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    The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically impacted nearly every aspect of daily life for everyone around the world. What hasn’t changed is the need for businesses to continue to support their customers — albeit now from a distance. As a result, many enterprises have realized that to deliver the high touch, yet digital, interactions customers need and expect, they must dramatically accelerate their digital transformation plans.

    We knew that a shift must occur in 2020 in order for companies to deliver the types of interactions that lead to customer satisfaction and loyalty — and ultimately increased ROI. But clearly we could not have predicted just how critical the need for two-way, interactive, smarter conversations, would become. As a result of this pandemic, IT leaders at businesses of all sizes are faced with an unexpected opportunity to revisit their business continuity plans and response strategy. As they do so, it’s critical to prioritize and stay focused on what matters most — the customer experience.

    Keep the customer at the center
    Even before this crisis, consumers have been trying to tell businesses that they don’t want to simply receive communications, they want to have smarter conversations. They desire interactions that are digital-focused, interactive, relevant and timely. In fact, last year, 35 percent of consumers said that the companies they do business with need to improve the experience they provide — and that was pre-crisis.

    Now the need to receive accurate information quickly is more important than ever. Companies that can’t deliver highly personalized, interactions in a timely manner risk impacting customer trust and loyalty and eventually losing customers altogether to a vendor that better meets their needs.

    Reducing friction is table stakes
    Your customers are as busy and as taxed as you are right now. The demands this crisis has placed on families across the globe are tremendous and emotions are high. What you can do to ease these tensions is to make it as easy as possible for consumers to do business with your company. One way to do this is collect needed information from customers in the most efficient way possible and use that information to respond appropriately, quickly and via the preferred channels.

    The way you gather customer information sets the tone for that initial interaction and the ones that follow — during this pandemic and beyond. If your company still relies on paper or scanned PDFs the experience you are delivering is outdated and you are wasting your customers precious time. There is much room for improvement here. An EY report, for example, finds that just 18% of general insurance customers in the UK are communicated to solely digitally. It’s imperative that businesses transform their forms processes and shift to more efficient and meaningful adaptive interview-like processes. Asking intelligent questions can eliminate unnecessary fields and remove the need to re-enter information into a static form. Customers should be guided to either confirm known information or provide necessary details via the shortest route possible. All of these measures improve customer experience and speeds up processes — both of which are more critical today than ever before.

    What’s next
    There are a number of specific shifts enterprises can make to engage in more meaningful conversations across the entire customer lifecycle. And some need to be initiated sooner rather than later, now that digital transformation is no longer a “nice-to-have” initiative.

    As stated by customer experience futurist, Blake Morgan, “Change and venturing into the unknown can be difficult, but the benefits that come from creating a forward-thinking, customer-focused, digital company can be lasting. Perhaps this is the silver lining for businesses in the age of COVID-19. Forced change can be positive — for your employees, partners and customers.”

    As we work through this global challenge, building a stronger community that remains connected through smarter digital conversations is more important than ever.

    James Brown is CEO, Smart Communications.
     

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