How COVID-19 Has Changed Customer Support: A Year of Lessons


2020 taught us a lot. People and businesses were forced to adapt to situations they were not fully prepared for – trips, concerts, and gatherings were pushed out or cancelled, mortgages were deferred, industries faced new challenges, and customer support needs significantly increased as people shifted to working and communicating with the world from home. That shift resulted in a higher volume of support calls and longer hold times.  Even the largest companies struggled to keep up.  

In a new and unpredictable world, dedicated and knowledgeable customer support agents are essential to connecting with clients and keeping the lights on. So, how can businesses evolve their customer support to match changing customer needs and the modern workplace? The key is implementing customer-focused solutions. 

Customer-Focused Human Solutions 

The best customer support agents listen, problem solve, and have a passion for helping people., The right agent can make all the difference to help a customer feel heard and understood –building trust between them and the company. Even two years ago, customer support was a relatively straightforward process. Today, people are feeling more isolated and are placing additional demands on customer support to fix their problems  and be an empathetic voice at the same time. Younger generations base most of their purchasing decisions on how a company conducts their business and supports their customers,  not only on products and services alone.  

Today’s customers are demanding change in terms of how companies service and support them.  This is why, now more than ever, forward-thinking companies must shift their focus and adapt quickly to reap the benefits of improving customer experiences. They need to implement processes that put customer needs ahead of business needs. This will require changes in Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) as calls and interactions will likely take longer. Metrics like Average Handle Time (AHT) will give way to Customer Satisfaction Scores (CSAT), Net Promoter Scores (NPS), First Contact Resolution, and Agent Satisfaction. Implementing customer satisfaction surveys is a great way to ensure customers feel valued while also measuring those more intangible KPIs. 

Customer-Focused Technology Solutions 

Before the pandemic, many companies assumed they could follow their pre-built operational plans for upgrading technology and services over the next few years. There is now a greater sense of urgency driving these changes.  

With the initial work-from-home (WFH) frenzy of March/April 2020 over, companies can now focus on next steps in their digital evolution. Many organizations immediately moved to cloud-based technologies at the start of the pandemic, which at the time was a matter of survival. It is likely that a correction period will take place as companies now take the time to improve initial implementations or transition to more intelligent platforms that better suit their needs.  

For example, demand for Artificial Intelligence (AI) soared last year, but AI wasn’t the lifesaver many businesses hoped it would be. After all, not much of what happened was routine and that stifled chatbot utilities. AI can help humans better do their jobs if implemented the right way. It can help businesses understand data so support agents can be more proactive in solving customer issues. It can also optimize back-end operations to remove friction that impedes productivity, provide customers with more intelligent self-service, and facilitate better service by providing agents with better data during conversations. 

Organizations eager to modernize and improve customer experience are building on the momentum of 2020 digital transformation and considering workflow automation tools like ServiceNow®. The platform helps companies realize the power of data and how proper flow and sharing of business information and analytics can take them to another level.   

Streamlining and optimizing support calls through virtual methods will greatly reduce customer service costs and improve resolution time, leading to better customer experiences. Companies will also need to offer technological solutions that improve customer authentication processes  and make interaction histories available quicker. Better integrated platforms can also more efficiently resolve customer tickets. With solutions like Omni-channel deployment, agents can move across channels to continue to serve (or call-back) a customer as needed; to maximize customer support.  

Using AI, companies can enable programs to ensure a customer only ever deals with one or two support reps, allowing them to create real, meaningful interactions.  That kind of relationship and personal touch benefits both agents and customers, and gives brands the ability to differentiate themselves in crowded marketplaces. Businesses at the top of their game will even use AI to anticipate a customer’s needs before they do.  

The world changed so much in 2020, and business technology should too. A new bar has been set for customer service, and the way we deliver experiences to customers should rise to meet it. Focusing on customer-driven solutions, providing more open channels of empathetic communication, and capitalizing on available tech solutions will create more resilient businesses. Good companies survive a crisis; great companies are improved by them. 

Fully Managed is a leading managed service provider and Elite partner of ServiceNow. We specialize in implementing Customer Service Management workflows that create frictionless solutions in a digital world. In 2020, we helped 3000 businesses shift to a work-from-home model.