When businesses ramped up online customer interactions in response to the pandemic, the assumption was that in-person touchpoints would see a decline, even when the world slowly returned to its old state. Surprisingly, rather than making cuts, many companies are planning to expand their in-person relations beyond pre-pandemic levels.

According to the WNS-Corinium Intelligence 2021 global survey Business Transformation After the Digital Tipping Point, more than 50 percent respondents are looking to return in-person operations to pre-pandemic levels. Only 15 percent are planning to reduce this type of customer interface.

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Interestingly, in most cases, organizations plan to maintain their new online presence. In fact, 43 percent favor the implementation of a hybrid operating model. There are compelling reasons to believe that a ‘bricks plus clicks’ strategy delivers higher returns on investment. A Gallup research shows that emotional connections with fully engaged customers net an additional 23 percent in revenue. So, how can businesses integrate their online and in-person customer service operations effectively to drive seamless CX?

Online and offline cannot be seen in silos, and an integrated cross-channel approach is key to driving seamless CX. This integration can be achieved by deploying Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML), and predictive and data analytics. Companies can draw insights from the data pulled from mobile applications, websites and BOTs. Leveraging real-time dashboards, these insights can help in-person staff with relevant information to serve customers better.

A UK retailer’s strategy is a good example. The company’s Website and social channels are fully integrated to offer ‘on-the-move’ CX. Customers can use the online channels to book appointments with stylists at the retailer’s physical stores after checking their profiles. Store assistants are equipped with tablets that give them relevant insights into a customer visiting the store. In case a product is out of stock, the assistant can quickly offer to have the product shipped directly to the customer’s house. Loyal customers get a preview into products in the pipeline, and can offer their opinions using QR codes on product tags.

Data, as we already know, can predict customers' desires and drive hyper-personalization. A customer who has been browsing for credit cards on a bank’s Website may get answers to some basic queries from a BOT. When the same customer calls the contact center, the data trail from the earlier interactions can come in handy for the agent to offer insight-driven guidance.

Research shows that more than 40 percent of customers still prefer voice channels, while digital mediums and e-mail interactions are the other favored channels. This is why an omni-channel contact center, underpinned by AI and automation, can add tremendous customer value. Conversational AI tools have the capability to identify dissatisfaction in a customer’s voice and re-direct the query to a human agent who can offer a more empathy-driven service. Case in point: a US health insurer deployed an AI BOT to enable its contact center agents to view all customer information from multiple sources in an integrated manner. Empowered with the right insights, the agents are able to answer various types of queries without having to transfer the calls. Needless to say, the insurer’s call handling time has improved significantly.

The future of an exciting online-remote convergence is taking shape across industries. Are enterprises ready to Re-imagine, Accelerate, Co-create and Emerge in the evolving normal?

Read our full survey report on the state of digital transformation here.

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