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Life under COVID-19 has changed in nearly every way, and that change in culture has called for a crucial transformation in customer experience. To get a better understanding of how, we polled 4,000 consumers from the US, UK, France and Germany on what they think of CX in today's world. What we discovered will help organizations tailor their strategy to better meet the needs of today's consumer.

In this Twitter #MitelChats discussion, we explored the findings of this survey, talking to Mitel CX experts Shameem Smillie and Matthew Clare along with CX tech analyst Jon Arnold.

How is Covid-19 accelerating trends in customer experience?

COVID-19 forced the majority of the globe home in isolation and several regions are now back in lockdown for the second wave. Now more people than ever are choosing to use other means like calling ahead, seeking online support, and using chat and touchless tech to interact with businesses. At the same time, higher unemployment rates mean people are spending less. This has put the onus on businesses to set up a customer experience that not only meets consumer needs quickly and intuitively, but also keeps everyone safe and puts them at ease. In the meantime, contact centers have moved their agents home into a purely remote environment—an unprecedented setup ripe with challenges and new processes. Add to this the influx of call center queries and suddenly there's a greater need to rely on AI and chatbots to offset the volume.

Analyst Jon Arnold, who specializes in CX, says self-service is key. Enabling customers to easily find answers and support on their own solves a world of challenges at once. And this way when agents do get on the phone, they can create meaningful interactions that build customer loyalty.

What are businesses doing to adapt to the modern, mobile consumer?

With a remote workforce running things from home and higher demand on the call center, the challenge is now about using resources wisely and harnessing technology to extend those resources. Over 40% of those surveyed said their use of online customer service has increased this year. Of that number, more than 70% said they'll rely on digital options more going forward. Examples like Laithwaites Wine and North Yorkshire County Council are great examples of retail and government organizations that stepped up their processes, like adding chatbot solution, to meet their constituents and customers where they needed them most.

Mitel partner Olive Communications said they're seeing more businesses adopt an omnichannel approach to their contact center. "Customers prefer web chat and messenger apps to engage with brands," they tweeted. "Unifying all cross channel / device engagements for agents is an added bonus."

Mitel is also seeing companies change their HR policies to accommodate the new working environment. Companies are actively recruiting agents from outside their local region.

Why do companies fall short in providing good CX?

The Mitel study found that "consumers say good #CX is characterized by friendly, helpful, knowledgeable consumer reps (55%); responsiveness and fast service (45%); and communications that informs every step of the way (35%)." On the other hand, "bad" CX was generally defined as an inability to meet the customer's needs in good time, whether that's waiting to reach a service rep or receiving goods. Organizations that fail to deliver a good CX demonstrate to their customers that CX isn't a priority. "If you're not competing on #CX, you're competing on price and racing to the bottom," said Matt Clare. Jon Arnold agreed, saying there's still "a lot of old-school thinking out there", with companies not really seeking to really understand CX.

The procrastination is twofold, stemming from fear of the unknown and an unwillingness to invest in what they don't know. Some are fearful that bots will replace much-needed jobs, unaware that it's more about using them to support and enable their agents.

What's ahead in CX in 2021?

Participants said they expected the next year to herald another mini-leap of adopting the available technology and making the foray to update their technology or try something new. "Definitely more automation to take the pressure off staff and enabling more self service," tweeted BritannicTech. The longer we have to spend in isolation, the more important it will be to make sure CX is pointed at the remote methods customers need to engage with and agents need to be motivated with. "It's a shame it took a pandemic," said industry commentator, Dominic Kent,"but brands now know the importance of CX tech."

Based on the trends happening today, it's likely that many businesses will keep their contact center remote. "It lowers operational costs, and can allow many to use those savings to up their CX ante and adopt new technologies to differentiate themselves," said Matt Clare.

This also will require HR to support remote workforce in new ways that empathize with their new challenges and needs. "I really do think that company policy and culture will need to be revised as these working styles change." said Mitel's Ryan Smith.

Regardless of what challenges come up, it always helps to be optimistic. Matt Clare is rooting for another kind of routine change, and some good news from pharmaceuticals:

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