Look for the Helpers: Technology's Role in Keeping Us Connected in Times of Crisis

By TELUS International - CX Marketplace posted 05-05-2020 12:00 AM


In this moment of crisis, when the majority of the population is self-isolating at home, technology is an even more vital tool for streamlining crisis communications between companies, their teams and their customers.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, IDG's 2019 Digital Business reported 91% of companies expressed some level of commitment to digital transformation. Now, some businesses' transformation plans that were slowly underway prior to the coronavirus outbreak have been accelerated due to social distancing measures and workplace closures.

As people adapt to the new reality of their daily lives, brands have an opportunity to further leverage technology to enable their teams and services. They are also now facing a unique testing ground for integrating digital tools, brand communications and online operations into real-world services. For instance, many businesses have had to create curbside pickup programs for online orders — an option that wouldn't even have been a consideration prior to the outbreak. Mastering the balance could spell the difference between going out of business and riding out the storm.

But for all brands, brick and mortars or not, the pandemic has put an enormous strain on customer support communications. Encouraged to stay at home, customers are turning to online shopping, virtual medical consultations and other digital services — including people who are not particularly tech-savvy.

For business owners, the more new digital support and social channels you introduce to your customers, the more customer queries you will receive. And as many businesses are operating with reduced staff, this puts an enormous strain on the ones who are left. That is why this is not only a time for innovative sales tools to help keep your business afloat, but also a time for strategic automation and effective self-service support. This is how technology can help businesses make it through the coronavirus pandemic.

Intelligent help when and where it's needed

Since the start of the outbreak, call centers and customer support lines across industries have seen an increase in call volume and wait times as travel plans get cancelled, businesses move online and support teams transition to working from home.

The situation has served to highlight the efficacy of self-service tools like AI-powered chatbots and intelligent FAQs to reduce the load on frontline agents, who can then be redeployed to focus on more complex issues. Technology used in this way can help brands boost overall customer experience (CX) by reducing wait times and offering simple and clear ways for customers to help themselves. It can also help drive cost-efficiencies for businesses, according to customer effort score data from Gartner. Low-effort interactions cost 37% less than high-effort interactions, which include channel switching and repeat interactions. Low-effort interactions can also cut repeat calls by 40% and escalations by 50%, says the report.

Babylon by TELUS Health is a prime example of this technology in practice. The application's AI-powered Symptom Checker asks patients questions about their symptoms to provide information on possible courses of action. Then it coordinates video-based appointments with Canadian-licensed family physicians, arming them with the pre-screened information, which gets patients through to a doctor more quickly.

Tools like these are becoming the new frontline for brands. But they also need human intuition to make sure they are sensitive to the current crisis. Feedback from customer support, for example, can help identify top questions and be used to update other self-service channels like FAQs, putting that insight front and center.

The ultimate goal is to make sure help is there when and where it is needed.