A recent McKinsey report analyzed the far-reaching impact of COVID-19 on customer experience, and detailed ways that businesses can succeed through this trying time, particularly as call center volumes and service requests increase.

Among the report’s many findings, McKinsey recommended businesses “meet customers where they are” and “build agile capabilities for fluid times.”

“Customers’ normal patterns of life have come to a halt,” the report states. “Simple activities like a trip to the grocery store or dining out with friends are now difficult, risky, or even prohibited. Overnight, demand patterns have shifted. Overall online penetration in China increased by 15–20 percent. In Italy, e-commerce sales for consumer products rose by 81 percent in a single week, creating significant supply-chain bottlenecks. Customers need digital, at-home, and low-touch options.”

Through DigitalWorkforce.ai, our Digital Employee marketplace, Amelia already is helping enterprises accomplish these two recommendations for IT Service Desk and HR roles. Recently, businesses have been asking us for a way to similarly scale Customer Care operations in order to meet sudden COVID-19-related demand, as well as asking for how to embed Amelia into customer service operations end-to-end. That’s why we’ve launched Amelia for Customer Care on our marketplace, and are engaging in more conversations about Amelia’s overall customer service skills than ever before.

Rapidly onboarding and training human workers is not financially or temporally possible during the pandemic, forcing companies to rethink how best to deploy Customer Care services. The on-demand model from DigitalWorkforce.ai is ideal for them, as they need to get up and running quickly in order to achieve prompt ROI. Businesses also can turn a more traditional Amelia implementation model, as many global companies already have, and achieve ROI over the short and long term, encompassing several customer service functions.

Whatever deployment method a business selects for Amelia, the investment will allow a company to deal with current and future economic circumstances, as McKinsey pointed out: “Digital-led experiences will continue to grow in popularity once the coronavirus is quelled, and companies that act quickly and innovate in their delivery model to help consumers navigate the pandemic safely and effectively will establish a strong advantage.”

Longer Wait Times Lead to Lower Customer Satisfaction

Call center employees have limited bandwidth, especially during high-volume periods, such as a pandemic. The bigger the backlog of calls, the more likely a customer will be placed on hold. When this happens too often (and for too long), it can directly translate into customer frustration.

Even in the unlikely best-case scenario — a customer calls a help line and instantly connects to a human representative — what are the odds that the representative will be able to resolve the customer’s issue on the first touch? Customers hate hopping back and forth between service calls and agents, and having to repeat information each time. This wastes time and it makes customers feel as if the brand isn’t making better use of the information they provide. What’s the point of stating your issue every time you’re passed from agent to agent?

By hiring Amelia for Customer Care, businesses guarantee that customer information and interactions are stored in a system that makes this data easy to recall for future sessions. With training and integrations to back-end systems, Amelia can get to know customers’ specific likes, requests and buying histories, eliminating the need for a consumer to restate past issues or purchases.

Amelia is trained to follow procedures with precision; she does not deviate from the processes established for her. In a Customer Care role, she could, for example, deliver personalized greetings to customers, learn and employ existing customer service workflows, integrate with back-end systems, answer FAQs and process transactions. Simply put, Amelia can master any customer service role, based on her previous experience at some of the world’s leading brands.

McKinsey perfectly captures why Amelia’s scope is critical in the long-term: “The COVID-19 crisis will end at some point. We expect changes in consumer preferences and business models to outlast the immediate crisis. This has begun to play out in China, where there has been a 55 percent increase in consumers intending to permanently shift to online grocery shopping, and an increase of three to six percentage points in overall e-commerce penetration in the aftermath of COVID-19. Some consumers will be trying digital and remote experiences for the first time. In China, the share of consumers over the age of 45 using e-commerce increased by 27 percent from January to February 2020.”

Building the Hybrid Workforce for Customer Care

As we’ve always maintained, Amelia is meant to complement human workers. She is not designed to replace or overrule human decisions. In fact, building a hybrid workforce focused on Customer Care, with digital and human employees working together, can help a company ride out current disruptions and build long-term consumer loyalty.

“In times of crisis, caring for customers starts with thinking first about employees,” according to McKinsey. “Our research shows that 60 percent of Americans are very or extremely concerned about their safety and the safety of their families, while 43 percent are very or extremely concerned about their job or income — and not being able to make ends meet.”

Your customers should know that conversing with Amelia is a faster and more efficient option than waiting on hold to speak to a human; however, they also have the right to know that Amelia is not the only option at their disposal. You do not want to give customers the false impression that Amelia has replaced your most valuable resource: your employees. This honesty will earn customers’ trust and make it more likely that they will be willing to experiment the next time you recommend Amelia for Customer Care as a communication and purchasing channel.

More importantly, Amelia for Customer Care helps relieve the burden placed on burned out call center agents. She can take on simple and repetitive tasks that human workers deal with most of the day (e.g. password resets, account verifications). She frees human workers to do fewer but far more valuable and complex tasks.

Amelia also can allow her human colleagues to work with management to determine creative permanent solutions to problems rather than immediate temporary fixes, an important consideration according to McKinsey: “Frontline employees are a company’s eyes and ears on the ground. Solicit and collect employee feedback: it will prove useful in gauging how customers are feeling and how daily interactions are changing. Sadly, this source of insights often goes largely overlooked — while 78 percent of frontline employees report that their leaders have made customer experience a top priority, nearly 60 percent say they believe that their ideas for improving that experience often go unheard.”

Amelia for Customer Care allows businesses to accomplish McKinsey’s most critical recommendations: her always-on availability lets companies “meet customers where they are,” while her scalability can provide a much-needed pressure valve for struggling contact centers. She also provides a path forward for businesses searching for a viable path through the current pain caused by COVID-19, and far beyond.

New call-to-action