In March 2020, as the world shifted into lockdown and work-from-home, enterprises, employees and consumers created new habits quickly. The below is an interview with Omnisperience’s
Teresa Cottam, sharing insights from our experiences working with different industry leaders as they, their teams, and their customers adjust to the new remote reality.
: Hi Jake, thank you for joining us today. Could you tell us a few words about yourself?
I’m the vice president of marketing at Lightico, which provides solutions for large enterprises to manage remote transactions with customers all through customers’ mobile phones. This is especially relevant today, as storefronts are closing and businesses must manage both a remote workforce and a remote customer base.
How are enterprises adapting to these changes?
Enterprises are seeing a dramatic shift in customer behavior which is pushing change. Customers are no longer able to go down to receive services face-to-face, and don’t have the patience to move between five different channels.
What does this mean for ICT companies?
Companies have had to completely reorganize. On the first level, they’ve had to equip their teams with the relevant infrastructure so they can work from home. This can involve getting them computers, bandwidth, VPNs, working according to a security protocol, and so on.
On the second level, is enabling them to manage transactions in a more efficient and remote fashion. Whereas before, companies were able to spend a lot of time on the phone with each customer, now they’ve had to find alternative ways of servicing them. That could be self-service, automation, or tools that allow them to handle more complex transactions quicker and more efficiently. Companies also need to find a system that allows them to digitally collect customer documents and forms to accommodate the upsurge in demand for remote transactions.
How do ICT customers support their employees and consumers?
Thankfully, telecoms are seen as providing a critical service and continue to see surges in new customers. But the transition to remote working and servicing has its challenges. We are working very closely with our customers to see where we can be helpful. We see companies that are struggling to make the transition to a work-from-home infrastructure. We see a challenge in the availability of workers, who cannot come to physical locations. We see device challenges, where people who are trying to work from home may not have the infrastructure. Call centers are overburdened and feel everything falls on them, as there are no longer in-person locations that can handle customer requests. Bill reviews, order conversions, insurance policies, ID verification –– everything needs to be reevaluated in light of our new working environment.
Some telecoms are delaying their decision-making because of all the implications around working from home. Some are trying to hold onto their previous work methodology. Those that are making the move have really had to adapt to a different digital and physical dynamic.
But email, fax, and in-person interaction is no longer adequate. Imagine the submission of a utility bill, payment calculation, or signing off on terms. Despite some bumps in the road, we’ve seen a move towards more digital interactions both within the business community and among consumers.
They used to talk about this in terms of the impact on the customer experience, of the dangers of a choppy digital experience in terms of CX. But now, it’s not just about creating a better customer experience. For safety and business continuity reasons, it’s critical that we stay within the digital channel in the new context of the coronavirus.
These are unfortunate circumstances, but for an industry that’s been constantly digitally transforming, we’ll say for decades, this may be one of the biggest catalysts of digital transformation. It’s because we don’t have an option. We simply can’t do things sloppily, with physical paperwork and visits to branches. We must go remote. During these initial stages, we’re just handling the bare minimum of operations. But as we get accustomed to a new dynamic, we need to find solutions for efficient operations, and for adding the services that we need to actually continue life.
There’s a lot of terrible aspects about this period, but we can say that one of the benefits is that this is a call to arms to adopt the necessary tools for consumers and businesses. And the tools are mostly digital to enable them to work remotely.
Like you said, this represents a very big change in behavior. So people will adapt to this situation, and it will have a long-lasting effect on how they’ll want to interact with businesses going forward.
Undoubtedly. There’s obviously a significant fear right now that’s driven these changes in behavior. But we’ve seen that people are looking for digital solutions in many aspects of their life. People will still look for the human touch in certain circumstances, but for more mundane transactions, they don’t want to jump through all these hoops. This is going to be a point of no return. Once we have digitized and fixed some of these processes, consumers are not going to let us go back to the way things were.
And it’s not just you and me saying it. You also did this study with consumers, who were telling you as well that there’s going to be a long-lasting effects here. What are some of the highlights from the study that you did?
We did a survey of over 1,000 consumers to understand a little bit more about how they’re reacting to this new environment. The results are astounding. First, we understand that consumers are very concerned about their health and financial future, and they’re reluctant to go out and venture further than they need. Furthermore, we see that their consumption, when it happens, has to be digital and remote. People are more inclined to take digital steps, and more than two-thirds of the people we surveyed said they’re trying new digital behaviors.
We’re also seeing consumers who are on the lower-end of the income spectrum much more affected than higher-income individuals. They’re going to change their providers if they’re not able to access services digitally and remotely.
To call out a few statistics: we know that half of customers are unlikely to start a new sale if they have to go to a physical branch. And I’m sure that attitude is going to become even more prevalent. We see that consumers are concerned about any financial undertaking, but if they do take a service, they’re much more inclined to do it remotely. So 70% of consumers surveyed are using digital channels, such as apps and websites, to get things done –– much more now than prior to the coronavirus outbreak.
We also see that consumers are doing much of their work and errands remotely. They are equipping themselves with digital tools, and are much more inclined to make purchases from companies that offer such tools –– but they also have expectations. They expect their service providers to come towards them. 84% of consumers said they expect brands to find ways to maximize digital interactions. And in this instance, it’s to keep them safe. So whereas before it was just about convenience, now there’s a more urgent health layer to this.
What would be your top tips for telcos and other businesses at this time?
There’s a hierarchy of priorities. Infrastructure is the first priority, as companies have to maintain their operations. But it’s not just the stability of the operations, it’s the stability of the workforce, and a focus on “Is everyone OK?” If everyone’s OK and taken care of, then the question becomes, “Are employees equipped to be productive?”
The next priority is going to be a push to automation and self-service, such that customers can find solutions and make purchases independently. That will be without them coming to physical locations, but it could be through standard touchpoints, such as call centers, websites, and so on. We need to be more attuned to what customers are looking for, and what they need from us.
And then when they do rely on those contact centers, we see a huge spike in the numbers of interactions. We need to provide simplified work methodologies for our contact center agents and advisors. They’re in a different environment, and need the right tool set to manage all these complex interactions. So transactions that used to be done in one or two phone calls must now be done in one phone call. The ones that used to be done partially on a phone call, partially on a website, partially on an in-office visit must now be handled more efficiently than that. Of course, companies like ours are seeing a huge increase in demand for services because we equip their team to work remotely.
It’s taking care of the basic infrastructure, making sure that the teams are enabled to work, and then enabling customers to self-serve. And when they do need the support of call center agents, the agents need to have the tools to provide efficient and complete service remotely and digitally –– including forms, documentation, identification, and so on.