4 Ways Brands Can Prepare for a Second Wave of COVID-19

3 face masks on a table

The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic forced businesses to adapt quickly to continue serving their customers and supporting their employees, to ensure their health and safety, as well as keep everyone informed with the latest developments.

It brought about a surge of questions from customers and employees alike about how we can move forward in these unprecedented times. It also made us rethink how we approach many of our day-to-day tasks to limit the spread of COVID-19.

If the fall and winter indeed brings a “second wave,” businesses will need to continue seeking ways to support their customers and employees in the months ahead to help provide informative, prompt, and positive experiences for all.

Here are four best practices businesses should consider as they prepare for a potential second wave of COVID-19.

1. Keep listening to your customers

Customer behavior has shifted significantly since the start of the pandemic. The onset of COVID-19 forced brands to cater to the sudden and significant changes in their customers’ needs, and address new concerns they may have.

With the uncertainty that lies ahead, the only way for brands to truly understand how they can best support their customers during a potential second wave is by asking them directly.

Two-thirds of consumers having concerns about a possible second wave. Proactively engaging customers for their feedback through direct surveys is key to understanding how their needs and concerns will continue to evolve during this time. It’s also a way to more accurately gauge general customer sentiment and confidence in each of your different regions, and determine how you can alleviate these concerns.

Sharing these insights widely within your organization will also be crucial during this time to drive strategic decisions. Closing the loop on your customer feedback will also provide a valuable source of insights, helping you gain an even deeper understanding of your customers.

2. Check in and screen your employees regularly

Many non-essential businesses have begun welcoming back employees to their physical locations if they wish. Essential services, like grocery stores, have either remained open throughout the pandemic, recently reopened, or plan to do so in the near future.

Since the start of the pandemic, the CDC has urged companies to require employees to pre-screen, or self-screen, before returning to the workplace to help limit the spread of COVID-19.

With what we now know about COVID-19, continuing to check in on employees will remain key during a second wave, not only to ensure their health, but that of your customers, too.

Checking in on employees before their shift or prior to coming into the workplace will remain key during a second wave. Simplifying this process for both yourself and your employees is essential for all parties involved to check in on a regular and continuous basis. Using a health screening chatbot can play a key role in simplifying this process, and to help flag potential concerns with key stakeholders in real time.

At the same time, deploying a chatbot to communicate new information and policy updates can help employees stay informed on the latest policies.

3. Ensure agents can adapt quickly to new customer questions

Customer questions came in fast and often at the beginning of the pandemic. We were all proceeding into uncharted waters, ones where the amount of questions we had often outnumbered the number of answers businesses could provide.

This required companies to adapt quickly and think on their feet. At the same time, it placed huge stress on customer service agents as they dealt with spikes in tickets, while not always having all the answers handy. A second wave could bring about another surge of questions from customers wanting to understand how they can move forward.

Using a chatbot to help answer customers’ most common questions can help agents focus on new or more complicated questions or requests.

One solution could be to leverage an AI-driven chatbot that pulls answers from key information sources, whether internal or external to your company’s documentation, and continuously adjusts as more customers interact with it.

Not to mention, with customers looking for speedy access to the latest information, deploying a chatbot can help you identify gaps in your content that you could quickly address to help reduce support tickets.

4. Use automation to minimize email backlogs

Similar to what was seen in the early weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic, your agents may see a jump in requests should a second wave occur.

Pre-pandemic, 90% of customers found it important to get an immediate response to their customer support question. In the context of a crisis, it’s not unrealistic for these expectations to be even higher. But as a customer, receiving canned automated responses from support agents won’t cut it.

Processing, researching, writing, reviewing, and sending a customer email – all of these tasks can add up to a considerable amount of time and effort on the part of an agent. With a surge in questions, this can contribute to backlogs only getting bigger, which could then negatively impact customer experience if they expect quick, informative replies.

Automating the tasks involved with replying to a customer email – identifying the issue expressed, drafting an email response, etc. – can help companies manage a potential surge in questions during a second wave.

Agents face stress every day from customers expecting high-quality support in a matter of minutes. In the event of a second wave, leveraging automation where possible to help agents continue to meet these expectations, without sacrificing quality, will be essential.

How Astute can help brands prepare for a second wave

Astute’s mission has always been to help customer-centric brands deliver effortless customer experiences, and to give them the tools to deliver these experiences efficiently. Our mission remains the same during the COVID-19 pandemic.

We have developed a number of award-winning solutions to help brands navigate the months ahead. Most importantly, we’re here to help ensure the safety and health of your employees and your customers.

  • Health Screener Bot: Quickly screen employees before their shifts with questions according to CDC guidelines.
  • Customer Confidence: Gauge customer sentiment and concerns across all your different regions, and find out when they plan to return to your locations, so you can inform critical decisions about re-opening and prepare for the months ahead.
  • Crisis Management AI: Share key information to customers with a customer service chatbot, like modified hours of operation, service availability, and steps you are taking to keep them safe.
  • Email Virtual Assistant (EVA): Automated email replies using natural language processing (NLP) to understand inbound emails and generate highly accurate responses so agents can respond to customers more quickly.

Interested in learning more? Schedule a demo today to speak with an Astute expert.


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