PwC: agile operations will be crucial for success (COVID-19)
Agility to work alongside the COVID-19 pandemic is crucial for future success according to a global survey of top Chief Finance Officers (CFOs). As business leaders shift focus from survival to recovery a report from Pricewaterhouse Coopers (PwC) reveals redesigning the employee experience (EX) will be paramount.
According to the PwC survey, 63% of CFOs are looking to generate revenue by changing or refreshing their product and services as they navigate the new normal. More than half (52%) report they plan to make remote working a permanent option with plans to improve the experience for employees.
PwC’s COVID-19 CFO Pulse – Insights from global finance leaders on the crisis and response concludes: “Ultimately, they accepted that they’ll need to find a way to exist alongside, and thrive in spite of, the ongoing threat of COVID-19 in the months and possibly years to come. While bracing for a second wave of infection and working to enhance revenue streams, finance leaders will continue to prioritise agility as they navigate this new world.”
The report, which quizzed 989 CFOs from 23 countries, also highlights the following points:
- CFOs are most concerned about the effects of a global economic downturn (60%), a new wave of infection (58%) and financial impact on their company (47%)
- Most CFOs expect an effect on their bottom line with 53% expecting a decrease in revenue and/or profits of up to 25%
- A total of 75% of CFOs who say the increased flexibility developed during the crisis is a factor that will make their organisation stronger over the long term
- A total of 74% are confident with their shutdown protocols during a second wave
The global crisis has accelerated dramatic changes in the workplace. This now means redesigning and investing in the EX to ensure remote workers are well supported, feel safe and actively take part in collaboration and creativity. A focus on well-being should offer time off, mental health support and meeting people’s individual needs.
A good EX leads to a good customer experience, which then feeds back to employees fuelling a sense of purpose and satisfaction, creating a virtuous circle.
Three steps to developing the EX of the future:
- Focus on safety and well-being
According to PwC’s survey, more than seven in 10 business leaders are strongly confident they can provide a safe working environment for their staff.
For remote workers this will mean two crucial points; the ability to work harmoniously from home and secondly, to ensure they are given the tools and support needed. Customer-facing employees, factory or field workers should operate within the new normal of safety measures.
CFOs are encouraged to adopt design thinking, a holistic process based on open listening and dialogue which aims to pursue change WITH employees not FOR them. This collaborative process would see employers going into the field. Ethnographic tools from observation to interviews will help define ways to improve future working practices.
Employers are also urged to take a humane approach during this difficult time as many people are now juggling domestic and work stress under one roof.
- Connect with remote workers
The pandemic is temporary, but the changes are likely to be permanent. Sudden status as remote workers may lead employees to question the whole notion of belonging to an organisation.
Therefore, it’s important to promote on a strong and positive culture, one that demonstrates connection to and care for employees. Tap into natural leaders who are good at connecting people and who can teach key cultural behaviours.
Aim to be transparent with employees to build and reinforce a more trusting relationship and a deeper bond. Don’t forget ‘gig workers’ as contractors serve a vital role in times of economic uncertainty.
- Identify positive experiences
Investigate how EX influences the customer experience. Apply design thinking principles by getting feedback from employees and customers to gauge how well they’re functioning under the pandemic-induced strain and what impact employees are having on customers.
Positive behaviours can then be spread throughout an organisation and negative ones eliminated. Key performance indicators can be introduced to track the adoption of those behaviours and allow a more agile response to future challenges.
Re-defining the economics of CX in the new customer journey
There’s no shortage of customer service channels for the enterprise to select from today. Regardless of the many new metrics that have emerged – such as customer success, or empathy – cost reduction is still a primary driver in selection criteria.
There are many articles dedicated to how companies can turn customer service and customer experience (CX) from a cost to a revenue centre. The problem is, if you stop there and don’t look beyond cost reduction, you’re limiting the scope for CX to become an even bigger economic contributor in the enterprise.
There is every opportunity for customer service and CX to significantly influence the front end of business, particularly amongst direct-to-consumer subscription-based products and services, such as popular streaming services like Netflix, Amazon, Disney+, as well as sports subscription services like DAZN.
In these products and services and others, there are new customer journeys that may drive business growth and revenue. They start earlier and may last a lifetime, so getting things right at the start of the journey is key so that customers have the best experience from day one.
Not only will this help in making customers less likely to reach out for issues-based support further down the line, but these customers will be much less likely to churn, and much more likely to take up new services as they are offered throughout the lifetime journey.
So, what does the new customer journey look like for these services?
Opportunity waiting for the likes of Netflix & Disney
While consumers may have previously regarded customer service as a way to mitigate the inconveniences in their lives, the customer journey is expanding in scope every day. Today there are many more touchpoints available that put CX in a position to drive revenue.
For one-off purchases, traditional CX deployments have not changed significantly in the past few years. However, if you look at the change in the CX relationships we’re seeing with subscription-based products and services, particularly media-based streaming services, it’s clear that these companies lead what quickly become very multifaceted relationships with their customers. These have serious potential to evolve over time for increased economic benefit.
For any sort of subscription-based business, customer lifetime value is paramount, and the requirement to actively manage a continued positive customer experience is critical.
Every interaction is an opportunity, and every data point is a chance to offer more value. Introductory offers can convert to longtime customers. Longtime customers may take up opportunities to upgrade to more premium products or services. They may also appreciate incentives to invite family and friends to become customers. Consumers who like a particular service, for example, may appreciate a recommendation for another similar or complimentary service.
It all starts with customer interaction, and the customer experience journey becomes an opportunity to strategically affect the user base and resulting revenue - which is a far cry from the limitations of call center cost reduction or churn metrics.
How do companies support the new customer journey?
More and more, customers look at the new customer journey as engaging with brands as part of their lifestyles. Many companies are making brand ambassadors available before the traditional customer journey even starts, which is a marked change from a purely transactional relationship associated with a one-off purchase.
These ambassadors, who are often independent users of products or services, are providing trusted pre-sales advice, and that same trusted advice can also function to nurture the customer journey in a subscription-based relationship. Call it ‘GigCX’ or ‘crowdsourced customer service’ or even ‘peer-to-peer customer service’ - it doesn’t matter.
The key is in providing impartial, trusted advice from real users. Think about it: who would you rather get advice from? Someone who has used a product or service extensively, or someone who has been trained to provide customer service surrounding that product or service?
For services such as streaming media, advice from trusted experts with real product know-how could be invaluable. This may not be limited to technical issues, such as what to do when you can’t access your favourite show, or how to access services across various devices. It could be parents helping other parents who are concerned about how to restrict adult content from child viewers, or simply customers who have similar taste in programming who can comment on the benefits of upgraded or premium products. The point is, these experts are easily available at any touchpoint in the customer lifetime journey, creating more chances to add value.
It’s also about tipping customers from ‘passive’ to ‘promoter’ in the NPS scale. It’s an opportunity to turn neutral customers who may be vulnerable to competitive offerings into loyal enthusiasts who will keep buying and referring others, fuelling growth. It may ultimately help drive even further revenue by creating customers that are helping to sell the brand itself.
And, while chatbots and automation may play a key role, they are often not able to handle the more complex support needed in the new customer journey. Conversational AI is rarely as conversational as it claims to be, and in the new customer journey, most companies are finding that a mix of automation and people-centric service is an ideal way to nurture the many new touchpoints created.
It’s no longer about trying to replace human capital with automation: it’s about orchestrating a uniquely personalised CX, and proactively engaging during the customer lifecycle to enhance the experience, and to create more long-term value.
At the moment, we’re only seeing the tip of the iceberg in terms of the power to affect the economics introduced by the new customer journey. We’ll no doubt see this evolve rapidly particularly amongst streaming companies as they use human-centric connections in CX to support the full potential of customer lifetime value.
About Roger Beadle
Roger Beadle is an entrepreneur and business leader who is reinventing how customer service is delivered via the gig economy. After establishing several businesses in the contact centre industry, Roger co-founded Limitless with Megan Neale in 2016. Limitless is a gig-economy platform that addresses some of the biggest challenges faced by the contact center industry: low pay, high attrition and access to new talent. Previously, Roger and Megan helped to build one of the largest privately-owned outsourced contact center business in Europe, before selling the business to the global conglomerate Hinduja Group. Roger is an outspoken proponent of digital ethics, worker’s rights and the ‘good-gig:’ which encapsulates gig work for incremental pay versus full time work, skilled gig work, no unpaid time/downtime and zero expenses.
Named a Rising Star at Deloitte’s Technology Fast 50 program, Limitless is a gig customer service platform, combining crowdsourcing and AI to help global businesses address their biggest customer service challenges – rising costs, increasing attrition, variability in demand and the need for diversity. Brands like Microsoft, Unilever, Daily Mail Group and Postmates are using Limitless’ SmartCrowdTM technology to connect with their most engaged customers, and reward them for providing on-demand customer service that can flex in line with demand. Limitless is one of the world’s first global tech platforms to introduce localised platform terms to protect the rights of its gigging workers. Backed by AlbionVC, Downing Ventures and Unilever Ventures, Limitless is empowering people worldwide to earn money for providing brilliant customer service for the brands they love.