I am speaking to business leaders, literally all the time right now and I am hearing that they are becoming overwhelmed by the overload of information relating to the Covid-19 outbreak, specifically what actions to take, how to keep their employees safe and of course themselves and their families. But they are also faced with another dilemma, this dilemma relates to work and specifically, how they can continue to service their customers when there is a pandemic taking place.
I have observed major industry conferences, being cancelled at great cost to the organisers and sponsors, leaders from global organisations, having to contend with a situation for which they have no precedent, we are inundated with the latest FTSE drop in the news and the daily updates on various countries and their response to tackling the virus, all compounding the fears of business leaders and their staff.
It is possible that up to one-fifth of employees may be absent from work during peak weeks...
Although data is still emerging, the Department for Health and Social Care state that “it is possible that up to one-fifth of employees may be absent from work during peak weeks. This may vary for individual businesses”, although these figures will be revised as further data becomes available. With a total of 32.54 million people in employment in the UK (Source: ONS), the absence of one fifth of the UK workforce is a significant risk.
Business leaders are being advised to consider putting in place population distancing strategies (such as encouraging greater home working, reducing the number of large-scale gatherings) to slow the spread of the disease throughout the population, while ensuring the country’s ability to continue to run as normally as possible.
In the context of customer experience, business leaders are looking to their CX leaders to come up with viable solutions on how they are going to deliver an uninterrupted service to their customers and cope with this scenario.
CX leaders in turn are struggling with having to juggle staff no shows, due to self-isolation or fears of symptoms that may or may not be related to the Covid-19, either way the result is that staff are not in work. Whilst customers at the same time are forced to stay at home and in some cases, with their school age children, where schools are shutdown, have more time to reach out to these businesses.
So how can digital technology help?
CX leaders have a number of options available to them, some of which are outlined below:
The availability of digital technology has presented many opportunities for the workplace and in essence, unshackled staff from their office. Some commentators have said that “we are waltzing into a new era of hyper-mobility: the anywhere office”. This exponential trend is fueled by a plethora of smartphones, laptops, tablets, the rapid increase in capacity of mobile technology. Furthermore, better enabling services are on the horizon, such as 5G connectivity.
Remote working has been used by some forward-thinking companies for some time, to attract the best talent, offer flexible working, increased creativity, an anywhere office, with a movement away from silo thinking. In an economy under pressure to contain Covid-19, an additional reason has been added to the mix. Necessity.
Empowering customers to self-serve
Providing your customers with the ability to easily solve their own problems, using tools such as AI, Visual IVR and others will ease some of the pressure on already struggling staff, providing these are put in place correctly. This becomes even more vital, when you have a large number of staff out sick. The reality is that many customers want to be empowered to find the information they need so they can do more on their own but they want the answers to be right first time, and the reality is, so do CX leaders.
Real time Digital team collaboration
Thanks to the cloud, the number of collaboration tools available has skyrocketed, and it’s easier than ever to experience the same unified interface at work, as remotely. When staff work via the cloud, they commonly access ‘living documents’ – shared files which can be updated by anyone in real time.” Flexible working is made more practical with unified communications (UC): a catch-all term for the integration of features including instant messaging, voice, audio and video services. In essence providing a suite of tools that can be accessed remotely, without compromising the customer experience, providing these are set up in the right way.
The benefit of UC is the opportunity for flexible instant connectivity regardless of whether colleagues are “in the office”. A single team member can speak for the group, members can join and contribute to discussions as they occur, staff stuck at home can access the required information, regardless of location, time zone or any other factor.
The focus for many CX leaders is how to fully exploit the available digital technology and deliver an uninterrupted service to their customer whilst safeguarding the health and well-being of their staff.
Finally stay safe