COVID-19 response

The pandemic is driving more companies to hand customers the wheel

  • Meg-5 (1).jpg
    Meg Buchanan
  • Sep 30, 2020

COVID-19 has made it clear that digital choice is the future of customer relationships, from self-service experiences to the life-changing power of telehealth.

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While the difficulties we’ve collectively faced as individuals, businesses, and a society in 2020 are impossible to ignore, this year and more specifically, the COVID-19 pandemic, has also ushered in some silver linings in how we approach communication technology and helping (as opposed to merely selling to) customers.

In particular, this pandemic has highlighted the universal need for easy, digital-based access to health care and education, and the importance of safety and security across both. Because of this, more companies are creating technology that hands the reins over to their customers to access information on their own terms.

In seeing this shift, we’ve identified seven major ways that businesses have used COVID-19 as a time to build a better customer experience model focused on autonomy. Scroll to find examples of how innovative organizations are using tech to make people healthier, safer, and more educated about the world today.

Self-service—addressing common needs, at scale

With self-service communication tools, customers are given the agency to find solutions to their own questions and have ownership over problem-solving at their own pace and time.

WhatsApp pilots in-app 'fact-checking' messaging tool

In an effort to curb ‘fake news,’ the social platform has released a new self-service ‘fact-checking’ tool. This feature will allow individual users to check Google for the news sources they send and confirm the legitimacy of the shared link.

DoNotPay harnesses AI to help people get bill extensions with everything from monthly rent to parking tickets

The world’s first robot lawyer is helping their customers work through legal issues, delay bills, and even sue robocallers on your behalf.

DoNotPay is a chatbot mobile app that began as a way to fight parking tickets and has since expanded their services during COVID-19 to help their customers with a variety of legal bureaucracy issues.

Watch the on-demand webinar all about creating self-service experiences with IVRs and chatbots.

Distance learning—connecting students and educators

While virtual learning has become a necessity in the pandemic, educational technology isn’t always up to par. To be useful to students and teachers, educational technology has to be fast, easy-to-use, AND fill in the blanks of in-person classrooms.

Santa for TOEIC helps students improve their test scores in less than 24 hours

Using data to continually improve their algorithms, the South Korean educational app relies on machine learning to improve AI tutoring for Korean students. In just 20 hours of studying, users have been proven to increase their TOEIC score by an average of 165 points out of 990.

Making the grade with virtual learning and Air Tutors

Air Tutors provides tutoring, test prep, and other educational support to engage and captivate learners and empower educators virtually.

The company uses a video conferencing solution that integrates seamlessly with a variety of communication options and provides advanced customization to cater to educators and learners. With an increased demand for online learning, the platform also has handled the increase in bandwidth seamlessly to not interfere with a student's educational experience.

Telehealth—a new era of patient engagement

Technology that supports the privacy, convenience, and safety of patients is the new frontier of patient engagement. Healthcare companies that create a virtual space for patients to feel supported and safe and offer providers the flexibility to do their job well will continue to define the industry into the future.

Carbon Health rewrites the script with cloud-based pop-up clinics

Carbon Health, a healthtech startup, is using cloud-based technology to give companies onsight COVID-19 testing options in conjunction with telehealth.

Employees can register for screenings, share health history and after testing, receive follow up appointment notifications. Their services have been used at everything from movie production sites to sporting events.

Zocdoc’s telehealth option makes finding a trustworthy provider even easier

The COVID-19 pandemic is reshaping healthcare as we know it. More providers than ever are offering virtual care.

ZocDoc, a medical search engine and patient-review platform, also added telehealth as an option earlier this year. The additional service has made it even easier for patients to find trustworthy providers remotely for secure appointments.

Get the ebook all about providing a more consumer-centric healthcare delivery model

Notifications—stay in touch with customers, on their terms

Long gone are the days where we only got notifications for a flash sale, an upcoming appointment, or a new social update. Today, notifications are getting smarter and more sensitive to customers' basic needs from everything from safety and security to appointment reminders to shelter and sanitation.

Commute-ication: Waze makes your drive smarter with personalized traffic notifications

Waze, a popular map and traffic avoider app, recently released a series of updates to help users have a more quality experience on the road. Among other personalized notifications, users will now see a new ETA calculation in less trafficked areas — a result of the influence COVID-19 has had on historically more crowded roads.

Google releases wildfire emergency alert tool using satellite data

Pandemics aren’t the only thing businesses are responding to. With a record-breaking year in wildfires, Google has responded by launching a wildfire boundary map in Search as well as Map SOS alerts to help users stay in the know for areas impacted by ongoing fires.

Remote contact center—empowering employees

Fewer in-person interactions means companies have gotten more creative with how they engage with customers and on behalf of their employees. They’re creating new systems, like cloud-based remote contact centers, that give employees the space to help in more complex customer needs and gives customers the autonomy to get their problems solved quickly.

New Zendesk virtual dashboard offers real-time customer analytics

Recognizing that working from home might be a bit more permanent, Zendesk has rolled out a brand new dashboard that can be viewed from anywhere to see real-time customer data.

The Live Team Dashboard gives Zendesk clients the tools they need to understand what’s happening in real-time as their virtual customer service needs get increasingly more complex.

Replica invests in the future of human voices for bots and cuts customer call time in half

With remote contact centers becoming the future of customer service, Replica is leaning into investing in chatbots that make your experience more human. Literally. The software company is harnessing voice technology to make customer calls more conversational and thus, more successful.

Using deep learning, the chatbots will also begin to understand the intricacies of humans’ sentences, and resolve certain customer service inquiries which will result in less people on hold and call times cut in half.

Watch the on-demand webinar all about augmenting the contact center to enable remote customer service.

Contact tracing – ongoing management and monitoring

When the pandemic began, there was a global feeling of panic while we attempted to get an organized hold on flattening the curve of the virus. Several months in, both government agencies and tech companies are working together to develop technology that supports contact tracing on both a national and international scale—technology we can use for COVID-19 and beyond.

Apple launches contact tracing system-level notifications

Apple has officially launched their ‘exposure notification technology’ with their latest system software update. Google is planning on releasing their iteration later this month.

The new software will make it easier for state public health authorities to roll out widespread digital contact tracing without having to create and maintain their own individual apps. Users will have the option to opt in and receive notifications if they’ve been exposed to COVID-19.

Singapore’s Open Government Products are using contact tracing technology to solve real-world problems

As one of the teams responsible for helping to digitize the Singapore government, OGP has released several platform solutions to aid with everything from digitizing forms, distributing masks, to sending mass message notifications.

Their work has made a difference in both cutting down the spread of the virus and getting out trusted information to the Singapore community.

U.K. rolls out country-wide contact tracing app using QR check-in at venues

In order to implement country wide contact tracing, the UK is rolling out an app that utilizes QR codes in public spaces such as pubs, hair salons, and cinemas. Businesses will post the codes outside their establishments as a way for visitors to check in and accurately trace their in-person footprint to help stop the spread of the virus.

Read what tech does and doesn’t solve for contact tracing.

Contactless commerce—ensuring consumer safety with satisfaction

Contactless interactions in the hospitality industry aren’t exactly a COVID-19-related update; these types of service offerings were already in the works long before the pandemic. However, the extent as to which they’ve been rolled out and the scale as to which they are now offered gives customers the autonomy to determine their level of comfort with human interaction through various digital technologies.

Instacart’s Leave at My Door policy

Prior to COVID-19 on-demand grocery delivery app Instacart had already launched its Leave at My Door Delivery option. Instacart relies on SMS notifications to manage their order confirmations, delivery ETA's, customer satisfaction surveys, and employee shift alerts. Most critical to the business is the speed in which alerts reach their personal shoppers, so they can begin to process the order and deliver on their hour-or-less promise.

Domino’s omni-channel ordering approach leads to a 65 percent increase in sales

Domino’s didn’t ‘pivot’ during quarantine. Their secret sauce to COVID-19 was to lean into a process that was years in the making.

The ingredients to their success? Flexibility and creativity. Their omni-channel approach meant that customers could order from just about any platform from Slack to Facebook Messenger and with the introduction of ‘zero-click ordering’, customers can also get a pizza from their app within 10 seconds.

Target’s app makes for seamless contactless delivery, pickup, and customer service

From finding a store with the product you’re looking for to alerting that store you’re on your way to having employees bring the order to your car when you arrive, Target’s app is a customer service breeze.

Each step comes with a push notification for ease of use and allows customers to feel safe and secure with their curbside contactless pickup.

Watch the on-demand webinar about best practices for contactless delivery.

Giving customers a voice

Companies can evolve and improve their customer engagement by making customers a part of the conversation about how they’re engaged in the first place. By giving customers ownership, and providing them with more freedom and access to information on their own terms requires communication technology that isn’t just about selling a product or a service: it’s about building a relationship.


Join the conversation with us about how to build better customer communications and experiences at our annual SIGNAL conference.

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Meg Buchanan

Meg Buchanan is a Colorado native, a Kansas Jayhawk, and a proud multi-tasking millennial. As Twilio's Content Marketing Manager, she has more than seven years of experience writing for both agencies and in-house brands on topics from healthcare to hospitality.