Many organisations are currently facing unprecedented pressure, falling revenues and reduced profits. A large number have temporarily closed or have adopted new ways of working, and rightly so, as the focus of most business leaders has been on protecting employees, understanding the risks to their businesses, and managing disruption to supply chains.
The latest BCC Coronavirus Business Impact Tracker reveals that cash flow remains a significant concern for many businesses – 6 in 10 have less than three months’ cash in reserve and many are worried about bankruptcy or going out of business completely. In this context, it is understandable that so many business leaders have jumped at the chance of government support.
Against a backdrop of ever-changing economic and legislative conditions, business leaders may feel overwhelmed. If there’s one key lesson for businesses right now, it’s the importance of communication and connectivity. From employees to customers to suppliers, keeping in touch is essential as we work together to mitigate the pandemic’s effects.
But there is a major challenge in this – how do organisations step up communication levels when the business is under severe resource strain?
Be proactive with communication – and engage with people on their channel of choice
Everyone is very understanding about disruption in the current situation. But desire for more information is increasing, as many employees and customers get more nervous about the future.
People are seeking real-time information on different channels, from SMS to email, voice messages, chatbots, WhatsApp and push notifications. This can be a strain on organisations that are focussing on cash flow forecasting and staying afloat, so now is the time to automate communication across all channels, to easily keep all stakeholders informed in the best way for them.
This means that if orders are delayed or events are cancelled, for example, organisations need to contact customers regularly to show them they are not forgotten. Inevitably the first question will be about refunds or rescheduling and if this information will take longer than usual to reach them, be transparent and show customers that the organisation is on top of it.
Make sure the notifications go to their preferred channel, but also consider using multiple channels to ensure they feel looked after. For example, send succinct messages via SMS, WhatsApp or push notification priming customers for a forthcoming, detailed email.
Bolster an IVR system now
With social distancing and self-isolation measures entering a second month, people have an overwhelming need for human contact – which drives the desire to speak to people. Call centres are strained under high volumes, remote working and reduced staff numbers, and organisations need to acknowledge the need of customers while removing pressure on the agents.
Interactive voice response technology (IVR) can help have a positive impact on customer satisfaction and employee engagement. However, it often gets a bad rep from customers who have been stuck in endless, automated loops.
Organisations should start by examining their existing IVR approach, including call volumes, menu structure, terminology and prompting. This will help organisations identify areas causing frustration and delay, such as confusing menus, bad speech recognition and unclear messages.
It is surprisingly easy and cost-effective to update an IVR system to cope with COVID-19 pressures – and the updates will continue paying dividends into the future.
Provide digital support options to take more pressure off the call centre
While improved IVR will help organisations to manage customer support in the current circumstances, another key piece of the communications puzzle is making it as easy as possible for customers to self-serve.
AI-powered chatbots can enable organisations to deliver effective self-service and they are easy to set up across channels – from website to WhatsApp. The key is data integration because all channels need access to the customer’s entire history. This means that if a customer emails about their order and reaches out again later on an organisation’s website chatbot, the conversation can be picked up exactly where the customer left off.
The result is a connected customer journey that fits around whatever time and technology customers have access to at any given moment, which helps drive a stronger relationship, enduring loyalty, and future revenue.
How to get the most value from data
Data is the typical bottleneck to optimising cross-channel customer journeys. From CRM and order management to ERP and marketing automation – data siloes make it difficult to deliver a seamless experience across touchpoints.
The rapid way businesses have had to adjust to the coronavirus pandemic has exposed the cost and inefficiency of these siloes. Organisations need to quickly and easily orchestrate all of the data it has– so that there is a centralised system powering the entire customer journey. This will enable organisations to automate the process of synchronised data in real-time, allowing them to trigger meaningful and relevant customer communications.
Centralising insight and engagement at all touchpoints, will improve customer satisfaction, operational efficiency, and information security.
The total impact of the coronavirus on UK businesses is unclear at the moment. Right now, priorities are rightly with people’s health and keeping as many people up to date on developments and answering the questions that will help to ease their concerns. To help provide this kind of support, the steps above will help organisations to step up communication levels as contact centres continue under severe resource strain.