CX Lessons Learned from the Pandemic

Bad things sometimes happen; one measure of their impact is how people react to them. A current example of a bad thing is, of course, COVID-19. This pandemic has been, and continues to be, a tragedy that has wreaked havoc throughout the world, with no clear end in sight. The path to recovery is a vaccine; progress is being made, but when citizens of the world will be fully inoculated is yet known.

Many companies have retrenched or are essentially sitting on the sidelines, waiting for the pandemic to pass so that things can return to normal. Others have decided to incorporate the new reality into their business model and have changed their go-to-market (GTM) strategies to respond to changing times. And many companies have done some of both.

While we hope that all individuals and companies come through the pandemic safely, DMG believes that those that have modified their behavior to adapt to the current realities are going to be better positioned to succeed once COVID-19 has passed. Changes in consumer activities driven by the pandemic are here to stay, although they will continue to evolve over time. Below is a list of a few customer experience (CX) concepts and practices that companies should be applying now as they will help them through the pandemic and beyond:

  1. Agility is a fundamental operational tenet. This applies to all areas of a business: GTM strategy, management of employees, products, customer service, etc.
  2. A flexible workforce is essential. This means different things to different people, and that is the point. No single employee model works; companies that want to be employers of choice must be open to new and different approaches.
  3. Digital is here to stay. While preferences for specific digital channels come and go, digital has become a primary interaction vehicle, and it's going to remain this way for the foreseeable future.
  4. Most everything that can be done in person can be done digitally, when it comes to commerce. When medicine, which has become commercialized, moved to telemedicine as a primary delivery tool, the final barrier to digital service fell, and there's no turning back. (Clearly, there are still many situations where people need to go to hospitals or their care providers, but there are even more scenarios where telemedicine has proven to be highly effective, particularly when supported by input from digital channels.)
  5. Video is an essential channel in the world of CX. Due to bandwidth requirements and personal preferences, video, which has been around longer than many other channels, had a difficult time breaking through the digital divide. Video has turned into a core business and personal tool for meeting with associates, friends, and family.
  6. Phone calls are not going away. Customers want to be able to interact with businesses in their channel of choice and pivot from one to another, but their options must include the phone. When something is highly sensitive and/or emotional, people still want to talk to live agents.
  7. Self-service is the channel of choice. Consumers are happy to use self-service solutions, as long as they work and provide the information and answers they need on a timely basis. The advent of artificial intelligence (AI)-driven conversational self-service tools is changing the service landscape for the better.
  8. Contact centers need to undergo a full digital transformation. The vast majority of contact centers are still operating as they did 10 or 20 years ago, although most have added email, and possibly chat, as service channels. Companies that want to deliver outstanding customer experiences must meet and interact in whichever channels customers want. Adding a few channels is a limited view of transformation, and it has proven ineffective during the past few months.
  9. Contact center systems and services are better delivered from the cloud. The pandemic has shown the flexibility, agility and adaptability of the cloud. All contact center systems are available via the cloud delivery model. While there are thousands of companies still using on-premises solutions, which will continue to be the case for a long time, the cloud is becoming predominant.
  10. The CX and customer journey must improve. Customers are no longer willing to tolerate poor service. Gone are the days of captive customers and clients. Customers consider all touchpoints to be part of a holistic customer journey and do not distinguish between operating departments, as companies often do. It's time for companies to start thinking like their customers.
  11. Companies that want to deliver an outstanding CX must put the needs of their workers first. This concept has been discussed for decades; it's time for companies to transform words into actions.

The lessons from the pandemic are just starting to emerge, and there will be many more insights. However, the first point on this list, the need for companies to be agile and responsive to changing times, is the most overarching, and it's a necessary step for achieving all of the other goals.

Donna Fluss, president of DMG Consulting, is an expert on contact centers, analytics, and back-office technology. She has 30 years of experience helping organizations build contact centers and back-office operating environments and assisting vendors to deliver competitive solutions. She can be reached at