How Coronavirus Will Affect Businesses: The Move to Digital

With quarantine and lockdown in full effect across many countries, households are going to be turning to digital shopping experiences more and more to keep themselves safe. Businesses need to be prepared for what will likely become a more complicated customer care journey during this time. But, more than that, businesses need to consider that as more people discover the convenience of e-commerce, those same people may continue to shop online after the pandemic is over. Now is the time to get a coronavirus business continuity plan in place. 

Who Will Be Shopping Digitally Now? 

The Elderly, and Those Helping Them 

Elderly people have been historically slow to move to digital commerce, especially since they’re not the kind of shopping experiences this demographic grew up with or is used to. But, with the elderly being one of the most vulnerable groups in the COVID-19 crisis, the advantages of online shopping become clear.   This demographic may be trying online shopping for the very first time, particularly for household essentials like groceries that they may not otherwise feel safe enough to leave the house to purchase.  Adding another layer of complexity, this demographic may also be receiving help from family members. They might set up accounts and help the elderly to place orders. This could cause confusion during any customer care interactions if the family member has control of security details. It could also take the form of family members adding items to their own orders, increasing the average basket value for some households.    

The Unconvinced 

There is also the chance that those customers who have been slow to move to digital for whatever reason may now find themselves doing just that. Whether they perceive online shopping to be complicated, don’t want to have to set up online accounts, or are perhaps worried about security issues, this demographic may also be trying online shopping during the pandemic. This demographic is also the most likely to continue shopping after the crisis is over as their perceived barriers are likely to have been removed. 

What Does This Mean for Businesses in the Short-Term? 

Get Online, Get Connected 

If your company doesn’t already offer omnichannel customer service, you can’t hold off any longer. With face to face contact impossible, it’s more important than ever to be able to connect to your customers and for them to be able to contact you whenever they want.    During this period, you’re likely to see an uptick in contact volumes. As more people move to digital shopping for the first time, they’re going to have questions and concerns. You need to be available on any channel these new customers may wish to contact you on.   For some older customers, this may be traditional methods like telephony. But, for younger customers, this could mean social media or live chat on your website. Be prepared to offer everything so customers don’t feel disconnected from your business.    

Hire Staff, Train Smart 

As a result, you may find yourself needing to hire temporary staff. When hiring emergency customer care advisors, you want them up and running as fast as possible so it’s important to adapt your current training procedure. To streamline your training process, consider using technology that works for you.   A platform like Gnatta allows you to integrate knowledge bases or add notes to advisors that trigger as specific moments in an interaction, so they always know what to do next. Features like this allow you to get new staff through training fast without leaving you worried that they may fumble later on  Alternatively, you could go to an outsource provider who will already have experienced staff. This way, you won’t have to worry about all the training during what is already a stressful time.  

Technology, Technology, Technology 

I know I already mentioned tech, but it’s important to consider how technology is changing retail. Good technology – and good technology providers – really can change the face of your customer care journey forever.   With everyone working remotely, you need fantastic internal communications. Where your advisors may have known exactly who to go downstairs and talk to about very specific issues in the past, it just isn’t possible now. Being able to contact anyone, across every department, at speed is integral when we’re all so physically disconnected. This is especially the case for any new hires who may need extra guidance as they settle into their role.  You need a system – and provider – that is flexible and adaptable. As the situation changes continuously, predictions for contact volumes are flying out of the window. You need to be confident that you can help every single customer and scale up and down as needed without getting hit with huge bills at the end of the month.  

What About the Long-Term? 

Even after the Coronavirus pandemic has been resolved and we start to return to a bit of normalcy, we expect that the switch to digital shopping will remain. As people realise the relative ease and convenience that comes with shopping online, many will continue to do so even after the COVID-19 pandemic is over. And that means you should consider making some of your temporary measures more permanent.  

Not-So-Emergency Staff 

Although you may need temporary staff right now, you may also need to consider scaling up your operation in the long-term. When hiringscreen as you usually would and hire people that you think would be a great fit into your team. If you don’t hire smart now, you may find yourself having to go through the process again in the future when your contact volumes don’t drop as much as you might expect them to.   And, even though you’re going to have to streamline your training process at the moment to get your new advisors on the frontline as quick as possible, don’t neglect this in the future. Once things have calmed down, make sure to go back in and pick up on training again to get a little more in-depth. And refresher courses are great for everyone, not just new hires.   This is another great reason to consider outsourcing. You won’t have to worry about interviews, hiring, training, etc. You just need to pick an outsourcer that’s the right fit for you. Make sure you pick a flexible provider so you can scale up or down your operation as you need during and after the crisis. None of us knows how long we may be in lockdown or social distancing so it’s important to work with an adaptable team.  

Complex Journeys 

With more digital shopping comes more complex logistics journeys. When a customer can shop in-store, there is no need to worry about delivery but with everyone having to shop online at the moment, you’ll likely see a rise in logistics queries. It’s important to consider how to handle this now so you’re prepared for the long-term. Once again, this problem can be neatly navigated using good tech. Your advisors need all the relevant information at their fingertips to help customers effectively. With technology like Gnatta, your advisors have an overview of these journeys, can call relevant information, and can even contact logistics companies right inside the Gnatta interface.   And don’t forget to consider automation. As more people who are new to digital shopping switch over, you may see a rise in FAQs as part of the rise in contact volumes. To help deal with this, consider automating part of your customer journey. Simple bots can answer FAQs and gather customer information for you. This reduces your volumes overall and reduces your resolution times, allowing your advisors to answer more queries in a shift.    Hopefully, this has offered you some helpful insight during what is proving to be a stressful time for many companies. The most important thing right now is to be prepared, however that looks for your company. At Gnatta, we’re not just here to provide you software, we partner with you to see your business grow and continue to be successful. If you’d like to chat about how to put your own Coronavirus business continuity plan into place, contact us.

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Deepa Khatri