After a few weeks of shelter in place and realizing that my prospects of going back to the gym were next to nothing, I caved in and bought the famous indoor stationary bike. As if justifying the cost was not painful enough, the vendor informed me about the backorders and expected waiting period. Naturally, I picked up the phone and dialed their 800 number to schedule my delivery, only to be put on hold for over 25 minutes before speaking to an agent. I tried using the chat on the website and in the app, but every channel of communication gave me the standard ‘delay due to COVID-19 message’. In the last few weeks, I have collectively spent hours on hold trying to dispute charges on my online grocery delivery service, negotiate a bill with my internet provider and report a power outage to my utilities vendor. Being put on hold is frustrating, period. But I believe that the pandemic has made it even more unbearable.
The pandemic has accelerated the shift in consumer behavior
It takes decades to change consumer behavior, but this pandemic has done it in a matter of weeks. It has forced consumers to put aside whatever hesitations they had with online shopping and embrace it with both arms. From groceries, to clothes, to furniture, to food, we are buying everything online. Mind you, most of these brands have strived for this level of digital transformation for years. The pandemic revealed and tested ‘digital readiness’ of various brands. The brands who had the right online infrastructure to support this thrived, while others scrambled.
Are brands ready to handle the returns, complaints, and questions?
Increased sales also means increased support, service, and care requests. Especially now that we are making purchases without physically selecting the goods, returns are on the rise as well. This recent article from the Wall Street Journal explained some consumers’ plight as they tried to contact some famous brands after their purchases and got stuck in the hold time void.
Without automation and self-service, every customer requires an agent’s help to resolve their query. The surge in contact volume stresses the contact center operations. In the last few weeks we’ve already seen brands reallocating sales and other staff to handle customer queries to strengthen the contact centers. Bringing employees back to work while keeping them and customers safe has definitely been the top priority for most companies. However brands need to retrospect if this new focus around business continuity is making them put customer experience on the back burner? Consumers are definitely more sensitive now more than ever – the absence of self-service and never ending hold times definitely feel more frustrating than ever before.
Virtual Agents can help
Virtual agents address both consumers’ as well as brands’ concerns when it comes to hold times and lack of self-service. And they do so without requiring additional workforce. Virtual agents are available 24×7 across channels and take over typical tasks, leaving the contact center agents focus on the atypical. Virtual agents behave like the best contact center agent, at scale. For consumers, virtual agents allow self service when they want it and how they want it. Virtual agents are always delightful and follow the brand persona, and never make consumers wait. Digital transformation in contact centers starts with optimizing the most expensive and most used customer service channels and Virtual agents are the answer to that.
Bridging the gap
Successfully implementing automation is no easy task. In fact, it could be argued that an easy implementation can’t provide the advanced level of customer care that is needed to deliver excellent customer experience. So where should brands start?
We recommend first taking an honest assessment of your current customer experience through customer journey mapping. This will make clear the major pain points in your contact center and provide a roadmap for what should be top priority when evaluating virtual assistant solutions. Then, check out our eBook for next steps!