How to handle customer service during a crisis
A combination of adaptability and genuine care for customers’ woes is the key to customer service during a crisis, especially one like these lockdowns triggered by the novel coronavirus. As Charles Darwin says, “it is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.” Here are our tips on handling this customer service crisis.
Not all heroes wear capes…
Some wear microphones, while others click away on keyboards. These are tough times. Let's take a moment to appreciate all the unsung heroes amidst this crisis. Look, we know, this is not how you wanted your 2020 to start, or your financial year to end. You have to meet targets, you have to close sales. And with COVID-19, everything has gone haywire. This is not just restricted to your country- it’s a global scenario. The global lockdown's canceling flights and stranding passengers made the aviation industry take the worst hit. Handling customer woes online is the only way out to keep everyone safe.
The digital ecosystem has evolved around the world. One can get all the information online through customer service, customer care chatbots, and blogs help in sharing relevant and precise information without customers needing to visit the company premises. During the time of the lockdown, equipping your customer service front with additional information, and updating them day by day, hour by hour, and minute by minute is key to customer success.
Many services have taken to online transactions, including banking, groceries, medicine and food delivery.
P.S. Check out our article on small business survival during the lockdowns.
At the same time, companies have not only to care about customer needs, but the wellbeing of their team too. We need to provide updated information, updated data, and convey genuine empathy during these turbulent times.
Communicating with customers
While physical offices may be closed, working from home is the need of the hour. We are working and communicating with customers constantly around the clock to make sure we don't have disgruntled customers. While some of the customers would love to talk to an agent on the other end of the telephone, it is not humanly possible to have so many calls attended by customer service, especially during a customer service crisis. A simple message of apology due to crises and overload of customer calls with a website link to explain further might help.
Being honest with customers
Admit that there has been a genuine overload of customer enquiries. Due to the impact of the coronavirus, there will be a lot of delays on end. Give them the genuine "we are trying our level best to answer all queries."
That is okay, but tell your customers about it. They have a right to know. Be candid. Be transparent. And be honest. Let them know you're trying your best to resolve this customer service crisis.
The Diggers Club, for example, has a huge header on their website saying:
“DUE TO UNPRECEDENTED DEMAND, YOU MAY EXPERIENCE A DELAY IN DELIVERY TIMES. WE ARE WORKING AROUND THE CLOCK TO ENSURE THAT YOUR ORDER IS DESPATCHED AS SOON AS POSSIBLE. STAY SAFE AND KEEP GARDENING!”
It’s candid, it tells the customer what’s going on, and it also inspires them to continue doing what they love, while pushing the message of being safe. If it is possible, provide a sort of relief so that it keeps the customer happy.
Limiting the number of visitors at a branch
We’re in a lockdown. There are a lot of people who are working from home, but there are some things that cannot be done remotely. Take the example of Whole Foods Market. Whole Foods has modified its hours to cater to those susceptible to Coronavirus. Senior citizens now have access to the store an hour before it opens to the general public so they can get the items they need in a less crowded environment. This also acts as a way to reduce branch traffic.
This further helps in limiting exposure to germs and unhygienic surroundings.
Pushing services that can be done remotely
Here are some services that we can provide remotely during this customer service crisis.
Better than no communication, sending a pre-formulated response in the form of email or message can be a useful way to reassure customers. It could also alert the sender that their email has been received and lets the sender know that an action has been taken. You could also mention a regret about possible delays due to the unprecedented rush.
This link on the company website under customer service could detail all the possible actions to satisfy the customer's need or to answer any queries. The link again could feature a forum, a toll-free number, a link to a bot, etc.
Virtual Assistants or Chatbots
A customer support chatbot has the ability to genuinely be able to answer queries and doubts as proficiently as a live agent. According to IBM, around 80% of customer service questions are answered using chatbots, as they are available 24/7 and provide fast solutions. You can even handle a higher volume of customers and queries when you use bots. They are the perfect tool for customer care.
Urgent matters require a human touch; just because you can’t see your client, doesn’t mean you can’t interact with them. Handling clients over the phone not only benefits the client, but also promotes business. It’s readily available, it’s quick, and such services demand a little empathy right now especially during these trying times.
Digital Forums or Discussion boards
Forums act as open platforms to show genuine concern towards customer woes. It allows discourse and acts as a panel for suggestions, complaints, grievances, recommendations, advice, and support. Customer service managers representing the company could moderate these forums, on predetermined dates. This builds a community for the customers and credibility for the company.
Keep ‘em smiling
With the lockdown in place, a lot of us have reached a standstill. We feel trapped in our own homes, and we look for things to fill in the void. For example, with the education industry, publishing companies are offering free versions of e-textbooks to students and teachers. Companies like Rosetta Stone are offering memberships to new and existing clients; AT&T is offering unlimited data for 60 days on Laptops and Tablets for schools and colleges. The Amazon Future Engineers program is providing free access to courses for independent learners and remote teachers.
When dealing with uncertainty, we need to look at how to ease our customers’ tension. Can we please everyone? Unfortunately, no. We can, however, nurture them as much as possible. People like being taken care of during times of uncertainty. For example, at Williamsburg Living, a retirement community in Williamsburg, there was a shortage of staff during the initial stages of the outbreak. Within three hours, help was provided by Sodexo, a food services company. They catered to 350 residents of the community. And the response? They were beyond grateful. People remember these beautiful moments, especially during times of crisis.
Shep Hyken Speaks To Engati
We have interviewed Shep Hyken, the Customer Service and Customer Experience expert. Here's what he had to say!
In these tough times, it’s not the intent that matters, but the actions that are being taken. These heroes are doing the right thing, and are doing their best to take care of customers. Boost their efforts with a chatbot. Boost this customer service crisis with an Engati chatbot!
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