Prior to 2020, there were clear, predictable market trends. Businesses typically knew when their seasonal peaks and troughs would occur, and ensured they had the capacity to deal with the increase in customer demand.

But the ongoing lockdown and uncertainty around restrictions easing, both in Europe and around the world, has meant that markets have changed. Some of these changes have been significant. And some will be permanent.

Take the travel industry, for example. Now would typically be the time of year that people are booking foreign holidays, trips, and weekends away for the summer months and beyond. But this year, it’s just not happening because customers don’t know if or when they’ll be able to travel.

The challenge is two-fold:

  • When will things get back to normal?
  • And, what will that normal look like?

The end of lockdown and associated restrictions could be in sight if the vaccine rollout is successful. But it still isn’t clear what happens next. For example, will additional requirements and even restrictions remain in place? For the travel industry, this is incredibly problematic.

I recently saw an interview with the CEO of a leading online booking platform where he said that “now is actually a really good time to book a trip – prices are incredibly low and there are comprehensive cancellation policies in place to provide protection for customers.” This highlights how companies are addressing the lack of consumer confidence caused by uncertainty by taking risks themselves and sharing risk with their supply chain.

And it’s not only travel that’s affected. The entertainment and non-essential retail industries have also suffered and adapted to online and hybrid approaches. Disney, for example, has seen recording-breaking new subscriber numbers to its streaming platform, Disney+. Yet experienced revenue losses in 2020 due to the restrictions impact on their theme park and other consumer-facing businesses.

But what does the change mean for customer service?

There is no escaping that markets around the world are unbalanced right now, and this can pose a host of challenges for businesses, not least from a customer experience point of view. As a result, businesses must keep costs under control while ensuring they have enough resources to add capacity when needed.

2020 showed everyone that relying on the contact centre building alone only for delivering customer service carries certain risks, sometimes unanticipated ones. Work-at-home, self-service and automation must all be a part of future CX strategies to ensure business continuity. The conditions have changed, perhaps forever, but consumer expectations have not! The slack customers cut businesses a year ago is diminishing and great customer service experience is a key differentiator going forward.

SYKES has been helping companies to help their customers for over forty years. If your customer service strategy needs experience and resources for success, please get in touch!

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