The Tectonic Shift in CX Operations


How one of the largest technology companies in the world is examining the phone-to-digital transformation in the wake of COVID-19.

To say that March 2020 was a monumental month for businesses is an understatement. Brands all over the world scrambled to stay afloat as stores and restaurants closed, revenue forecasting became impossible, and entire workforces were expected to work from home. 

The customer experience space has been particularly affected by the global disruption caused by COVID-19. Offshore and domestic call centers were temporarily closed and agents needed adequate resources to work from home (including reliable home internet). For many brands, customer demand surged and CX teams struggled to scale adequate support while also moving and managing remote teams. On the flip side, furloughs and downsizing left other companies struggling to maintain SLAs with severely limited bandwidth. 

Although uncertainty is still the name of the game, many companies have been able to reach a relative “steady state” in their CX operations.

But what’s next?

Phone-to-Digital Transformation in Customer Support

Prior to the pandemic, there was already a groundswell of preference for digital channels. Live chat is the preferred channel among millennials, a demographic with over $200 Billion in spending power. 

Many businesses still hold on to phone support in order to maintain a strong omnichannel presence. Phone is also often thought to be the preferred channel of older generations.  In fact, 41% of businesses think that phone is the preferred channel for all their customers, when, in fact, customers lean towards live chat. 

The COVID-19 crisis and resulting operational changes have shed light on what customers actually prefer. 

When an Entire CX Workforce Suddenly Goes Remote

According to John Storey, CFO of Asurion, the COVID-19 crisis has hyper-accelerated the phone-to-digital transformation.

Asurion, which funds Simplr and continues to support its growth, is the world’s largest provider of technology services. It serves over 300 million customers worldwide and employs more than 20,000 people. Needless to say, delivering exceptional customer experiences is at the forefront of Asurion’s brand and mission.

In March 2020, as national stay-at-home orders took effect, Asurion moved 5,000 customer customer support agents from call centers to work-from-home. This is something many brands have been doing for years, but COVID-19 forced Asurion to make it a reality… and fast. The company managed to pull off the move in 10 days. 

Remarkably, they didn’t miss a single Service Level Agreement (SLA). 

“As a matter of fact,” says Storey, “we’ve seen an uptick in Customer Satisfaction (CSAT) scores since [moving our teams to remote work].” 

Another interesting phenomenon is that online engagement doubled since the move.  While there’s been an underlying mega-trend of phone-to-digital transition… the crisis has forced the issue to the forefront of operations discussions. 


Will CX Operations Ever Go Back?

For CXOs, CX leaders and  CFOs like Storey, this revelation begs the question: Is there a need to go back to “the way it was”? In the case of Asurion, the COVID-19 crisis forced a reduction in phone support, yet online engagement doubled and customer satisfaction increased. 

“As a CFO, this definitely caught my attention. Here we’re looking at the same CX quality (maybe better) with no facility overhead costs? And volume being directed away from live conversations over the phone to digital engagements via the web or messaging? That’s amazing.”

Despite the disruption and uncertainty that the pandemic has inflicted on businesses, it has accelerated CX operational transformations that cannot be ignored. 

John Storey spoke at the 2020 CXLife Virtual Summit on this topic. To see his full presentation, request to join CXLife here