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Economic Downturn: A CX Death Knell?

How Businesses Can SurvThrive in Lean Times with AI + Automation

With the help of $5 trillion in government stimulus and near-zero interest rates to spur consumption following pandemic lockdowns, the US economy rebounded following a sharp recession — possibly more than the central bank had imagined. 

But there was an unhappy consequence: Rapid inflation reaching 9.1%. With stimulus money drying up and high prices holding back consumer spending, business leaders and economists fear an economic downturn (perhaps even a recession) is imminent, if not already here. While no one wants a slumping economy, it’s not a death knell for every business. Some companies actually grow and prosper in lean times.

Let’s take a look at how businesses can not merely survive an economic downturn, but thrive, by optimizing a lean workforce and (plot twist) expanding into international markets.

A Turbulent Time for Support Teams

As of early June, the US job market remained red hot, with US businesses adding 372,000 jobs in June and the unemployment rate holding at a near pre-pandemic low of 3.6%. Meanwhile, in May, unemployment in the Euro area hit an all-time low of 6.6%. But inevitably some companies are starting to struggle. It seems like every day there’s news of a well-known company slashing their workforce.

It’s worth noting that many of these layoffs have come from the tech sector, even while there still remains a shortage of service workers. Tech companies are already having to do more with fewer employees, and other businesses may be forced to follow suit. Often it’s the customer service teams that feel the impact in terms of reductions. For companies with business models that depend on creating delightful customer experiences (i.e., most companies), it can be challenging to maintain stellar customer support with a smaller agent pool and, as a result, they become vulnerable to customer churn.

Opportunities Emerge from Crisis

An economic downturn may not seem like a time to ramp up business activity, but it could make for an excellent opportunity. As you look for new ways to increase the bottom line during an economic contraction, consider expanding into new markets. It’s often the best time to steal share from weaker competitors while they adjust to their cost-cutting measures.

A key concern when acquiring customers in another country, however, is the cost of having to provide local customer support, usually to a population that speaks a different language than your business has serviced in the past. 

For example, expanding from the United States to England seems easy enough from a language standpoint, but the English spoken in the two nations varies with idioms and cultural nuances specific to countries. The same goes for the French spoken in Paris and the French spoken in Quebec, or the Spanish spoken in Medellin and the Spanish spoken in Buenos Aires. These language variations can lead to miscommunications that can make your brand memorable, but for all the wrong reasons.

In order to provide high-quality, native-language translations, brands must ensure that content and customer support are localized for each market. Traditionally, this work required investing in a large native-speaking staff. But quickly hiring a support team is hard and expensive, which is something businesses try to avoid, especially during an economic slowdown. However, technology can augment the capabilities of a workforce and even help in scaling the localized translations necessary to win and retain customers.

Emerge Stronger than Ever with the Power of AI + Automation

An economic downturn is tough on most businesses, but it does provide a chance to swoop in and acquire the customers that struggling businesses leave behind. When viewed in this light, a recession presents smart businesses with the opportunity to not only survive, but thrive in the face of deteriorating market conditions. 

Unbabel relies on an advanced AI refined by human editors to provide translations for specific geographical areas so that businesses and customers can seamlessly communicate without anything getting lost in translation. By being proactive about localization and translations for specific regions, your company can plan ahead about the resources and headcount your team will need down the line

Unbabel’s AI-powered multilingual translation easily integrates with customer support CRMs like Zendesk to quickly give your team multilingual superpowers. This liberates them to do the job of many agents, making it easier for your business to not only keep thriving in a down economy but actually expand internationally. Plus, our software features robust localization capabilities that can distinguish between the different dialects of a particular region. 

Here’s a chance to emerge from an economic downturn stronger than ever before — don’t let it slip away. 

Looking to cut costs? Check out our article 3 Tips to Reduce Customer Service Costs While Maintaining Excellent Support.

About the Author

James Palmer is Unbabel’s Chief Financial Officer. With more than 30 years of experience, Palmer is a veteran of advising and leading global companies through growth and development in the technology sector.

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