Ever since the COVID-19 pandemic began early last year, what changes in buying habits have you noticed personally? Changing pharmacies or grocery stores from the nearby ‘walking distance’ ones to an online version that offers easy home deliveries even if it comes at a premium? Or switching from the local drive-through to cloud kitchens that are transparent about their safety measures and deliver sealed food items to your doorstep (even though it might cost you a little extra)?

You’re not alone. In a swift wave, businesses across the globe have reported that their customers have switched preferences to other competitors or even new entrants, sometimes after years of loyalty. COVID-19 might be the catalyst but what reason lies underneath?

Maybe you don’t want to stand for hours in a socially distant line as you wait for your turn to go inside the store and expose yourself to a higher risk of infection or perhaps you can no longer justify driving a few kilometers just for coffee, doughnuts, or pizzas because you have immune-compromised people sharing your living space. These are all valid reasons that make consumers like you and me, want to shift to a more convenient ‘experience’. One that is driven by two key factors: a simple digital experience and consistent customer service across communication channels (also known as omnichannel service).

Today, it is not enough to offer a digital experience just for the sake of an additional choice for your consumer. To gain an edge over the competition, brands need to unify digital service automation with human interaction to ensure that their happy customers stay loyal too.

But the million-dollar question (sometimes quite literally), is how?

AI-driven digital assistants/chatbots and fluid customer interaction are the first steppingstones for companies on their way to offering blended services to solve their consumers’ inquiries. Here are a select few cornerstone ideas of the ‘experience economy’ that you can adopt to offer a seamless customer experience.

Frictionless Digital Service

A Gartner 2021 survey found that since the pandemic started, sending businesses scrambling to shift gears, customers have indicated that not only do they endorse the shift towards digital, that’s where they want it to stay in the long run. For simple, routine, or generic inquiries, businesses can save significantly on time, employee training, and other resources by deploying digital assistants. Research in the field predicts that by 2022, AI-chatbots could save businesses as much as $8 billion annually in customer support costs alone, especially in the healthcare and financial services sector. Automation allows companies to meet their customers’ demand for a fast, proactive, and personalized support service.

In 2020, Oracle Digital Assistant solution from the Oracle CX Cloud Suite helped Exelon, the largest US utility company with more than 10 million consumers, stay ahead of the curve by using chatbot automation to drive down costs. This is a classic example of Digital Transformation with Oracle CX.

Retain Customer Service Super-agents

A customer service super-agent is a product or consumer-relationship expert with deep subject-matter expertise. Their specialized skills help businesses bridge the gap and meet their customers’ needs where automated service technology can’t. While it may seem counterintuitive, customer service agents are essential for resolving critical or complex inquiries that are beyond the scope of chatbots, especially those who are domain experts. To put it simply, while digital service assistants cover the breadth, trained service agents dive into the depth to provide great CX.

With most of these agents now working from home full-time, perhaps for the first time, businesses must provide them with the same infrastructure and support that they were accustomed to in their office environment, not just for guidance but also to retain their customer service standards.

Last year, the New York State Department of Health needed an immediate CX solution to accommodate the barrage of concerned/anxious calls to their COVID-19 crisis hotline. In addition, their entire staff was working from home but had no remote-working experience. Oracle service cloud acted as an omnichannel service software and implemented workflows, articles, and other remote-working support that allowed the Coronavirus Hotline agents to work efficiently from the safety of their home. In less than 5 days, 90 percent of the first calls were getting resolved even after an 11-fold increase in call volume. A successful story of how Oracle CX for Public sector can do wonders when times get tough.

Retain Loyal Consumers

As any solid business understands, retaining customers who are more likely to keep returning is better than churning through new ones. Find the right CX combination of digital service assistants and live customer service personnel that work for your consumers to deliver a personalized yet seamless offering. Today, customers (mostly millennials) are time-poor but want rich experiences and are much more likely to take their business which ‘knows’ what they need (so it saves their time) and can deliver it consistently and effortlessly (which enhances their experience). In return for meeting their demands in a manner that suits their convenience, you get a long-term returning consumer.

Don’t Overwhelm Consumers with ‘Too Much Choice’

According to a recent study, 54 percent of consumers stopped purchasing a product from an online retailer or brand because they made choosing the right product too difficult. 42 percent of shoppers admitted to abandoning their purchase intent because the choice was too overwhelming. And 71 percent made a switch to a competitor brand because it made discovering and choosing the right product easier.

Too much cognitive load drains our energy and is a mental strain. Keep it simple and do not dump too many mental choices on a potential customer. When the buying/shopping process is simple, customers are much more likely to convert.

One sure, effective, and efficient solution is to use a virtual shopping assistant that uses conversational UI to save your consumers the trouble of making too many choices yet keeping the interaction fun and light. Such a virtual assistant can make tasks such as obtaining a quote, checking, and comparing features, or filtering products helpful as well as entertaining.

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