn your customers into promoters?
Define your digital roadmap, including expectations, roles and responsibilities, and timing. Ensure the plan includes getting off legacy systems and onto new platforms as soon as possible.
Include organization change management at the beginning. A plan could be bulletproof, but without leadership buy-in and an OCM and communication plan to support it, it will struggle to thrive once rolled out.
Consider the plans and the company’s strengths and opportunities. When needed, bring in subject matter experts to offload areas your company doesn’t specialize in. Examples include cloud infrastructure providers, call center solution experts, etc.
Lastly, remember, digital transformation is not a golden ticket to success. It is a learning process, sometimes requiring organizations to learn from mistakes and fail fast and forward, if necessary.
All in all, it is not a matter of if your company needs to transform digitally; it is a matter of when. And if we have learned anything in the last few months, we know the sooner the better applies!
Nick Glimsdahl is the Director of Contact Center Solutions at VDS, and his mission is to help improve the customers’ experiences through user-friendly, customer-focused contact center solutions. He is dedicated to living out the sage advice from the philosopher, Vanilla Ice; simply put, he helps companies stop and evaluate their current state, collaborate with subject matter experts and listen to their customers.
Nick’s background in sales, marketing and contact center solutions serves as the framework for his advanced expertise in the field of customer experience. He is a leader in the “CX Ohio” community and CXPA Columbus Chapter.