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Your customer journey maps all just became obsolete. Everything from the channel that your customers are likely to use, to how they are using it, has changed in the last month. With people leaving their homes less, the data is showing that the additional time people have for digital is being spent with video subscription services and self-service digital experiences.
Adapting to a new customer journey
However, it is unclear how long COVID-19 will continue to affect society in this way. This puts businesses in an awkward position. You need to acknowledge your customer’s new journey, but how much effort should you spend responding to these changes which may not remain constant after physical distancing is no longer needed? First, let’s look at the data.
Overall usage of digital services is way up among all age groups, and not just people streaming Netflix. There is a pervasive trend of people trying to find the “digital twin” of the physical activity or service they used before the pandemic.
Usage of Finance Apps is up 20% in the US, compared to before COVID-19. Lack of ability to visit bank branches is likely one factor driving this. People who have never deposited a check via their bank app are now being forced to adopt this behavior. It remains to be seen how many will stick with this behavior.
Photo Credit via App Annie
Albeit to various degrees, physical distancing began around the second week of March in major cities in the USA. According to the European Journal of Social Psychology, it takes on average 66 days for new habits to become automatic but can happen as quickly as after 18 days. Combine that with the fact that about 95% of Americans are under stay-at-home orders now. Once your customer forms a new habit of looking for the ability to digitally self-service feature before calling your call center, that is not going to change. We believe that these changes will create new, long-term habits and mental models around how people expect to interact with brands.
View this as an opportunity to create the future you want for your business. Build the digital experiences that meet your customers’ needs now, during the pandemic, while also setting your business up for a future that involves much less reliance on humans in call centers, because your customers and prospects are currently forming new habits around digital self-service.
Renewed engagement through self-service
Refresh your journey maps with the societal changes we have seen from COVID-19 in mind. When you are creating your strategy for the post-COVID-19 world, we believe that people who were choosing not to use digital self-service will have new habits formed around self-servicing. All the major banks and airlines have made a push to have their customer’s self-service. As we move into the second month of these warnings being plastered on every banking and airline app, you can expect a permanent change in your customers’ thought processes: rather than immediately look for a number to call, more people are going to start to look for the self-service feature first before they call. You are probably seeing examples of this in your life:
– People who have never had groceries delivered are forced to use grocery delivery apps like PeaPod, Instacart or Amazon Fresh.
– People who prefer using bank branches are forced to use their bank’s digital self-service experience.
– People who had to call an airline to cancel or reschedule travel are forced to use the airline’s digital self-service experience instead.
– People who preferred to do their shopping in-person, have been forced to do more shopping online.
Photo credit via Jared Johnson, Kin + Carta
You have an opportunity now to re-imagine how your customers resolve issues and get questions answered:
Dust off the previous business-cases you’ve built for chatbots because now is the time to add and expand the role of chatbots in your business. If you haven’t already experimented with chatbots, now is the time to launch your first MVP chatbot. If you already have chatbots in place, expand their capabilities to include intents specific to COVID-19 issues, and the areas of customer friction you’ve identified on your new COVID-19 customer journey maps. If you are interested in expanding your business’ conversational user experience capabilities, we have seen a lot of success with Google’s Dialogflow.
Expand your call center’s capabilities to include virtual agents, agent-assist, and insights about your customers. Google’s Contact Center AI (CCAI) is best-in-class at delivering on these experiences.
Self-Service Digital Experiences
When your customer needs to make a change to their account, enable them to do that on their own through your website and app. Sometimes, a GUI is a better fit than a chatbot. While in the past, it may have made business sense to have your customers call in if they needed to make a change to their account that would only change rarely, use this as an opportunity to re-think where you draw the division between what is handled via self-service and what requires calling customer service.
Smart Speakers, Siri and Google Assistant
After you have made some decisions around your chatbot and call center, you now have a better idea about what are the right customer capabilities to enable via virtual assistants like Siri and Google Assistant. However, if your goal is to save money, through other options above will usually have higher ROI, unless your goal is to generate marketing buzz, or differentiate your brand.
Use this opportunity to invest in your digital self-service experiences. The business-case around self-service usually included a cost-savings component because it’s expensive to have your employees handle customer requests through a call center, or by having your customers submit a form, which an employee needs to review. The business-case for digital self-service is now more than cost savings, it’s also about future-proofing your business against the rapid change in expectations and habits we are now seeing in customer behavior.
This article was originally published on the author’s blog and was reprinted with permission.