Answering the new CX challenge in a time of Crisis


April 8th, 2020

Crisis of the scale and speed of COVID-19 demand new approaches to Customer Experience.

COVID-19 has exposed nearly every CX system, process, and technology as unprepared for a Black Swan event.

Workers are now dispersed with call centres operating from kitchen tables. Conversations have been rerouted from retail to phones and online chat, resulting in many encountering hours of wait times. Customers are demanding more than transactional answers; they want advice and reassurance.

eCommerce has increased between 20 and 50% in many markets. Yet the delivery and customer infrastructure was never built to support this increase. Customer support tickets are rising by more than 20% with wait times up over 40% over the same period last year.

Different sectors have experienced more severe shifts. Remote work and learning companies saw weekly requests up nearly 400% in March. Entertainment companies have seen a 98% explosion in tickets since the beginning of March, and airlines have seen a 76% increase in requests.

Faced with degrading CX, customers that might once have called or visited in person are turning to chat, bots, and online interactions for answers. Overall, AI uses to respond increased by 29% in March alone. But most are left dissatisfied with the experience.

Clear CX pressure points have emerged:

  1. Companies in general, which are suffering due to dispersed employees, layoffs, and uncertainty
  2. Specific industries such as Communications (Zoom), eCommerce, Airlines and Financial Services that have had to respond in specific ways to resolve COVID-19 related needs
  3. Government agencies, which have been flooded with calls and messages about the pandemic and need to communicate constantly changing policies in real-time

Technology has the opportunity to bolster and augment humanity in a time of crisis.


COVID-19 has taught us that we don’t have time for traditional approaches. Unexpected consequences surface nearly daily. What is clear is the need for a rapid acceleration of the digital transformation of customer engagement and experience. Every organisation must be digital-first as of yesterday.

Pre-COVID, addressing most of these questions would have fallen into a long-term digital transformation strategy with trade-offs made between existing channels and investments, and staged shifts to the new. It’s an approach we can’t accommodate now, and will unlikely be relevant in the new environment that will emerge.

COVID-19 is forcing companies to become “digital, now!”, accelerating the opportunity to drive digital transformations, virtual work, and new ways to engage customers.

Early adopters and innovators provide answers to today’s challenges.


Organisations like SKI-II who have developed a Digital Brand Ambassador called Yumi are uniquely positioned.

Yumi scales and operates autonomously, enabling them to engage millions of customers in a human, but consistent way. Yumi quickly adapts to the changing environment by using an AI-powered conversational corpus. Yumi is flexible and can be rapidly repurposed to be a Digital Helper or Companion for employees. Where most brands human influencers and ambassadors have fallen silent, Yumi is operating 24×7.

Yumi and SK-II exemplify how we can address the new CX demands of COVID-19 in new ways

  1. Scale: As the limits of traditional communications channels are tested beyond their limits, companies and Government must develop new scaleable communications that are more human, intelligent and responsive. Longer waits on replies highlight the importance of adapting quickly to meet customer demand and safeguard customers’ trust, especially for companies in the sectors hardest-hit by the outbreak. Yumi can meet customers on any screen, wherever they are. Autonomy means she can operate tens of thousands of concurrent conversations. Critically, she can adapt in near real-time by changing her conversational corpus (the speech, information and conversation data set she uses) on the fly.
  2. Intelligence: Traditional approaches depend on light AI and scripts – they are rigid and don’t use the rich data sets most companies and Government entities possess. Yumi has a digital brain both using advanced AI and tapping into other systems using AI. As a result, she is constantly learning and adapting to a constantly changing environment.
  3. Connection: consumers are depending on digital supply chains and need new levels of comfort and responsiveness. They need to be able to connect to complete more complex tasks. Yumi engages in conversation – moving beyond the rote and programmatic answers delivered by Bots and Digital Puppets. She can quickly complement any conversation with graphics and path customers to the next best answer.
  4. Human: Every communication needs a deeper human component. Interactions need a face, the need to be authentic, and they need to relate to the consumer’s state. Yumi uses advanced artificial general intelligence and CGI, enabling her to emulate human responses such as surprise, delight, and uncertainty. She is hyper-realistic but in a human-like way. In essence, every element of her face adapts and moves to the conversation where Bots and Digital Puppets create a sense of discomfort and artificiality with the lips moving in isolation from the face. This addresses an essential human need during any crisis – that of human interaction.</span
  5. Relate: As we depend on communicating from our living rooms, we need more than updates and information, we need brands to relate to us and our situation. Because Yumi can see and hear us, she can relate to us as an individual. Where we are concerned or worried, she can respond uniquely to that. She humanizes interactions where most approaches dehumanize them.
  6. Trust. As the world wakes up to a new reality, one in which physical interactions aren’t possible or limited, how do businesses and Government create trust and engagement? Yumi is designed to augment human experiences and can bridge the time until they are available again. She can create trust through content and interactions delivered in the most human way possible. She also provides SK-II with the critical ability to protect their employees while minimising the impact to the  business.

By looking to the early adopters and innovators such as SK-11ANZ, and Westpac we can find answers to today’s CX challenges. All are armed with a Digital Hero capable of addressing CX challenges in a time of crisis.

“In an age of exceptionally high consumer expectations, customer experience has emerged as the new competitive battlefield” – Jake Sorofman – Gartner