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While COVID-19 rapidly changes the way we live and work, organizations all over the world are facing daunting challenges. Businesses are undergoing significant internal changes to accommodate newly remote workforces while reacting to seismic shifts in customer needs and behaviors. As the Microsoft Business Applications team adapts to the crisis, we want to share some of what we’ve learned in the hope that we can help light the way for your organization too.

According to PwC research, roughly 57 percent of CEOs report vulnerability due to outdated business continuity plans. Therefore, we’ve identified priority areas to help reboot your business. Core approaches include retaining and staying connected to customers, responding to changes in real time, and leveraging insights to maintain business continuity. With the right combination of these methods underpinned by the right applications, businesses can become increasingly resilient for now and for an unpredictable future.

In the coming weeks and months, we will share more articles in this series to keep you abreast of new ideas and support wherever and however we can during this time, and how Microsoft Dynamics 365 can assist.

Stay connected to customers

We have found that you can keep your business focused and moving forward by prioritizing your relationships with your customers while leveraging your existing technology to the fullest. It’s possible to rapidly scale your company’s ability to respond to customer and employee needs without a large cost or an extended time commitment.

Remaining at the forefront of the shifts that result from this crisis—the movement to e-commerce, digital selling, and remote customer service—can increase your company’s resiliency and form a solid foundation for future growth. The following infographic showcases how many businesses were caught unprepared to adapt to recent changes.

Infographic depicting statistics on the rapid shift in consumer behaviors brought by the COVID-19 outbreak

Always-on service: Respond to changes in real time

In a recent Harvard Business Review study conducted between March 11 and March 26, 2020, the average company saw the percentage of customer calls scored as “difficult” more than double from a typical level of 10 percent to over 20 percent.

Some hold times ballooned by as much as 34 percent, with escalations skyrocketing more than 68 percent. As a result of these sharp increases in customer inquiries, many organizations are confronting a lack of agility, including difficulties onboarding new customer service agents who can effectively meet customer demands in a crisis.

However, by utilizing technology to its upmost potential, you can weave people and processes together to build and strengthen the customer connection. For instance, customer and field service applications blend into an always-on offering that connects with the customer at every touchpoint, increasing customer satisfaction through rapid, accurate case resolution. Provide around-the-clock personalized service through virtual agents, trained to respond to simple high-volume requests and gently guide customers to the right solution. Mixed-reality and IoT tools can assist field support technicians by remotely detecting and resolving customer issues. Mixed reality can benefit employees by providing greater safety and protection to frontline workers so they can collaborate with customers, experts, and colleagues without physical contact.

Digital selling: Strengthen engagement, retain customers

Due to COVID-19, many companies lack the ability to engage with customers face-to-face. As a result, sellers and customers may have difficulty visualizing products and services and understanding how best to engage with one another during the crisis.

In fact, 25 percent of B2B sales representatives said that not being able to meet face-to-face with customers was one of their biggest struggles, according to Business2Community.

As a result, most B2Bs have moved to a virtual sales model during the pandemic—and for good reason. Building a remote sales organization that can digitally connect with customers ensures you are engaging prospects and customers in a timely and safe manner.

Companies should consider migrating to a real-time, secure e-commerce experience that delivers a personalized, seamless buying experience across all channels, further building customer confidence and trust. Then add videoconferencing capabilities to enable your workforce to digitally show and sell products. Bring products to life with 3D models that demonstrate solutions. Layer on always-on virtual agents to answer routine questions, and create lines of personalized communications that target your audience and gather relevant feedback. Empowering your sales force and meeting customers’ needs in this way was important before the pandemic and has become even more crucial now.

Infographic depicting stats related to customer experience during times of crisis

Business continuity: Create certainty

According to the Shelby Report, 40 percent of Retail Systems Research respondents identified unpredictable consumer demand as a top business challenge. A large number of companies have reported supply chain disruptions in some capacity due to COVID-19 transportation restrictions.

These COVID-created challenges are unprecedented, making it vital that company’s approach business with a readiness to innovate. Still, companies are often uneasy about considering drastic changes, even if it is to keep their businesses moving forward.

The key to adapting to changes is to unlock data and derived AI-driven insights that teams can quickly integrate into existing processes. Data can help forecast fluctuations and stay ahead of changing customer demands and reveal trends that you can use to rapidly adapt new business models, like “buy online with curbside pickup,” that build confidence and trust.

Better together

Despite the current challenges, there is ample opportunity to deliver a seamless customer experience and boost your company’s resiliency.

By weaving applications together, you can create a formidable end-to-end solution that empowers you to rapidly respond, better connect, and maintain business continuity no matter how volatile the business landscape.

More resources to help you stay connected to customers in the COVID-19 era

Again, over the next weeks and months, we will be sharing practical tips, helpful content and tools, and the latest findings to help you manage through crisis. Prepare to restart your business and establish new ways to adapt and thrive moving forward.

Stay tuned to the blog for weekly installments in our blog series and explore more solutions from Microsoft to help you open for business. Also check out these related resources:

Dynamics 365 brings the customer and business together. And together, there isn’t anything we can’t do.

  • Offer unbeatable remote support service to rapidly respond to customers while ensuring their satisfaction with Microsoft Dynamics 365 Customer Service and Microsoft Dynamics 365 Remote Assist.
  • Help sales continue forward by activating digital selling in a contact-free environment with Microsoft Dynamics 365 Commerce and Microsoft Dynamics 365 Sales.
  • Maintain calm during any crisis by generating rich insights with Microsoft Dynamics 365 Customer Insights so you can take meaningful action with customers. Make quick decisions with confidence using Microsoft Dynamics 365 Supply Chain Management and Microsoft Dynamics 365 Fraud Protection.

Learn more about Dynamics 365 applications that power remote sales and service.

We're always looking for feedback and would like to hear from you. Please head to the Dynamics 365 Community to start a discussion, ask questions, and tell us what you think!

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