In 2020, customer service departments took a year-long roller coaster ride as brands struggled, shifted and adapted to meet new consumer needs. Although some organizations experienced huge increases in volumes while others suffered significant drops, most had to adapt aspects of their workforce models, operations, protocols, technology, and how they ensured the well-being of their employees.
Knowing that brands' abilities to provide excellent and differentiated customer experience (CX) will continue to grow in importance in 2021, we asked two TELUS International executives to share their predictions on what companies should focus on in the year ahead to stay ahead.
Michael Ringman: 'Invest in tech'
Michael Ringman, chief information officer with TELUS International, believes that success in 2021 will hinge on security, adopting a digital-first mentality and investing in cloud technology.
"Cloud technology has proven to be a key tool to provide team members and customers with unparalleled, seamless experiences no matter the working model," Ringman says. "It is secure, quick to deploy and allows us to be agile — and we don't see it going away any time soon."
According to a CIO survey conducted by Harvey Nash/KPMG in 2020, the number of IT leaders actively considering distributed cloud services doubled in 2020 to top 20%.
The same survey found that 47% of CIOs said investing in security and privacy is a priority during the pandemic and beyond. Ensuring that sensitive data is secure is one way brands can build trust and loyalty with its customers.
An "anywhere" operations model will be vital for businesses to emerge successfully from COVID-19, especially for those that plan to keep elements of their business decentralized. Cloud platforms enable this by giving team members access to work-required tools and technology from anywhere and everywhere. Cloud platforms also facilitate the delivery of seamless omnichannel experiences for customers using various channels during the course of their interaction with a brand.
A "digital-first" mentality will be a must in 2021, Ringman says. AI engineering will support organizations with the ability to scale reliably. Expect new AI opportunities to emerge, including those that deal with trust, transparency, ethics, fairness, interpretability and compliance issues. You can think of this as the "operationalization of AI accountability."
As many businesses will continue to support a primarily remote workforce well into 2021, Ringman believes that advanced digital tools like biometric authentication systems that use facial or image recognition technology will continue to gain traction this year. Particularly as privacy and data security remain top of mind, these types of digital solutions provide an additional layer of security for decentralized teams and notably, can be leveraged for both on premise and work-from-home settings.
Chuck Koskovich: 'Promote company culture'
As TELUS International's chief operating officer, Chuck Koskovich knows how to boost employee engagement and productivity. He believes that in 2021, the technology used to enhance operations will become both more customized and more advanced.
"This year will be unlike any work year we have experienced yet, with schedules, operations and procedures more fully adapted to the challenges and changes 2020 thrust upon us," Koskovich says.
Companies will find new ways to keep remote employees interacting and collaborating to help keep the culture of the business alive. A big piece of this will include providing team members with resources that help support their mental health and wellness, as working from home and other consequences from the pandemic continue to affect their health and well-being. For example, offering team members access to online wellness or meditation classes through apps or your enterprise social platforms can go a long way to supporting their mental, emotional and physical health.
Like Ringman, Koskovich predicts that companies will continue adapting "work from anywhere" business plans and operations to increasingly serve employees' needs and preferences. As we near the one-year mark of the rapid shift to work-from-home, companies may look to implement "no video conference Fridays" to mitigate video conferencing fatigue and burnout, and transition health and wellness resources from on-site to online.
Many major companies have already announced plans to keep remote work models in effect until late this year, while others will offer the option of working from home indefinitely. Whichever path they take, organizations will have to rethink their existing office footprint. Initial changes will likely include physically distanced desks and conference rooms, while the construction of outdoor meeting spaces may be part of a longer-term investment.
Virtual site visits
Virtual site tours for prospective clients will become the preferred method of sales, particularly as business travel continues to be on hold for most. If they haven't realized it already, companies will learn that they can successfully win and launch new client accounts completely virtually. They will need to become increasingly well-versed in leveraging all types of formats and technologies - from video to virtual reality - in order to bring the advantages of a partnership to life without meeting face-to-face.
A "must-have rather than a nice-to-have" according to Koskovich, digital transformation will rule the year to come. In 2020, companies rushed to reactively digitize their businesses as the pandemic uprooted traditional strategies. This year will bring entirely new expectations. More thoughtful and long-term digital transformation strategies will finally be set in stone, transforming industries and workflows and setting them up for years to come.
Digital business management and operations
Business management and operations will go completely digital as operations leaders are tasked with creating seamless systems based on the new way of doing business. From enabling employees to request time off to connecting with IT to troubleshoot work-from-home connectivity issues to conducting annual performance reviews, companies will embrace digital systems and technologies like automation and multi-platform service apps to facilitate more innovative and sustainable operating models.
As companies ready themselves to take on 2021, these trends will shape the way they do business. By picking up on last year's momentum and focusing on the tools and strategies designed to support teams and customers, brands will be enabled to deliver superior customer care.