As many brick-and-mortar retailers have pivoted to transacting entirely online during the COVID-19 pandemic, large customer support teams have made the transition to remote working too. But staying abreast of rapidly changing customer behaviour and meeting increased customer demand can be challenging with support teams in isolation.

While customer support enquiries are lessening as businesses across Australia are slowly reopening, they are still much higher than this same time last year according to our recent Benchmark Snapshot. It can be a balancing act trying to manage these high volumes while also understanding and responding to ever-evolving customers’ unique preferences and needs. But by leveraging customer data, support teams can make better informed decisions to deliver the best experiences for their customers.

Here are three steps to improving your customer experience with data.

Centralise customer data for easy access and analysis

Many businesses have a wealth of customer data. But this data often becomes siloed, stuck in different systems or across different teams. Businesses stand to gain a wealth of insight by simply bringing the data together on an open and modern CRM platform so it can be easily accessed and analyzed.

With the right tools you can not only understand the history of interactions with a customer, you can even gain insight into what is currently happening in your relationship with them individually. Centralising your data unlocks a far more memorable customer experience whereby your support team has a more holistic picture of each customer and can anticipate and solve their needs more quickly and effectively. This leads to happier and more loyal customers who are prepared to spend more with you in the long term.

Decentralise the insights from your data

Once your customer data has been centralised, the next step is being able to decentralise the insights derived from the data across the company. When a customer reaches out, they do not care if they have reached the right department. When the whole company has access to the same information about the customer, they can readily help without making the customer repeat their story or passing them from agent to agent.

For example, customers today want to engage with businesses on the channels they use to communicate with family and friends. In March and April this year retail businesses in Australia witnessed a 20% increase in tickets received over chat platforms. With insights like this, sales and customer support teams can focus on meeting customers on the channels they’re already using, from the initial sale throughout their experience with a product or service.

Enhance team collaboration

Many hands make light work, and it is no different when it comes to support teams, especially in circumstances involving higher-than-usual ticket volumes. Customer support teams that collaborate are better set up to provide experiences that meet and exceed customer expectations, as collaboration helps to ensure that teams are aligned on customer behaviour trends and how best to respond. It can be as simple as setting up daily team regroups, or weekly meetings to analyse data and reports and devise ways to better respond to trends.

Since the last week of February, customer support tickets were up 50% in March and April for Australian retail businesses. Some tools, like Zendesk Explore, allow you to understand and proactively manage team resources by having a real-time view of the on ground realities. This allows managers to redeploy resources to where it is needed the most, so as to ease logjams and avoid inconveniencing customers.

Over the past few months, we have witnessed how significantly the business landscape can change and how quickly businesses need to be able to adapt. Setting your business up for success in a post-COVID-19 era may seem like a daunting task, but a lot of what you need to figure out a way forward already resides within your business. By tapping into your customer data, not only do your teams benefit, but so do your customers through improved experiences, and ultimately your business from an improved bottom line.

Steve Bray is regional vice president for sales Australia and New Zealand at Zendesk