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Streamlining operational costs amid a tech downturn

Posted July 21, 2022
Illustration of a person repositioning a downward trend on a graph to make it positive, symbolizing strategies to overcome a downturn

“This is not a time to panic. It is a time to pause and reassess.”

The line, bolded among bulleted speaker notes, was part of a recent presentation by the investment firm Sequoia Capital to an audience of founders and executives. Though it’s an encouraging sentiment capable of standing on its own, context, as they say, is everything. And right now, the tint on the smart glasses is not so rosy.

The tech industry is experiencing one of its most significant downturns on record, leaving many with unwelcome flashbacks to 2001 and 2008. The same Sequoia Capital deck states that 61% of software, internet and fintech companies are trading below pre-pandemic prices, and one third are trading below COVID-19 lows “when uncertainty and fear was peaking.”

The economic forces creating this context are multifaceted and the subject of countless columns. Fiscal policy. The pandemic. Ongoing supply chain challenges. Regardless of the driving forces, adaptation is critical. There’s a reframing that needs to happen, according to Brian Hannon, TELUS International’s global head of customer experience innovation - technology. “Earlier in the pandemic, it was all about how quickly you could grow. Now it’s not about speed: It’s about growing intelligently.”

To do that — to take calculated steps forward — consider the practical approaches that follow.

Optimize your customer journeys

“This is not a time to panic.”

The sentiment held by Sequoia Capital is one that Hannon echoes. “Companies are taking the time to review everything line by line. They’re asking: ‘Is this operating the right way? Is it adding value?’”

That level of focus helps brands to see past silos and hone in on customer-centricity. “Seize this opportunity to assess your customer journey and to determine where the value is,” says Hannon.

Doing so can lead to a better customer experience (CX) and a knock-on boost in sales. Recent research from TELUS International indicates that a solid strategy does not end at the point of purchase. In fact, good customer service following a purchase (such as short wait times and easy exchange/return processes), is most likely to lead to future sales.

When you tie your efforts back to the customer journey, you open up opportunities to generate tangible results. For one tech industry client, TELUS International’s help with customer journey optimization led to a significant reduction in the duration of voice interactions, as well as voice escalations. For another, the applied methodology generated a 300% improvement in sales conversation and revenue within the program.

Benefits of automation

It goes without saying that the tech industry is comfortable with sophisticated machinery and software. The downturn should provide the impetus to lean into that.

Intelligent automation can be a great way to make the lives of your customers and employees easier, even in a challenging environment.

Layering in chatbots at key points in your refocused customer journey can have impressive results. A chatbot survey of 100 executives by TELUS International, in partnership with Pulse, found that 44% estimated cost savings over 10%, and about three-quarters (74%) saw an improvement in customer satisfaction scores. And as an added benefit, by handling common customer inquiries, your chatbot will be freeing up your agents to focus their time where a human touch is required.

Automation has a strong use-case inside your organization too. Robotic process automation (RPA) can bring the extra efficiency needed during tight economic conditions. Distinct advantages of RPA include the ability to perform around the clock, produce replicable results at scale and take care of the repetitive tasks that tend to weaken employee engagement. To go a level deeper, brands can harness agent assist bots to help their team members deliver the quality service that keeps customers coming back for more. These purpose-built bots search through your knowledge bases and serve up critical information to agents actively helping customers — positively contributing to your first contact resolution rates.

Customer service outsourcing can improve quality

In a recent interview with CNN, Dan Wang, an associate professor at Columbia Business School, notes that “Large tech companies, even though they’re tightening their belts, are still in a financially advantageous position,” and continues, “A lot of the services that tech platforms, especially, provide are ones that consumers regard as indispensable.”

This source of optimism is shared by Hannon, who emphasizes that “many brands have proven customer interest. So it becomes a question of stepping back and asking: ‘How do we make this work?’”

Partnering with an experienced customer service outsourcing provider stands out as a convincing option. Hannon explains: “When you’re going through uncertain times a partnership is more important than ever. A partner that has experience can lead you through it without making rash decisions or panicking or being uncertain themselves.”

Beyond in-depth work on your customer journeys and slick automation, top-tier partners can leverage business intelligence to forecast market conditions and help you adapt to demand with their own trained agents. Such a partner will focus on improving overall quality. It’s a timely strategy, according to Hannon. “In conversations I’ve had, it’s clear that delivery quality is becoming increasingly important. Facing inflation, brands know that customers will become more picky as their money becomes more sparse.”

In trying times, it’s important to pay attention. Pay attention to your customers, to your data, to what your frontline is telling you. And if you’ve never been here before, know that there is help out there in partners who have. Reach out to our experts to map out your next steps.

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