Customer Service in the Times of COVID-19

Customer Service in the Times of COVID-19

September 8, 2021

COVID-19 has upended life as we know it. Customer Service is no different. Some states and countries have issued stay-at-home orders and in-person call centers have limited capacity to minimize the risk of exposure during the pandemic. Around 80% of staff are working from home, while inbound volumes of customer inquiries have increased by 161%.

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Example of a notice about longer than normal wait times that have become common

Gartner recommends that service leaders should promote digital channels more actively and some companies have moved altogether.

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Example of a notice about the move from voice to text from voice due to reduced call center operations

Here’s why text customer support is better than voice:

For customers

Now with increased support needs and fewer support agents, there’s a longer wait time. While waiting, you have to leave your work or responsibilities and be on hold while you get connected. Emails and chat messages do not have this problem.

You can also access contextual help information through an app and share screenshots of the issues easily through a text channel.

When customer service agents need to get assistance or confirmation from the other team members, calls are transferred, and once again you’re put on hold.

It’s easier for agents to view your transcripts, customer ID, and reference IDs in text communication. As a result, you don’t have to repeat information.

People prefer to use the channel that is most convenient for them. Another benefit is that it’s easier to explain something in writing because you have the time to organize your thoughts and you can edit the text.

For Customer Service Agents

You can attend to multiple customers at the same time and can use the waiting time from the customer to multitask since the communication is asynchronous.

You can leverage team collaboration offline to resolve issues instead of transferring calls between departments.

Customer Service agents can make use of macros/templates to quickly convey information for FAQs and common issues or ask the right clarifying questions.

On voice calls, often you might need to face an irate customer, which isn’t a pleasant experience. It is comparatively easier to process this in text communication.

Work is more flexible, which allows you to work remotely without any problem. You can take care of your children, family, and pets without much concern.

Since there is an overlap of family members or roommates working from home sharing the same space, voice communication is also more difficult.

For the company

Text customer support is more cost-effective than voice communication. Fewer agents can handle more inquiries at the same time.

You don’t need dedicated infrastructure to support text customer support. This allows for reduced infrastructure expenses and office expenses. All that is required is a simple ticketing system.

Moving from voice customer service means that you don’t need to worry about accents if you want to use the global workforce. Support can go 24x7, around the world.

Customer expectations for a response are higher for phone channels (51% expect < 5 minutes). The inability of the team to meet those expectations causes frustration. This leads to better customer satisfaction as expectations are met.

One downside to email or chat that has been mentioned is that it is difficult to read emotions through written communication. This is from both the customer’s end and the agent’s end. Emtropy has a way to identify customer emotions in text and be able to better understand the correct agent response to messages with different responses.

Text communication can lead to better data gathering and analysis to improve quality and draw insights on the type of issues being raised. This intelligence can then be funneled back into the product or operations team.

Transitioning to text customer support from voice makes sense on all counts, and the trend is clear for customers, agents, and companies.

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