The New Customer Experience Amid COVID-19

virtual customer experience

As Americans have learned to adapt to their new normal during the ongoing pandemic, cable operators have offered alternative ways to meet their customers' needs and demands. Last month, a Midco field technician on the frontlines shared his experience of going into people's homes since the onset of COVID-19, but only when it was absolutely necessary. Midco has a prevention team in place that guides its employees through a series of precautions to take when interacting with customers, and to ensure that all parties are comfortable with any work being done inside the home. But in many situations, the customer experience has largely shifted towards no-contact scenarios whenever possible, and towards digital channels where ISP employees—many who have been working from home as well—can walk customers through troubleshooting and problem solving. In a Q&A with NCTA, Midco Vice President of Customer Experience Cory Limberg shared a few of the tools and the innovative approaches that the ISP implemented in order to create as seamless an experience for their customers as possible. 

Midco VP Cory LimbergIn what ways has interaction with customers changed during the pandemic? 

Along with everyone else in the industry, we had a spike in volume across all of our inbound channels as our customers transitioned into a work from home & distance learning environment. Due to this surge in volume, our customers quickly began to seek and discover alternative digital methods of interacting with us in chat, SMS, social and online self-help resources. From a field perspective, we had to quickly adapt our most engaged interaction to a no-contact interaction whenever possible. The collective teams in marketing, IT, field operations, sales and customer care quickly adjusted policies and processes to ensure a seamless transition for our team members and customers. Our customers were extremely appreciative of how quickly we adapted to our new normal and still delivered our great products and services but in a way that empowered them to self install, knowing we were still right there if they needed us. Part of that enablement was the deployment of our virtual visits via the Blitzz platform that leverages a "Virtual Show Me" interaction via the customer's mobile device. It never ceases to amaze me how much innovation can spring up from necessity! 

What channels do you use the most to communicate with customers?  

Inbound phone remains our largest volume channel, but we are seeing a sustained transition by our customers to chat and social to get information and support.

What have been the challenges of meeting customers' needs during this time? 

If there has been one challenge it would be communicating the rapid changes internally as we adapt to our new world. But what has helped make this work is this common belief by Midco team members to "just do what is right." Knowing that team members and customers are in this together has allowed for a new phenomenon of reciprocal empathy that is actually strengthening our bond with customers.

Has your team discovered areas of customer service that can work long-term and improve productivity for the future? 

When you undergo this amount of change in such a short period of time you worry about how long it will take before the initial novelty of the new environment or change will wear off and customers and team members may become indifferent or complacent. What we are seeing is this amazing level of adaptability from our customers, building stronger digital habits and self-reliance, and our team members' productivity and flexibility has far exceeded my expectations. Another fear going in from a customer sentiment standpoint was the loss of the human touch. Our secret sauce at Midco is our team members. When customers deal directly with a technician in their home or an agent over the phone, we would see strong performance in our customer satisfaction metrics. During this crisis, we continue to see lifts in these areas as well as in our digital channels and no-contact field visits. Our customers are recognizing the value of Midco products and services and at the same time recognizing Midco's strong commitment to serving them during this time.

How is this pandemic reshaping Midco's approach to customer care as a whole? 

Pre-pandemic we had begun to put forth a very aggressive strategy centered around being "Easy To Do Business With" or "EZB." Our objective was to create frictionless engagements for our customers across our digital and self-installation channels so that these would become the norm and not the exception. We had built our strategy on a five-year plan that along the way would dramatically shift customer sentiment upward and reduce inefficiencies in our operations. What this unprecedented global event has brought Midco is a whole new level of focus and collaboration across the company to innovate on behalf of our customers at every turn. It has allowed us to take risks, to innovate fast, and modify our approach as we go, because we are maintaining that singular focus on the customer experience.