Today, every leading business in every business sector has one thing in common: they understand the importance of building emotional connections with their brands to drive profitable growth.

Meeting customer expectations should always be a business priority – whether during a crisis or not. So what steps is your organization taking to ensure it’s still delivering a positive customer experience once its Business Continuity Plan is activated?

Today, every leading business in every business sector has one thing in common: they understand the importance of building emotional connections with their brands to drive profitable growth.

Brands that have mastered the art of engaging with their customers on an emotional level not only have lower churn rates, they also have higher levels of customer loyalty and can count on a greater average customer lifetime value.

This is because emotionally connected customers buy more products, recommend a brand more often and, as long as the engagement remains positive, they tend to be less price sensitive.

Delivering a consistent CX is the key to loyalty

Emotional engagement comes from delivering a consistent customer experience (CX) – one that is always in line with or greater than customer expectations. This can be through simple things such as ensuring first contact resolution regardless of which channel a customer is using, to having a great enough understanding of each customer to be able to perfectly target special offers and rewards knowing they reflect that individual’s tastes.

Delivering such CX levels is part and parcel of business as usual operations, indeed, it’s usually a priority. But what about when disruption strikes? How much of a priority is CX given as part of your Business Continuity Plan (BCP)? For example, does your BCP highlight critical touchpoints that must remain operational – and how to operate them – in order to maintain a genuine connection with customers?

How will your CX suffer in the event of disruption?

As the coronavirus impacts on service and solutions providers across the globe, this is no longer a theoretical question. Consumers are increasingly concerned about the potential spread of the virus and its impact on public health. At the same time, businesses are increasingly having to consider how they will operate if they experience a loss of workforce due to a need for self-quarantine or sickness.

When emotions are driving consumer decision-making, brands need to use CX to show they recognize how customers are feeling and to align to their expectations in what can only be described as a true time of need.

Are you ready to meet customer channel shift?

In recent weeks, many of our clients have experienced significant volume shifts across contact channels. We believe this is a direct result of consumers in different parts of the world adjusting their shopping habits and daily routines in line with the perceived risk of contracting COVID-19.

To align with this changing behavior and to start using CX to build long-term loyalty, brands should be planning ahead now, anticipating how various scenarios could impact customer behavior and taking steps to meet customer expectations as contact channels shift or demands change.

Anticipating and responding to customer needs in the moment demonstrates your commitment to the customer and builds trust. For example, several internet providers anticipating a shift to greater home working within their customer bases in response to the risk of infection have announced a temporary halt to data caps or a reduction to introductory service fees.

Time to anticipate changing customer behavior

Many businesses can anticipate a spike in customer contacts as coronavirus continues to spread. Health insurance providers can anticipate increased inquiries about coverage while travel and hospitality providers should anticipate increased contact volumes driven by the need to reschedule or cancel travel plans.

Often assets such as your website are the primary touchpoint and can play a pivotal role in reducing contact volumes where the contact is simply creating long wait times rather than adding value to the brand or the customer experience. Make sure all information and, in particular, FAQs are up to date.

Likewise, as consumers become more and more social in their interactions, be certain that your social media and community management teams have all the information they need to proactively respond to the most frequently asked questions or to build campaigns aimed at educating and informing the customer base before they decide to reach out.

This extends to self-service too. Update knowledge bases and if your brand leverages digital agents, such as chatbots or voicebots, are they calibrated to recognize and respond to these new question types?

Making an emotional connection has never been so important

But even with the best and most up-to-date self-service systems, in times of heightened emotion, brands also need to recognize customers will want to speak to a person, whether via live chat or on the phone. You have to accept this new emotional moment of truth and have everything in place to manage these volume spikes.

This could mean training existing staff across functions so they can resolve a greater number of issues, or working with your outsourced service provider to add the right number of additional agents to your campaigns.

And don’t forget, even in these emotional situations, leveraging technology can enhance this human experience. It could be through the use of Visual IVR systems or automatic call back to reduce call wait times, or features such as our own deflect to Messenger tool. It enables customers on hold to move from voice to a chat on Facebook Messenger within 15 seconds.

Furthermore, all of this technology is easy to implement and will have a real impact on customer satisfaction.

Can you manage customer expectations with a depleted workforce?

As the risk of infection spreads across the globe, one of the biggest challenges to business caused by the coronavirus pandemic is the impact of increased staff absenteeism whether as a result of associate sickness, self-quarantine, the need to support for sick family members or care for children during school and childcare facility shutdowns.

This will mean putting in place a plan that can help you keep your CX in line with expectations during any loss of workforce.  It’s also why we have made a Business Continuity Planning Loss of Workforce Planning Template available to support our clients as they plan for the potential impact of the coronavirus on their business. Be sure to include any outsourced services in your Business Continuity Planning.

As a leader in customer experience, Sitel Group understands and prioritizes the delivery of a best-in-class experience for your customers – which is especially important for your brand in times of heightened emotion.

While we hope for the best possible outcome – one with an absolute minimum of personal and business disruption related to the coronavirus – we will always plan to be ready should the worst occur.

Does your outsourcing partner have the right solution?

Over prepared is always the best solution for business continuity. With this approach in mind, we are in close conversation with our clients to discuss business continuity planning and, where possible and appropriate, have moved at least a percentage of their contracted support to our Sitel at Home solution.

Because it is powered by a virtual network of thousands of tenured agents ready to step in at a moment’s notice, Sitel at Home offers the additional resiliency needed in these types of situations. Sitel at Home is built with business continuity and resiliency in mind whether that is the ability to effectively manage seasonal spikes, manage a product recall, respond to a natural disaster or even prepare for the risk of infection.

To support our clients with business continuity planning during this unprecedented time we have created a resource for sharing tools and information. Please visit www.sitel.com/business-continuity-management/


Martin Wilkinson-Brown

As Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) for Sitel Group, Martin Wilkinson-Brown leads the Global Marketing and Communications team to drive marketing strategies, enhance the group’s go-to-market offerings and provide innovative customer experience management solutions.