Embracing COVID-19 for Ushering in Digital Transformation

The COVID-19 pandemic ushered in an unprecedented set of challenges for even the most successful companies. Stay-at-home measures shuttered storefronts and office buildings while cutting the ceremonial ribbon on home offices and new online experiences. The era of a “gradual rollout” ended, forcing businesses to adapt overnight to a world fully reliant on digital. While some businesses lagged behind, a staggering 97% of executives say COVID-19 has sped up their digital transformation

The digital call to action debuted a new focus on the customer. Hardware chain Lowe’s anticipates that quarantine will limit foot traffic, so they built out new digital infrastructure to offer free delivery of Christmas trees this holiday season. Popular video service Zoom removed pay-to-play time limits for online learning. Businesses are moving away from “what can our business offer?” to “what does our customer need and how can we make it happen?” Here’s how your organization can take advantage of industry disruptions to create memorable, innovative experiences for your customers. 

Launch or renovate your online self-service suite

Businesses like credit unions and local insurance companies revolve around in-person, white glove customer service. Quarantine measures forced them to find online ways to offer their customer base the same caliber of service. Stay-at-home measures reduced foot traffic inside brick-and-mortar locations, limiting the valuable in-person interaction that drives many local businesses. 

Banks especially accelerated digital transformation, after being hit hard by quarantine, with many of their key services requiring an in-branch visit. “Waiting it out” is not an option—only 10% of customers expressed interest in visiting a bank branch in the near future. To combat these changes, they’ve sped up the transition of their full support suite into the handheld, at-home realm. 

Process management platforms have enabled banks to create powerful apps that replicate the exceptional experience of in-person customer appointment. A dynamic conversation gives rise to many more business opportunities than a static app with a single goal, and banks are using the latest technology to mimic this prime level of interaction. World-class phone and tablet apps offer the complete suite of services from simple balance inquiries to complex account openings and loan applications. Artificial intelligence furthers the customer relationship by identifying opportunities for upsells and teaching users about new features or products. 

Use social media to connect with customers in remarkable ways

Many professionals have traditionally regarded social media as a marketing unicorn—a dazzling opportunity with rarely provable results. However, a pandemic-era study by The CMO Survey painted an entirely new picture for the first time in survey history: social media now contributes to 24% of a company’s overall performance. How are organizations achieving overwhelming success with social media? By rethinking how they use it to connect with their customer base. 

Hosting intimate and memorable experiences used to require a significant investment, like renting a party venue or purchasing flights to expensive conferences. The digitization of society has permitted brands of all budgets and sizes to connect with their customer base in more cost-effective ways. Businesses are leveraging video platforms like Zoom to serve as more than a conference room, but for creative experiences like a digital drinking hall to host happy hours with top clients. Retailers have transformed their highest echelon of rewards customers from an in-store discount card into a ticket to VIP experiences. They invite this new “in-crowd” to exclusive virtual mingles like celeb-led cooking classes or guru-taught masterclasses. 

These systems are not standalone—they integrate deeply with the entire sales funnel. Working closely with IT, businesses can track invites, content interactions, and special event attendance to create a complete picture of the customer journey. These advanced analytics can help pinpoint what event formats lead to the most sales, or identify key accounts on the cusp of a huge sale.

Discover new ways to solve customer support challenges

Quarantine measures have increased inbound customer service calls across all industries. From airlines to universities, credit card companies to banks, curious customers concerned about the implications of COVID are overwhelming call centers. With many customer service reps working from home, crowded kitchen counters have replaced official service stations, further limiting customer support bandwidth. What are some ways businesses are using technology to transform the help desk? 

  • Chatbots: Coded conversationalists can live on your website to answer fast, easy questions. Customers can change passwords, check banking balances, and track deliveries without queuing up for an in-demand human representative. 
  • Proactive messaging: Apps like Grubhub or UberEats deploy many messaging automations to proactively inform you of delivery progress. Innovative businesses across all industries are adopting this style of messaging via SMS or push notification. Tell customers about payment deferrals or rescheduling options before they call in to ask. 
  • Find new channels: Since the start of the pandemic, chat platforms like Facebook Messenger have experienced a 50% increase in usage. To free up phone lines, organizations are learning to communicate with customers through Facebook and other popular social media apps like Twitter. 

Organizations are doing more than answering one-off questions—they’re integrating these new strategies into their workflows. Using advanced automations, businesses can leverage proactive messaging and even launch new chatbots without long development times. 

COVID-19 has introduced new challenges to the workplace, but it has also opened up new doors for innovation. Some organizations, like a major UK bank, have even looked beyond tablets and smartphones to launch a Nintendo Switch game to teach kids about money. A full digital transformation is necessary to thrive in this new era, but businesses that are able to step back and rethink what’s possible will redefine what it means to be successful.


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