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We don’t need to tell you: this has been a year unlike any other in our lifetime. Last spring, companies in every industry across the world had to adjust very quickly to strict safety measures aimed at stemming the spread of COVID-19. Many companies transitioned their workforces to remote environments, and are focusing on maintaining SLAs while providing remote customer support. However, credible news of successful vaccine trials might mean another shake up to workforce management — not immediately, but possibly in the future.
With a potential end to the pandemic on the horizon, brands will face new questions about what has become the norm for a large portion of the workforce. Namely, brands will need to decide whether or not to transition employees back to offices, and they’ll need to decide what to do with contact centers that have been rising to the challenges of working from home (WFH). Will we go back to how things were, or will our current normal become the new normal?
Every brand will need to answer these questions for themselves. However, looking to brands that succeeded in the abrupt transition this year can offer important guidance. Below, we take a close look at five top brands that successfully pivoted to a primarily WFH contact center due to the pandemic, and what brands from every industry might take away from their successes moving forward.
AAA Northeast is one of the largest and most innovative not-for-profit organizations in the US, and that innovation served them well this year. Not only did AAA Northeast’s social media team rapidly shift to a WFH model, they also shifted their editorial calendar to better fit with the changing world. In mid-March, when lockdowns began in the US, AAA Northeast’s social team used their social media channels to connect with more than 100,000 users.
Agents averaged a 1.5 hour response time to social media inquiries and maintained an outstanding 5.48% engagement rate. They also launched their first TV spot, Keep Life Moving.
AAA Northeast was able to maintain excellent customer service and even offer exciting new ways for their members to experience the brand, all while employees worked from home. AAA Northeast demonstrates the value of exceptional technological support and effective communication, showing that it doesn’t matter where employees are located, as long as remote customer support is able to provide the same level of connection that customers have come to expect.
British Gas is the UK’s leading energy and in-home servicing supplier. When the pandemic began, they quickly mobilized their social media team so that employees could work from home. Within a week of lockdown, 95% of their workforce was logging in from home without missing a beat in customer service.
The shift to WFH coincided with a shift in customer engagement strategy: pre-pandemic, their focus was to respond to as many customers as possible, as quickly as possible. At the beginning of the pandemic, they began to prioritize customers who contacted them on social media with serious issues.
To successfully accomplish this shift, British Gas changed the way they worked within the Khoros platform. Their Digital Conversation support team created a crisis dashboard within Khoros Analytics that provided a real-time view of priority posts in specific queues and prioritized vulnerable customers. British Gas’s response times, response rate, and NPS all demonstrated that their shift in strategy was a success. In April 2020, for example, British Gas received 70% more posts than they had in April 2019, but their response rate dropped by just 4%.
Microsoft launched The Microsoft Tech Community four years ago as the official community for IT pros, developers, customers, and tech enthusiasts. They reach just under seven million unique visitors each month. The majority of their members work in fields that were quickly transitioned to WFH last spring. Microsoft wanted to help ease the transition for their members, many of whom were suddenly performing their technical job from home for the first time. At the beginning of the pandemic, Microsoft also looked ahead and realized that travel restrictions would mean they would have a difficult time reaching customers, as in-person events would be limited for an indeterminate amount of time. Microsoft needed a way to meet new customers, receive product feedback, generate ideas, and connect with customers, while also creating a supportive space for their community members.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, Microsoft’s online community has become an important way to drive technical and professional learning opportunities for Microsoft’s community members. Microsoft created a community space for sharing best practices, guidance, and experiences related to remote work called the Enable Remote Work community. Within the community, members can ask questions and participate in discussions. Microsoft employees engage in the discussions and also publish blog posts related to announcements and helpful resources. Microsoft’s efforts have paid off: traffic to the Microsoft Tech Community increased by one million visitors month over month, from before the pandemic began to after.
Microsoft’s ability to help customers and employees stay connected while also reaching new customers would transition well into a post-COVID-19 world and can serve as a model for other brands.
At the onset of COVID-19 last spring, Fitbit, which relies on subcontracted vendors, faced the challenge of maintaining their business as their vendors closed their doors. Fitbit was able to manage the crisis by taking quick, decisive action, cooperating with their vendor partners, and relying on their many social media channels, including an active community forum.
More specifically, Fitbit identified the social media channel most critical to their business: a support-designated Twitter handle. They diverted all available resources to that channel because they knew that a failure to keep up with their contacts on social media would impact other already-stressed areas of their business. Fitbit also worked with vendors to arrange WFH options for some agents, all of which helped them not only meet customer expectations, but far exceed them. Fitbit’s experience managing the COVID-19 crisis demonstrates how a social media team can contribute most meaningfully to overall business success, and it also offers valuable insights about other effective ways their team could be structured in the future.
The COVID-19 pandemic presented unprecedented challenges for the United States Postal Service (USPS), whose customers count on them for necessities, a sense of connection, and economic support. Due to the pandemic, USPS employees have encountered greater workloads and less staff, as well as the added burden of personal safety concerns.
To meet the needs of both customers and employees throughout the pandemic, USPS’s customer engagement strategy has relied on social listening to provide brand protection, crisis mitigation, and enhanced customer experience. To manage pandemic-related changes, the USPS developed additional tags within the Khoros platform and used the Smart Views function to monitor customer and employee concerns. The USPS used the Manage interface to address the 250% increase in incoming posts due to the pandemic, and they found many innovative ways to connect with customers and communicate with employees with the support of the Khoros platform. Their trending dashboard, which was formerly used to identify problematic posts, now validates their editorial content. For the first time ever, the USPS’s brand posts are consistently ranked among the top ten mail-related posts.
The USPS’s Social Customer Response Associates began working from home early on in the pandemic, but data demonstrates that their productivity and the quality of their work did not decline. This summer, Morning Consult’s 2020 report on the Top 50 Most Loved Brands in American ranked the USPS as number one, based on factors like favorability, trust, and community impact.
All five of these brands took significant strides in customer engagement during 2020, and they all have one thing in common. Namely, they all use at least one Khoros solution to power their customer engagement strategy. Khoros is not just a leading software company; we’re also a partner to help your brand provide the remote customer support that will create customers for life. To find out what Khoros can do to support your brand’s workforce management, schedule a demo today.