During times of economic uncertainty, when worries of stagflation are rampant, the impulse might be to cut costs and reduce investment in all sorts of customer experience (CX) tools that are generally considered "nice to have." But when customer service and overall CX is tied so closely to revenue, it's time to double down on those efforts — especially during tough economic times. Customer service shouldn't be seen as an extra cost, but rather, a potential source of untapped profit. The customer contact center isn't just a cost center, but should be treated as an experience center.
Delivering exceptional customer service is even more critical in an economic downturn. In order to survive, businesses must prioritize tools that both reduce costs and increase customer satisfaction. Consider this: during the last recession of 2007-2009, companies that prioritized investments in customer service also increased their bottom lines. A study conducted by McKinsey in 2020, and based on Forrester Research data, found that customer experience leaders had three times higher total returns to shareholders during this time period than laggards.
While it may initially seem counterintuitive, good customer service does in fact translate into revenue: it increases the chances of repeat customer purchases and renewals and longer-term loyalty. On the other hand, a poor service experience has a high chance of both causing customer churn and accruing longer-term "hidden" costs. The more customers you lose, the more money you will need to spend to both market and sell to new ones. Your existing customers are your life; you need to keep them happy at all times— especially during a recession.
Instead of falling victim to the knee-jerk impulse to cut costs (at all costs), you should prioritize self-service options across all customer touchpoints. Providing support that is available 24/7/365 is a strategic move that could help bring in more revenue to offset losses elsewhere.
Many companies are tempted to add a chatbot as a solution, with a "set it and forget it" mentality for the sake of efficiency. However, such a strategy will backfire in the long run. It doesn't go far enough to actually make a dent in the CX because it doesn't provide for a consistent experience across multiple consumer touchpoints. You want to be able to both reduce costs and improve the CX simultaneously. Ask yourself if you have effective self-service and knowledge management tools in place today, for both consumers and agents. Generally, a chatbot will not solve for both.
Instead, deploying a search experience that understands natural language and the underlying intent of a question or query means that direct, accurate answers are delivered faster, everywhere. Consumers can focus their time and energy on what matters most to them, and agents are free to focus on more complex issues - but also can fall back on a quick search when needed. Additionally, AI-enabled search allows companies to capture an unfiltered voice of the customer, which further helps with identifying and making optimizations that will provide a better customer experience -- What are they looking for? How are products and services working? What's generating the most frustration? How are they feeling about the brand?
Making a strategic investment in self-service and the overall CX, even while the economy is shrinking, is not just smart from an operational perspective; it also makes you stand out from the competition.