COVID-19 has altered the world in profound ways, shifting behaviors inside and outside the home personally and professionally. Between business closures, job losses, and changes in spending habits, the pandemic has wreaked havoc on the global economy.
In 2020, many companies have been forced to reassess their business models to stay afloat. Customer priorities have changed, challenging businesses to rethink what customers are purchasing and the way in which they are purchasing. Two-thirds (68%) of respondents to an Arizent survey of 450 executives said their companies experienced moderate to considerable challenges in customer acquisitions due to the impact of COVID-19.
Despite the economic upheaval, many businesses and contact centers have found ways to survive. Part of that ability is attributed to adapting customer acquisition strategies to conform to the new normal. And now, as 2020 tries to make a Q4 comeback with the COVID vaccine, businesses face a new hurdle: how to adapt to a new, possibly more hybrid phase of in-person and online working and living?
As contact centers sent their employees to work from home, businesses pivoted from a largely in-person workforce to employees scattered remotely, all still responsible for maintaining the health of their customers. If the technology solutions weren’t already in place pre-pandemic, businesses are now scrambling to find ways to keep up with the changing times and set themselves up to not only stay relevant, but also succeed during and post-COVID-19.
We know that contact centers have found success working remotely. In fact, over 60% of C-suites we surveyed in April told us they’ll likely keep at least part of their workforce at home post-COVID.
But what to do in this limbo period? How will customer acquisition strategies need to change, if at all?
Support for contact center agents at home
Businesses recognized early on that digital interactions would be key to maintaining connections with their customers. Without the ability to bring customers into a storefront or place of business, new touch points needed to be created to keep new and existing customers engaged.
In order to focus on the customer experience, contact centers had to prioritize creating seamless, integrated virtual processes. This not only meant a renewed focus on digital channels to reach customers, (which we’ll touch on later), but also internal systems to provide remote agents the tools to be successful.
Implementing a cloud-based, unified CRM, with the ability to link all interactions in one thread for an agent, can be a game changer for remote agents. Agents can view customer history, including previous conversations and concerns, in order to best serve their needs. Employees have all the information at their fingertips and can more efficiently help customers during calls.
This is pandemic customer acquisition rule number one: Quick, fast, easy and personal service on any digital channel.
To offer this round the clock can be difficult. To complement live agents, contact centers can consider virtual agents and other self-service technology, like conversational IVR. Introducing these features to your customers helps to decrease wait times and free up agents to handle priority escalations. These channels also help to triage the increased calls and requests into contact centers.
Prioritizing customer service
Customer service should always be top-of-mind for businesses as they consider new technologies and work processes. The pandemic has only heightened and sped up what was already a fiercely vied over differentiator: customer experience excellence.
Even without the chance to go into a store, bank, or other physical business location, customers still expect to feel valued and to get answers to their questions quickly. That’s why businesses have had to lean in to their digital experiences. Digitizing customer service ranges from a strong website to chatbots to interactive voice recognition to speech analytics.
80% of American customers say the most important factors in a positive customer experience are speed, convenience, knowledgeable help and friendly service.
Businesses can start by building out their website to make it easy for customers to find answers to frequently asked questions. By making the experience simple, customers don’t bother calling an agent and waiting in a queue for a quick answer. This opens up the contact center lines for more complex issues.
Businesses can then make sure to implement or shore up their self-service technologies, like virtual agents, chatbots and IVR and make sure they are up-to-date with the most relevant information and address the top needs of customers.
This is pandemic customer acquisition strategy rule number 2: make your first line of interaction self-service so customers can get quick answers to questions on their own time or get routed efficiently to the proper agent.
All of these omnichannel solutions can be threaded through a CRM system, helping agents personalize their conversations with customers.
As customers are routed to live agents, speech analytics can help analyze incoming calls to understand customer sentiment, improve future interactions, and recognize possible sales leads.
Retention over acquisition
During COVID-19, as businesses look for the best way to lower costs, focusing on digital experiences can help strengthen the existing customer base. Self-service and workforce optimization tools can improve current customer relationships, and even build better ones.
It can cost 5x more to acquire new customers than retain current ones. If the pandemic is causing longer sale cycles, businesses can turn their attention to retaining existing customers and developing those relationships.
At the same time, as agents foster current relationships, the sales and marketing teams can nurture the sales funnel, preparing for a post-pandemic world.