How to Scale Digital Engagement to Thrive in a Pandemic World

Since the COVID-19 pandemic started, customer service volume has skyrocketed for industries like banking, insurance, retail, and government as customers seek help to readjust their loans, look for mortgage assistance, get financial counselling, or manage unemployment claims. Long wait times and heightened anxiety are difficult for both customers and agents alike.

Contact center operations don't make it easy to do the right thing for agents and customers. Many companies operate channels in silos that force customers to restart their conversations with live agents when they switch channels, from self-service to chat or to a voice call, for example.

As you optimize customer service operations after the initial shock of the pandemic, continue to support your customers on digital channels by enriching and bridging experiences by doing the following:

  • Develop self-service content and guides. Start by identifying and addressing the 20 percent of repetitive issues that cause 80 percent of inquiries or the costliest inquiries that have repeatable resolutions. California's Department of Motor Vehicles, for example, now offers self-service guides and FAQs to citizens to deflect in-person appointments.
  • Invest in end user experience management tools. Prompt customers through process flows with tip bubbles and through complex user experiences with step-by-step guidance.
  • Bring chat and co-browse to your digital properties. With minimal coding, you can give customers the option to chat or co-browse on your digital properties (web, mobile web, or mobile app) to connect with agents who can visually guide them through forms or complex processes, like benefits applications. Display these options next to your phone number to give customers the option to engage over digital channels. Change voice agents' scripts to enable them to educate customers about these digital engagement options.
  • Add digital voice and call back to your digital properties. Allow customers to engage with you via digital voice (VoIP) from your website, mobile website, or mobile app. This allows customers to move between channels based on the complexity and emotion involved in their inquiries. Give customers the option to schedule a call back at a convenient time for them.
  • Bridge voice and chat. When customers are in queue in an interactive voice response system, offer them the option to chat with an agent. Customers receive a link via SMS to start a chat with an agent, which preserves their time. In addition, pass all customer data you capture in the IVR to the chat agent so customers can resume the conversation where they left off.
  • Implement right-sized chatbots. Today, there's a large difference between answer bots that use deterministic dialogues and present answers from a content store and those that embed deep learning for natural language and can handle complex interactions. You can start by quickly deploying answer bots to handle basic customer questions and escalate complex issues to live chat agents; for example, governments continue to roll out bots to update citizens on shelter-in-place policy changes.

These are the first steps to supporting customers over digital channels. Take time to look further and use the forcing function of the pandemic to rethink and digitize core processes in a way that will make you more nimble to react to changing business conditions.

Kate Leggett is a vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research.