3 Minute read

Impact of COVID on customer service

Impact of Covid-19

With the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic, digital traffic has increased by many folds. This has also accelerated the shift to digital communications from face-face interactions. There are no consumers walking into the store anymore for quick resolutions.

Nonetheless, Covid-19 has accelerated the move towards digital, omnichannel experiences to intensify the relationships and behaviors between the businesses and consumers. Each day, governments across the globe are passing new and more rigid social distancing and quarantining measures to contain the growing disquietude over Covid-19. The visible shift in consumer demand, behavior and expectations can be attributed to the significant leap in the number of people under lockdown.

According to a survey done by HelpScout in Mid-May, 12% of their customers were handling more than double their February weekly volume. In a survey conducted by Zendesk in June, average weekly tickets have come down almost by 5% since their peak in mid-May. However, this number is 19% higher when compared to the same time last year.

Change in customer behavior can be seen with the acceleration in the use of social media channels like WhatsApp despite the slowdown in the surge in tickets. According to a Zendesk survey, WhatsApp usage has increased by 148% since February last year. Within the same period, usage of Self-service portals increased by up to 200% which is 5 times faster than customer service tickets.

Preparing for the Change

There is intense pressure to deliver the best, especially in these times. With just one sub-standard digital experience, customers desert the service providers and move on to the next. Relationships are going to get stronger and more direct, leading to deeper and enhanced personalized engagements. This move makes consumers more identifiable and trackable from the data streams.

Preparing for this change is critical when it comes to tackling these winds of change. Multinational businesses should analyze the measures taken by governments around the globe and shift their operation accordingly. To begin with, it is important to prioritize employee’s wellbeing by constantly reiterating and recreating a business continuity approach.

Adapting customer service functions to an agile methodology can also help in refining digital customer experience. The next step is to optimize BCP to leverage remote workers to align with security, risk, compliance or fraud.

Businesses should understand the fact that consumers are more inclined towards digital communication now, so there is a very high probability of omnichannel clients’ being overloaded.

Taking the First Step: Planning

Businesses that have been following a virtual work model. Those who have reviewed the pandemic statistics regularly and worked with partners, understood the service availability, technology and environmental constraints reacted appropriately, and planned the transition. In an interview with Forbes, Matt Martin, Co-Founder & CEO of Clockwise, claimed that Clockwise saw an increase of 12% (1.5 hours per person) in meetings in their clients as compared to a week before. Clockwise saw an increase of 17% in the amount of fragmented time per person per week and 8% decrease in focus time per person per week.

Organizations, like Zendesk, that made quick decisions to adopt the WFH delivery model and develop solutions to overcome the transition have been consistently achieving better CX during this uncertainty.


For execution, it is significant to provide tools to customer support teams that are focused on delivering better customer experience than just customer support. Next, training the agents to handle an emotionally stressed customer, should not be ignored.

Businesses must also re-evaluate SLAs, set and communicate expectations with the consumers as the contact centers may now be partially remote. With the spur in ticket volumes, businesses are forced to redesign their strategy in customer retention and building trust in their brand. In an article published by Redmondmag, Microsoft has cited an increase of 775% in the usage of Microsoft’s cloud services. To curb the situation and provide a balanced service to all customers, Microsoft has implemented limitations on certain resources for new subscriptions.

Behind the aforesaid numbers are the people, both customer service professional and the customers. It is impossible to reduce the impact of Covid19 on Customer service. However, providing better support tools and systems should help in stabilizing the situation to some extent.

Customer Experience v/s Customer Service:

Customer Experience, in short, is the cumulative experience of a customer from the first interaction that includes the company’s experience, efforts, and customer expectations. While, Customer Service focuses on one specific area that is the opinion on the support they have received from that company.

With the contact-less nature of this outbreak, businesses are forced to accept the importance of digital maturity. Most businesses that ventured into banking and financial services, telecommunications have been encouraging digital channels and self-service portals.

When it comes to customer experience, omnichannel is the way to go. In a nutshell, it is a multichannel approach where customers can seek businesses for a seamless experience whether they are contacting via web, email, chat, phone or social media.

Chatbots are also helpful. It is an artificial intelligent program that simulates like a virtual human being by pre-calculated user phrases.


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There are some important lessons to learn from organizations who have been in the forefront during this time and adopted the virtual work model to minimize the impact of Covid-19.

Most organizations have analyzed the situation, specifically around neutralizing the potential issues and have developed a model. Few other organizations are yet to adopt the virtual work model which is an effective BCP in this situation.

Digital is the way forward and the best way to maintain business continuity!

Natesh G
Natesh G Manager, Zendesk Practice

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