CX past pandemic

CX past the pandemic - top brands share insights

CX Best Practices

The ability to flex and pivot has never been a more important skill for customer experience (CX) leaders. That's the headline finding in a Virtual Think Tank article, "CX Past the Pandemic: @Home @Office @Digital," the output of Frost and Sullivan's virtual panel, in partnership with TELUS International, of customer experience experts discussing the future of CX design, delivery and operations.

The article below shares a few of the key findings. Be sure to download the full report here.

COVID-19 has already forced leaders to pivot their internal and outsourced operations to maintain quality CX during the crisis as well as look to enhance their digital CX options. Brands will be given new opportunities to stretch as customers rapidly adopt bots, chat and automated attendants, and as contact centers adopt COVID-related safety protocols and embrace work-from-home arrangements.

The article offers expert opinions from CX leaders at Freshly, First Advantage, Kohl's Department Stores and 1-800-GOT-JUNK? who open up on the pandemic's effects on remote work, digital transformation, employee engagement and corporate culture.

Benefits of working from home

With a more sustainable infrastructure now in place for many, employers may not rush all employees back to the office when the pandemic subsides. Instead, working from home may actually turn into a reward for top performers, giving them more choice about their work environment. "Even when companies experience a burst in CX activity, the philosophy has changed from getting agents back as quickly as possible to enabling agents to stay away for as long as performance meets or exceeds objectives," according to the article.

Rather than looking forward to the end of working from home, agents at Freshly are "loving it," says Ben Segal, Freshly's associate CX director. “We've been operating just fine without having a physical space," he says.

Deciding what functions to move back on-premises

As more organizations expand the Work at Home Agent (WAHA) path, difficult operational decisions naturally follow. Customer-focused organizations have largely maintained strong performance on important CX metrics despite the pandemic, but that doesn't mean all functions and workers will stay remote.

For example, some operations leaders are planning to return critical lines of businesses — financial services accounts that require PCI certification, for example — to the office. On the technology side, some legacy technologies may not work properly in remote environments, and upgrades will happen on location.

Importance of employee engagement and corporate culture

Though technology decisions like these are largely operational, the Frost and Sullivan article reminds CX leaders that the contact center is inherently a people-driven enterprise. Thus, maintaining active employee engagement will drive better outcomes. Or, as stated in the article "Agent Experience (AX) is the new CX."

Just as organizations survey customers for CSAT and NPS ratings, they must do the same for frontline team members to regularly gauge their emotions and engagement levels. "We've created something we call our 'agent satisfaction emoji,' asking agents to press a happy, neutral or sad face at the end of the day," says Rachel Quilatan, vice-president, Sales Centre of 1-800-GOT-JUNK? “The biggest piece is really to engage our frontline and understand what it means to them to feel connected," she says. CX leaders who measure empathy as part of their quality assurance programs have seen their team member engagement scores rise.

However you measure it, when leadership teams balance operational needs with human needs, remote work stays meaningful. “It feels like a real human nature story," says Jim Radzicki, TELUS International's chief technology officer. “So many people are focused on the technology, but it is human nature to want to meaningfully engage remotely — and that is the real phenomenal story behind the scenes."

Remote hiring and training

The need to meaningfully engage in a remote environment cuts across nearly all contact center functions. As organizations have retained high performance levels, some traditionally in-person functions may permanently become virtual. Renee Martin, VP of Customer Care at First Advantage, has seen low attrition alongside higher CX and engagement scores since the pandemic. A potential outcome is that her team may never go back to doing in-person interviews and training.

Without long commutes, but with a need for greater flexibility, agents may help evolve virtual training from day-long marathons into shorter, more staccato sessions. Onboarding models and even shift schedules could evolve in similar ways, enabling greater flexibility for workers in new geographies, according to the article.

Digital transformation implications

With such change to some fundamental call center systems and processes, the pandemic has also revealed the benefits of widespread digital transformation that was already underway. Chatbots are now commonplace. And they're largely having the desired impact, deflecting up to 30% of calls, even for businesses with customers that prefer voice-based customer support.

In all, the COVID-19 pandemic has created a series of unanticipated effects for CX professionals — and that includes revealing areas where call centers are performing well. But the evolving pandemic also reinforces the need for CX professionals to remain flexible, enhancing employee engagement and corporate culture in what is a truly human-centered business.

For full details and insights from these CX leaders, download the full article here.

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