How to stay ahead of the digital curve and thrive in a post-COVID world

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How to stay ahead of the digital curve and thrive in a post-COVID world
Data democratisation is key to enabling a holistic understanding of the customer and their needs.
Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

How we work, live and play have changed in ways unimaginable since the pandemic took place over a year ago and this, too, applied to how businesses of all sizes operate.

The forced lockdowns have led to a ‘digital tipping point’, whereby employees embraced the use of technology to enable remote working, customers resorted to online channels to shop and organisations leaned on digital tools to keep their operations afloat and stay connected with their employees and customers.

75 per cent of decision makers Zendesk surveyed in a recent study said that COVID-19 has indeed accelerated technology adoption for their organisations, with a quarter of them saying it’s fast-tracked the process by more than four years.

The shift to digital has influenced the needs and expectations of customers today, making customer experience (CX) paramount more than ever before. With vaccine roll-out underway and as we gradually make our way into a post-COVID world, organisations looking to future-proof their operations must ensure they have the tools and processes in place to deliver seamless customer service.

The big question is, what should businesses do to stay ahead of the digital curve and win CX

1. Make your data accessible

Data democratisation is key to enabling a holistic understanding of the customer and their needs. In a post-COVID world, data democratisation represents the gold standard by breaking down traditional information silos and allowing for more insightful, agile decisions to be made across all levels and functions of an organisation.

Meeting customer expectations has proven more crucial than ever before, and real-time insights have become increasingly critical. For many businesses, interactions with customers now happen solely online. Globally, we have seen a 33% greater support ticket volume compared to pre-pandemic, putting additional pressure on the customer service team to deliver quick, accurate solutions.

Customer support, for example, has become increasingly relevant as online sales have surged. Rather than having to place customers on hold, having access to all the available data relevant to a particular customer, coupled with the required training, would allow front-line employees to provide effective recommendations there and then.  For team managers and business leaders, access to real-time data would ensure they are best equipped to navigate the evolving operating landscapes. This is particularly helpful for companies looking to scale up their operations as Australia’s economy gradually rebounds and business confidence picks up.

2. Implement messaging across multiple channels

With increased digital usage, customers are using new channels to engage with customer support, so you need to make sure you have the right channels in place. Customers increasingly want companies to meet them where they are and expect easy, fast and personalised support experiences across messaging channels they use day to day – such as WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger. In fact, WhatsApp is outpacing all other channels with ticket volume and is up 219 per cent since the start of the pandemic.

Customers want to have the same kind of conversational, natural interactions they have in their personal lives. They want to be able to start a conversation in one channel and pick it up again in another without having to start over. To help businesses streamline their omni-channel offering, we have recently launched our Zendesk Suite – which combines all your channels in a unified experience, empowering your customers to choose how they want to communicate with your business.

Not only does this make it easier for your customers to communicate with you through the channels that are convenient for them, but it also makes it easier for your support teams to manage requests, ultimately setting your business up to offer seamless online experiences.

3. Dial up your CX investment

The rapid transition toward online engagement has reshaped what customers expect from service interactions, with 75 per cent of customers willing to spend more to buy from a company that offers great CX. Zendesk’s 2021 CX Trends research report reveals that consumers view customer experience as more important now compared to pre-COVID, highlighting that with experience top of mind for customers, investing in best CX tools and practices should be a business priority.

This sentiment is also echoed by businesses, with two-thirds of decision makers surveyed noting that investing in digital tech will help their business grow revenues. Areas of investment include additional new support channels, greater focus on managing customer data and increased investment in self-service and AI. Those that don’t invest in ramping up their CX capabilities proactively risk falling behind competition and having to play catch up later down the track.

Maintaining a digital-first mindset and ensuring you have these CX best practices in place is key to retaining your business’ competitive edge in a post-pandemic world. With these steps combined, you can have a holistic understanding of customers, all whilst having the tools and processes in place to deliver outstanding experiences at every touchpoint.

Steve Bray is Regional Vice President, Zendesk Australia and New Zealand.

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