How Covid has Exacerbated the Customer Service Issue
July 22, 2021 • 4 minute read

How Covid has Exacerbated the Customer Service Issue

Covid has impacted almost every facet of our lives over the last 16 months. It’s impacted our ability to travel, have social interactions and, for most of us, redefined the way we work. On top of all of this, it has created countless customer experience challenges which many organizations have been unable to meet.

A recent study by the UK Institute of Customer Service found that complaints about poor customer service are at their highest levels since 2009. While initially sympathetic, consumers are now tired of being told that their long wait times on the phone or late deliveries are simply “because of Covid”.

Organizations need to move away from this convenient blanket statement and either be honest with setting customer expectations or find ways to overcome their current challenges.

Covid customer experience challenges

Businesses across all industries have been hit by Covid enforced challenges and problems, some more obviously than others. While the travel, leisure, and hospitality industries basically had to close down overnight due to stay at home orders, office based businesses were able to keep functioning, albeit remotely. 

It is this home-based lifestyle, both personally and professionally, that has presented unprecedented challenges to businesses. Employers were forced to uproot their workforce from their office based location and transition them to work remotely from their homes with little to no infrastructure in place. How could customer service agents be expected to provide good service when they themselves were struggling to get the support they needed? While this excuse initially had merit, it no longer stands up to customer scrutiny over a year later. Organizations need to ensure they have technologies in place to enable their customer support staff to supply the high level of service they’re expected to provide.

Additionally, the rise of online shopping has also presented new customer experience challenges. Ecommerce was growing fast even before Covid-19 hit, but the industry thrived in 2020 because of store closures and shoppers’ fear of contracting the coronavirus in public. In fact, online sales hit $791.70 billion in 2020, up 32.4% from $598.02 billion in the prior year, according to the Commerce Department. Figures were up another 39% again in Q1 2021. This seismic shift in buying behavior has only further increased the importance of businesses having a sophisticated digital infrastructure to allow consumers to enjoy a positive shopping experience on their own terms. Enabling humans and technology to work together is the key to leaving customers satisfied with their interactions with your brand.

Let AI empower your customers

Surveys show that, for customers, one of the most important characteristics of a positive retail experience is convenience. Customers want to be able to complete their chosen tasks, such as checking their bill or returning an item, when they want and through whichever platform they prefer. Instead of waiting to speak to a live agent, customers prefer the convenience of solving simple problems themselves. Intelligent Virtual Assistants (IVAs) can handle routine tasks like returns, order status, store location, and technical support so that agents have more time to deal with complicated customer issues. This benefit is two-fold. Customers with simple queries can solve them in their own time whereas those with more complex issues have a reduced wait time to speak with an agent and have their problem solved. 

Investing in customer service pays off

Good customer service is becoming more and more important in an increasingly consumer driven world. The CEO of the UK Institute of Customer Service hypothesized that many customers would be willing to pay extra if they knew they would get better customer service, and research supports her claim. A study by PwC found that 43% of consumers would pay more for greater convenience and 65% of Americans find a positive experience with a brand to be more influential than great advertising. 

The research is clear. Investing more in customer service increases consumer satisfaction levels and is more likely to encourage brand loyalty and repeated spending, ultimately leading to further revenue.

The disruption of Covid has exposed the flaws of many organizations’ customer service networks and caused customers endless frustrations.
Instead of lamenting and continuing to use Covid as an excuse, businesses should use this as an opportunity to invest and improve the customer experience to help stand out from competitors. Investing in both people and technology is the first step in this journey.

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