The Pandemic Effect: Your Business’ Role as a Consumer Lifeline

One in six people admits to calling customer service during the pandemic — just to talk to someone. This is just one of the many eye-opening facts in a report we released today.

In January 2020, before the pandemic hit, Genesys embarked on a new, bold vision: Experience as a ServiceSM. We recognized companies mostly use contact center technology to optimize the efficiency and effectiveness of customer experiences. It’s a reflection of looking at a contact center as a cost center. What’s missing is the power of empathy.

Delivering empathy leads to trust; trust leads to loyalty; and loyalty leads to faster revenue growth. Experience as a Service puts empathy into action at scale, enabled by data, artificial intelligence (AI) and new orchestration technology.

What we didn’t imagine when we launched our vision was how different our world would look just two months later. Empathy became our guiding principle: Listen and understand before you act — and learn from every action.

Because COVID-19 didn’t come with a playbook, listening was key: We listened to our customers who needed to enable their agents to work from home and who needed more capacity quickly to cover exploding numbers of interactions. We listened to our employees to understand the challenges they were facing, including home-office setups, balancing caregiving, mental health and other concerns, to make decisions and provide resources with their wellness in mind.

Listening to consumers who are on the receiving end of experiences enabled by our technology was also a priority.

That’s why we partnered with a research firm to understand how consumers are feeling in light of the pandemic — and if that has impacted the way they want to connect with businesses.

The results: “The connected customer experience,” a report that reveals a decline in the human condition over the past year. We found that two in five people feel less connected now than before the pandemic. And their mental and physical health is deteriorating because of it. Consumers are looking to connect with others for their wellbeing and, as we learned, are even turning to customer service to fill that need.

We often think about the role contact centers play in utilitarian terms — enabling consumers to pay bills swiftly or check an order status, for example. Benign transactions. This year served as a reminder that, for many people, contact centers are a lifeline.

And it’s not just those companies that fulfill a social purpose (many that we have supported with our products during the pandemic), such as suicide prevention, food banks, unemployment lines and many others. It’s financial institutions that may hold a person’s lifetime wealth; it’s airlines providing passage to visit a sick loved one; it’s insurance carriers that become the difference between financial devastation and inconvenience after an accident.

One of the biggest takeaways from the report for me was that it underscored the role businesses have in helping people feel more connected. Understanding how your customers feel and how they want you to interact with them provides you the opportunity to deliver experiences that give them what they’ve been missing the most: an empathetic connection.

Our research not only proved that consumers want empathy. The data shows they want it even more than fast and speedy service. While empathy in customer service is something that’s been talked about for a long time, it’s been difficult for businesses to put it into action.

Companies are getting better at tailoring specific engagements for individuals; however, many are still challenged to provide empathetic experiences. To be clear, empathy doesn’t mean your service representatives are nice, express sympathy if a customer has a difficult issue, or profusely apologizes for mistakes. Empathy means delivering proactive, predictive and personalized experiences at scale. When technology enables empathetic connections, it means customer service agents don’t need to ask for data they should already have access to (such as your customer history) they understand the context of an interaction as part of a long-term relationship, and they predict the next-best action to learn from every customer touchpoint. With this approach, every customer can feel as if they’re your only customer.

For some customers in moments of need, fast service by a bot is empathy. For others, it’s quick routing to the right agent. Enabling your employees with tools that give them history and knowledge to help customers efficiently is empathy. Knowing what empathy means in every customer situation — and delivering on it every time is Experience as a Service.

I invite you to read our report, “The connected customer experience” for more information on how to put empathy into the core of the customer experiences.