The COVID-19 crisis brought fundamental changes in the way businesses interact with customers. During tough times customers deserve to be treated with even more empathy and understanding. This requires personalization and extra attention. However social distancing and remote work have made these aspects of customer service more challenging than ever. Here is a look at some of the new success strategies in customer relations.


The effective use ofcommerce and digital marketing is an integrated feature of some of the best known brands today. Focused online strategies allowed corporations such as MasterCard and airbnb to grow and profit beyond all expectations. In the new economic climate having a digital presence has become a necessity. While most conventional businesses move to the online space, there is much value in doing this strategically.

In May 2020 supermarket giant IGA launched its first national online grocery delivery service. It was a sequel to IGA’s Priority Shopping Offer. Launched at the peak of the pandemic, the service was designed to enhance the shopping experience of the elderly and vulnerable communities across Australia. The service has now become immensely popular with all customer segments. Volkswagen Australia is another case in point. Prior to the pandemic the automotive company was focused on simplifying its vehicle purchasing process. It laid the foundation for a strong ecommerce strategy in 2019. The recent crisis greatly accelerated the company’s digital migration. Australian customers can now configure and order VW vehicles entirely online.

For Brisbane Airport the COVID-19 crisis was a turning point. During the lockdown foot traffic to the airport’s Duty Free shop dramatically declined. The shops had more than AUD 70 million worth of inventory, and no buyers. Within 16 days Brisbane airport built a full-fledged ecommerce store. Named the BNE marketplace, this platform was promoted to the airport’s wide customer database, and quickly became a success story. Effective digital processes for browsing products, online selling, and order fulfilment are vital components in digital customer care.

The human factor

Customers love businesses that provide a human touch. In 2018 PwC reported that 81% of Australian customers prefer to interact with a real person. Research published by the BT Group in March 2020 showed that 80% of Australians had called a contact center over the past year. Voice calls are the most popular method for Australian customers to send their inquiries as well as complaints. Recognizing this need, Australian corporations are finding ways to make their customer communications and service delivery more ‘human’. Recently the Australian marketing firm Customology moved away from generic messages. In May the company’s General Manager explained that efforts are now redirected to “creating tailored messages to smaller cohorts of high value customers.” However, this may be easier said than done.

One of the big reasons why automated customer service is becoming more common is that hiring human agents is challenging. Prior to the crisis most organizations relied on contact center operators based in places like India and the Philippines. Lockdowns and social distancing forced these contact centers to close. This left businesses with no option but to look elsewhere for solutions. Many corporations still maintain offshore contact centers for billing, tech support, account-related services, and so on. These firms pay their overseas service providers via international money transfers. Customers will always have a need for information, and businesses will find ever more efficient ways to provide it.

Virtual agents

A rapidly growing trend in customer relations has been the use of service robots. These ‘chatbots’ are automated digital helpers that act as virtual agents. Chatbots are carving a space for themselves in all kinds of industries. Sydney-based UBank launched a highly intuitive home loan application assistant named Mia. It can answer 300 of the most common loan-related questions instantly. The South Australian health department unveiled its new virtual agent called Zoe, created to respond to various COVID-19 queries. The Australian Football League recently activated a messenger-based chatbot to improve engagement with its 50,000 fans. In addition to responding to commonly asked questions the chatbot facilitates the popular Friday Footy Quiz taken by more than 6,000 people weekly.

Most chatbots are powered by artificial intelligence (AI). This enables them to learn from experience. Over time and with sufficient interactions the quality of a bot’s service improves. Bots can be programmed to respond in any language, and can be available to customers 24/7. AI is the new face of customer relations in our time.

About the author:- Hemant G is a contributing writer at Sparkwebs LLC, a Digital and Content Marketing Agency. When he’s not writing, he loves to travel, scuba dive, and watch documentaries.

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