COVID-19 has forced many brands to deliver years-long transformation programmes in the space of a few weeks.
It's been well-documented how quickly many brands have had to accelerate certain aspects of their digital transformation plans as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
But according to the Covid-19 Digital Engagement Report, the speed at which some companies have had to push forward their digital agendas has been extraordinary.
Surveying 2,000+ customer experience, marketing, operations and IT professionals, Twilio found that brands had had to accelerate their customer communications transformation strategies by an average of 6.1 years.
27% of respondents said COVID-19 had fast tracked their transformation plans by between 5-9 years. Astonishingly, 19% said it had pushed things forward by between 10-14 years.
Twilio’s study revealed a number of other surprising statistics, no less that COVID-19 had led to numerous barriers to digital transformation being broken down.
The top barrier was ‘getting executive approval’, which 37% of respondents said had been broken down as a result of coronavirus; this was followed by a ‘lack of clear strategy’ at 37% and a ‘reluctance to replace legacy software, at 35%.
Insufficient budget had also been a key factor for 34%, prior to the coronavirus crisis.
As well as breaking down barriers, COVID-19 has also propelled brands’ omnichannel communications strategies. 54% of brands have increased their focus on omnichannel communications, with 53% adding new communication channels since the start of global lockdowns in March, and 52% ‘speeding up their digital communications strategies’.
“Over the last few months, we’ve seen years-long digital transformation roadmaps compressed into days and weeks in order to adapt to the new normal as a result of COVID-19,” said Glenn Weinstein, chief customer officer at Twilio, responding to the findings.
“This has affected everything from the ways in which businesses talk to their customers, to how their workplaces function. We’re seeing how digital technologies are being used to completely reimagine the business landscape. Communications technology is at the heart of this transition to a flexible remote working model for employees, and a seamless, digital customer experience for businesses at large.”
According to Contact Babel research in June, 51% of contact centres have reported an increase in email use, with 47% reporting increases in webchats and 37% report an increase in social media use. Zendesk research also highlights that customer support tickets have seen a huge surge in usage on messaging channels such as WhatsApp, which has increased 148% since late February.
Despite the huge jump in consumers wanting to communicate with brands, they still expect a human response, further complicating brands’ communication strategies.
Sitel’s recent survey and report, COVID-19: The CX Impact, revealed that 87% of consumers want to connect with a human to resolve critical issues, despite having a preference for resolving problems with self-service.
21% of consumers indicated they were happy to start using voice assistants such as Amazon Alexa as way of engaging with brands, yet a huge proportion of the research’s survey also acknowledged they valued emotional intelligence and empathy in a customer service interaction, something they were unable to obtain from automated assistants and bots.
“The last three months have challenged consumers and brands like never before, and we are all faced with understanding a new reality: How do we shift from adapting to the crisis to driving a success strategy in this future world?” said Martin Wilkinson-Brown, global CMO at Sitel Group.
“In this quickly changing world, customer experience is truly one of the only ways for brands to stay competitive within their industries and now more than ever it’s critical to meet consumers where they want to interact with brands.
“Combining human-led technologies with searchable knowledge bases and even branded online communities to handle common issues and typical contact drivers will reduce inbound call volumes and traffic to other live channels. This will actually drive costs down while improving CX for all customers, regardless of their channel of choice.”