Even before COVID-19, the ‘loneliness epidemic’ was recognised as a trans-generational dilemma. Rather than apportion blame on technology — the obvious scapegoat — we should be exploring how we can use technology to foster a sense of community and empathy, both inside and outside our places of work. It is the cornerstone of a truly customer-centric organisation in a world where the customer and employee experience — over shareholder return — is at the top of the list of healthy organisations. 

It is in times of crisis that a customer’s engagement with an organisation activates and fosters a sense of certainty and loyalty. Building connection and community is a key differentiator between human and machine. It is often where we, as people, find our happiness. It stands to reason we should prioritise human contact, understanding, and compassion, however much we automate our interactions.  

This rediscovery of what it means to truly connect and create communities has been a silver lining in a precarious and unpredictable world and is key to ensuring that customer experience remains at the core of effective business strategy and operations. Now, more than ever, consumers are considering not only who they spend their money with, but why they would choose to connect with an organisation, and are informed by their beliefs, values, and aspirations.  

In response to COVID-19, workforces had to pivot, scramble, and reskill at pace to enable full-scale remote working so both employees and customers were readied to manage the challenge. Customers turned to contact centres and digital channels to interact, which in turn put those channels under considerable pressure. Customer experience leaders emerged as key players in navigating and guiding their organisations through the emerging situation, striving to uphold high levels of satisfaction and engagement. 

Customer experience is a combination of many contributing factors. Great customer experience can't be achieved if employees are not enjoying their experience at work. Employees are engaged when they undertake meaningful, valued work, which is why employee experience is a critical contributor to successful customer experience. Andy Penn, chief executive officer (CEO) of Telstra elaborated on this in his speech to the Trans-Tasman Business Circle earlier this year. He stressed that the connection between how organisations treat and engage with their employees ultimately affects how their employees treat and engage with customers. That, he argued, is where shareholder value is elicited. 

Datacom’s Customer Experience (CX) Practice Manager, Chloe Cifelli, sees technology as a key enabler in supporting a more meaningful and effective connection.  

“Without a doubt, when we pressure test the customer experience organisations provide from various angles, invariably the best overall experiences are those where technology has been purposely applied to supporting both customers and employees allowing greater focus on the conversations that matter, creating value for the customer," Chloe says. 

Technology in isolation is redundant without human enrichment. Through training and collaboration employees are permitted and empowered to make the right calls, without robotically reading from scripts. An agent equipped with the right tools and training can solve customer problems efficiently and expeditiously, especially armed with the belief that they are trusted to do so by their employer. Customers, employees, and shareholders all revolve in a continuous cycle of empathy and trust. Indeed, businesses will only be successful for their shareholders if their customers, employees, and communities enjoy success too. 

How a customer interacts with an organisation online should be as close as it would be physically in-store or on a call. It should be a similar encounter with tools that are relevant, responsive, and user-friendly. This same methodology can be applied internally; agents should have intuitive support tools that are easy to navigate and quick to access.  

Whilst this has been a difficult landscape to negotiate, there is a real and present opportunity to re-engineer what great customer experience and employee experience mean. Putting customer needs first and formulating customer experience strategies founded on empathy and understanding will only equate to the right outcome for all stakeholders. 

Rachel Bywater is Datacom's Strategic Sales Lead for our Connect business. She is an industry expert and advisor on customer experience and operations process optimisation, automation, and outsourcing strategy.

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Technology
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Customer experience Contact centres