Tuesday, 27th October 2020

The role of technology in navigating the unknown

How businesses can show empathy during a crisis. By Daniel Bailey, VP EMEA at Zendesk.

As the coronavirus pandemic sweeps the globe, customer service agents everywhere are having to rapidly adapt to manage ticket surges, customer cancellations, refund demands and more, amidst increased market – and job – uncertainty. All while working from home, often with limited access to their tried and tested support structure.


In looking at the impact of the pandemic on customer support teams, Zendesk’s Benchmark data indicated that support teams in EMEA saw a 16 percent increase in companies’ average weekly ticket volume from the end of February of this year to the beginning of May. At a global level, the trends show that more customers are turning to chat and messaging channels, with total tickets during the same period are up 101 percent over WhatsApp, 34 percent on chat, and 15 percent through direct messaging on Facebook and Twitter.

Technology is playing a major role in helping service agents to navigate these unprecedented challenges, so they can provide an empathetic experience to anxious customers during this period – one that allows them to feel heard and understood.

So, how can businesses best employ it to support their employees, so that customers continue to receive the best service?

Continue training virtually and build your knowledge base

Eighty-seven per cent of those surveyed for the Edelman Trust Barometer 2020 say that customers, employees, and communities are more important than shareholders to a company’s long-term success. If looking after agents and customers is paramount to shoring up future business prospects to the benefit of everyone, what tools and training can we give service agents during times of crisis?

Agents need a combination of hard knowledge – how to navigate a ticketing system, for example – and soft knowledge, about how to relate and connect to customers, especially during this difficult time. Be intentional about showing agents – through video or call recordings – what “great” looks like with a specific situation or scenario, to help them to fully understand the concept and expectations.

What’s more, teams that practice new skills before they’re “on the field” perform better, as practice repetitions create the muscle memory needed for knowledge and skill retention. One method is for agents to use an online tool, such as Lessonly, that has practice scenarios ready for them to tackle.

Automation also plays a critical role in taking the pressure off agents, by linking customers with already available information on a company’s website. A strong knowledge base that is getting updated regularly is therefore key – not just for customers, but for agents to get consistent prompts, flows and information.

Automate Repetitive Activities

Machine learning and Artificial Intelligence (AI) can be incredibly helpful in eliminating simple and repetitive activities, so that agents can focus on solving more complex problems. A large amount of AI has been used for resetting passwords, for example. A simple activity, but one that can take up a large part of a support team's day.

Together, machine learning and AI allow agents to have more capacity and knowledge and to be empathic at the right time. That is, when a customer has already gone through the initial and automatic stages of service and is upset about not having yet found the solution to his problem. When the agent comes in to provide support, it can create a lasting impact when the conversation is approached with patience, kindness and a collaborative spirit to identify and resolve these complex requests, especially in adverse situations.

GoCardless, a fast growth fintech company is using AI to automate repetitive queries and provide customers with answers to their questions, without having to get in touch in the first place. In this way they are reducing pressure on their service agents, who can then provide a better quality of service to those who really need it.

“Since launching our Help Centre and increasing our support articles from 11 to over 900, in multiple languages and localised for certain regions, ticket volumes are increasing at a much slower rate,” explains Daniel Mooney, Director of Customer Success at GoCardless. “Our customers want to find the answers to questions themselves and to have content they can look at to help them solve their issue quickly. It has now become their default tool for understanding how GoCardless works.”

Businesses that continue to serve customers efficiently and with empathy - even during the major disruption caused by the ongoing pandemic - will inspire loyalty and advocates long after it is over. By supporting our customer experience agents with best in class technology, we can help to make their jobs easier and their interactions more successful.

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