Wake-Up Call for Customer Service: 3 Things We Can Learn from Current Events
How does a company maintain its normal operations in customer service even though direct person-to-person contact is “prohibited” from one day to the next? Due to the spread of the coronavirus, countless companies are currently facing this challenge.
The technical infrastructure is a key element in this context. It quickly becomes apparent how well prepared a company is to carry out customer consultations, sales, support and internal business processes digitally. This is a sudden change that has enormous consequences for e-commerce and its customer service.
In this blog post, you will learn:
- How the spread of Covid-19 is impacting customer service in e-commerce
- What challenges companies in the online industry are currently facing
- How artificial intelligence presents an opportunity for organizations to solve current problems
Everything Goes Digital: How Covid-19 Affects Customer Service
According to the German E-Commerce and Distance Selling Trade Association, almost 9 out of 10 online retailers have been impacted by the effects of the coronavirus. Accordingly, every second company expects a decline in sales.
However, not all companies are experiencing a downturn. Some industries are witnessing a sudden increase in orders and inquiries due to the impact of the coronavirus. The following concrete developments are currently causing drastic changes in e-commerce:
Enormous surge in online orders
Due to regulations preventing non-essential contact, the stationary trade has had to struggle with slumps in visitor numbers worldwide. In many industries, e-commerce remains the only sales channel. As a result, even companies for which online commerce was formerly only a sideline now use the internet to take orders and sell products.
While stores are closing, online trade is booming. Interest in electronic products for the home office in particular has surged. Recently, demand for technical equipment has risen significantly – and with it the share price of the relevant suppliers.
Online shops selling technical equipment are expecting a large increase in orders as well. Many well-known electronics stores are specially advertising products for “living and working at home”.
Strong demand for hygiene products
It is not only supermarkets that are seeing people react to this unprecedented situation by stockpiling products. Due to the high demand for health products, pharmacies are even reporting a doubling of sales.
Respiratory masks and hand sanitizers are sold out in many places. Since people’s mobility is also restricted, online pharmacies in particular are now experiencing an enormous increase in orders and inquiries.
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The internet now plays a central role in the consumer behavior of the population. Familiar conditions have changed abruptly, to which many people are reacting with uncertainty.
Customers are increasingly contacting company support teams with questions:
- Are supply bottlenecks expected?
- When will a sold-out product be back in stock?
- Can the invoice be paid in installments?
People are spending more time at home thanks to weeks of lockdown. Many consumers want to make sure that their electricity and water suppliers can guarantee a secure supply. For this reason, many companies in the energy and water sectors are also observing a greater volume of contact in customer service.
New Challenges: 3 Insights for Customer Service
Although the current crisis holds many risks for customer service, it also presents opportunities for companies to emerge even stronger from the difficult economic situation.
Your company should derive the following lessons learned for customer service in order to proactively overcome the current challenges:
1. Technical infrastructure: Preparation is everything
How well is your company positioned for the digital future? Most companies probably wouldn’t have expected the answer to this question to emerge this year.
However, the consequences of Covid-19 clearly show that companies run into difficulties when internal processes, customer conversations and sales are completely dependent on human interaction.
Employees are busy adjusting to the changed conditions while service teams are getting settled into working from home. What’s more, there are absences due to illness. The number of customer inquiries received by the service center is increasing dramatically.
In order to avoid time pressures and delays at this point, your technical infrastructure must be able to support your agents. Artificial intelligence reduces direct human-to-human contact and helps to ensure your company functions normally by handling inquiries autonomously.
2. Scalability: The ability to react to sudden changes
DThe biggest management problem currently facing customer service in e-commerce is not the fact that more inquiries are coming in every day. Under normal circumstances, this challenge could easily be solved by increasing the number of employees to handle the increased workload.
However, the difficulty with Covid-19 is that companies had to prepare for such an increase within just a few days, which made it difficult to react sufficiently to the sudden changes. The solution to this problem is to build scalability into the way your customer service operates, giving your company leeway in terms of the number of employees.
With the help of intelligent automation, you will be able to deal with sudden increases or decreases in the number of tickets in the customer center in a less frantic manner. Solutions based on artificial intelligence make it possible to process enormous amounts of data within a very short period – regardless of the volume and without being under any time constraints. This reduces the workload of your employees and enables almost unlimited scalability.
3. Reachability: Ensure communication on all channels
Complicated working conditions, increased sickness levels and more insecure customers who need quick answers to their questions: traditional channels (telephone, email) are heavily overloaded.
The result: overwhelmed service teams that cannot cope with the flood of new tickets. This leads to long waiting times, some inquiries being easily overlooked due to the time pressure and, in the worst case, remaining unanswered. In turn, this has a long-lasting negative effect on the customer experience and image of your brand.
Under these circumstances, the most important function of your customer center, namely to stand by your customers and provide them with the right information at all times, begins to falter.
The experience of customer service departments in the wake of current events clearly shows that teamwork between humans and AI holds enormous advantages for companies. This is because intelligent automation helps your business to successfully overcome this unprecedented situation without jeopardizing the availability of support.
Artificial Intelligence Makes it Possible to React Effectively to the Crisis Situation
The spread of the coronavirus is putting individuals and companies around the world to the test. Current developments also make it clear that intelligent process optimization offers inestimable potential for strengthening companies economically and securing them against unforeseen events.
With the help of AI solutions, companies not only have the opportunity to proactively tackle the current challenges; they can also better prepare for the future. The current crisis provides the best argument for making investments into digital transformation that were due anyway. For many companies, however, this comes earlier than originally planned.
The parlamind automation package helps you to successfully manage the new requirements of the coronavirus crisis. With AI Quick Solutions, you remain available around the clock and can now get to grips with the increased volume in customer service. Using FAQ automation, you can also provide your customers with the most important answers to the coronavirus crisis at any time.
parlamind is a Berlin-based start-up for Artificial Intelligence in Customer Service. The parlamind AI understands incoming messages from customers on a semantic level and thus determining intents, specific content and the mood of the customer in the message. Equipped with these skills, the AI engages in customer dialogue independently and quickly carries out the associated processes. Latest research results from the fields of computational linguistics and machine learning form the basis for the continuous further development of parlamind AI technology. parlamind has been part of the 4TechnologyGroup since July 2018. The 4TechnologyGroup is an association of technology companies from the communications and AI sector. Today companies worldwide in the industries of e-commerce, information and communication technology, energy management, logistics and financial services use parlamind’s AI solutions. More than 20 employees work continuously on the further development and marketing of this unique technology “Made in Germany”.
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