COVID-19 has driven many organizations and individuals to transform how they live and work. Our professional and personal lives have been challenged with remote work and limited in-person interactions as the new standard.

As a whole, organizations and their staff understand the value of flattening the curve by each of us doing our part to slow the spread of the virus. If you lead or work within a customer service center, however, you and your team may find that while working through changing conditions and uncertainty, you’ve also been faced with the added anxieties and occasional frustrations of your customers who continue to reach out for support. Maintaining the human emotional intelligence that is core to the support your team provides has been and will continue to be more important than ever. Microsoft Dynamics 365 Customer Service can help your team better serve customers through these uncertain times.

Enter empathy

Empathy is about creating an emotional connection with customers, employees, and communities. Pre-COVID-19, a successful brand conveyed authority, reliability, and credibility. Now, a successful brand is marked by its ability to provide empathetic connections with its customers. Our perception of what makes a brand great has shifted to the story behind the brand. Using empathy in your customer service engagement is a complex process that requires your teams to tap into the constantly changing current of how your communities are feeling.

The customer experience has transformed as well. The variance of customer support needs has broadened to include, in addition to whatever previous and predictable support requests you received, inquiries related to or caused by COVID-19. While no technology can ever replace the innate human connection, we are seeing inspiring stories arise in the past few months of customers that leveraged technology in order to further deepen that connection and deliver empathetic support.

Alone together

Take, for instance, Spanish organization Acaya. Since 1997, Acaya has developed and managed social, cultural, and educational programs for children, teenagers, and adults, with a special focus on at-risk people and those vulnerable to social exclusion. Acaya serves more than 30,000 citizens in the Madrid metropolitan area.

Due to COVID-19, Acaya had to change its business processes and how it interacted with its clients by quickly adapting to continue to serve the thousands of vulnerable people in quarantine who were dependent on Acaya’s services.

Acaya needed a contact center platform to reach out to its clientele. To solve this problem, Acaya chose Microsoft Dynamics 365 as its core, safeguarding the data of its 30,000 clients and the data of 1,200 volunteers from initiative partner, Francisco de Vitoria University.

Using the Microsoft Power Platform, information is shared safely and securely through the volunteer portal where specific tasks are assigned to each volunteer. Volunteers use Microsoft Teams to publish and share relevant content and to make follow-up calls. Volunteers listen to clients’ needs, learn if house-bound clients need groceries or refills on prescriptions, schedule time to accompany them to medical appointments, or just talk to help combat the loneliness due to quarantine.

This is just one example of how organizations are empathizing and connecting with their community and coming together by leveraging technology to maintain that essential human-to-human engagement. Another example is the Community of Madrid, in collaboration with Acaya, which created “Family Info,” a secure cloud platform developed to reduce the call volumes hospitals were fielding from family members wanting to check on their loved ones’ status and to discourage healthy family members from physically showing up at hospitals.

Proactive community outreach

And finally, across the globe, another organization has found ways to use technology to remain connected with its community. In the space of a week, the Australian Red Cross implemented a system that allows its volunteers to place a daily call to individuals in self-isolation and check on their wellbeing. Red Cross volunteers identify those that may require additional support to help with issues such as mental health or access to groceries. This simple telephone call is critically important for individuals who may otherwise have very little outside contact. Volunteers call from their own homes, which further reduces the risk of contracting the virus.

Australian Red Cross has over 10 thousand active volunteers with specialist training in psychological first aid making the daily calls. The system includes Dynamics 365 Customer Service as its foundation and uses Microsoft Power BI to track call volumes and responses. Microsoft Forms Pro is used to create and configure the question-and-answer screens volunteers use to collect responses. The system also allows volunteers to request a translator join the call to support people from non-English speaking backgrounds.

Good for all

These organizations—Acaya, the Community of Madrid, and Australian Red Cross—are examples of organizations that have built a culture of empathetic support to foster deeper connections with their communities. The true success for each of these organizations is that they leveraged their understanding of what their communities (and therefore, their customers) were going through and found ways to help alleviate as much of the uncertainties caused by rapid change as they could.

As we move into the global reopening phase, it will continue to be imperative that organizations maintain this notion of empathetic support. Here are just a couple of the benefits empathetic support promotes:

  • Heightened productivity and innovation: customer service agents who demonstrate strong skills in empathy also tend to have strengths in problem solving and efficiency.
  • Employee engagement: individuals who express empathy and a willingness to act compassionately towards others make great stewards of healthy, engaged organizational cultures.
  • Improved customer retention and satisfaction: empathy can improve the level of connection between agents and customers and can help turn a difficult situation into a positive customer experience.

It goes without saying that COVID-19 has created challenges both personally and professionally, but creative responses to how we adapt has also brought us together despite being physically apart. Customer service organizations around the world have exemplified what empathy can truly be: a level of support that allows us to transcend the business relationship and connect us to our communities.

For more ways to build a positive customer experience and stay connected with customers, Microsoft has developed a three-part, nine-episode webinar series. These webinars offer insights from industry leaders into keeping consumers connected and how to foster customer relationships to adapting to a rapidly changing environment. For more on these timely webinars and to register for each series, view the blog announcement “Webinar series: stay connected and engaged with customers.” Or use these quick links to register for each of the three series:

Learn more

Podcast now available: see how volunteer coders are helping small businesses go digital to stay connected with customers during COVID-19, and uncover the lessons they’ve learned with the Connected & Ready podcast episode, Rebuilding your business online.


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