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Customer Service in a Crisis

The world is collectively trying to manage a health crisis, and families and businesses are suffering. Quality customer service has never been more important to your business. Your customers need to feel taken care of, now more than ever. 

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Unlike events that affect a single customer, a crisis affects many, if not all, of your customers, and requires public communication wherein your team speaks in a single voice. Creating a well-documented and efficient crisis management process means accounting for all scenarios, gathering input from all relevant stakeholders and defining how and when to communicate with customers as a cohesive unit. Just as important as the plan is a team that’s trained to implement it and hold themselves accountable. 

We all know customer service is often the first line of defense when it comes to a company’s reputation. In times of crisis, your customer-facing staff can also be the most important.  

Communicate With Customers 

One of the best ways to build confidence and trust during difficult times is to proactively communicate what’s happening and how you are reacting to it. This lets your customers know that you’re on top of the situation. Provide updates to any process changes and respond to any inquiries in a timely fashion. Alternatively, poor communication can destroy trust you may have previously earned. No news is generally not considered good news if a customer is awaiting an answer to their question, claim or issue.

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Prepare and Care 

In the initial stages of a crisis, it can be a scramble for your front-line staff to understand what’s happening and how to respond. As soon as possible, one or more people need to step out of the queue to focus on enabling the rest of the team. 

Prepare clear, concise messaging and share it promptly with all customer-facing employees. Detail the current impact of the crisis on your business, if any, outline any process changes and set expectations for when information will be updated. 

Whatever shared inbox or help desk system you use, it likely offers features to allow for faster, more consistent service, and that extra help is critical in a crisis. Take those prepared messages and move them into your customer service software. Saved replies should generally be broken down into logical pieces so that the customer service agent can combine only the relevant sections into a personalized answer for the customer. Be sure to give your template messages a useful name, something like “COVID-claim,” that helps you quickly find them when you need them. 

Avoid Public Tongue Lashings 

In the past, frustrated consumers may have groused about their situation to family and friends, maybe even vowed never to use the offending service/business again, but it very rarely went any further than that. Now that we have the internet, that one disgruntled customer has the ability to magnify their voice hundreds of times over.  

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Dealers must take all steps necessary to maintain their reputation. An open ear and a sympathetic tone may be all it takes to resolve the vast majority of consumer-related issues. Above the doorway to every customer service center should hang a sign that reads simply, “Remember the Golden Rule: Treat others the way you would like to be treated.” Keep that in mind, and your chances of minimizing a customer’s stress, rather than adding to it, will improve greatly — and so will your reputation. 

Service Remotely 

Now is the time we are all testing our IT infrastructure. Entire companies are now working offsite.  

In 2019, we switched to an advanced cloud-based phone system that has enabled us to control and manage our call center, while fully remote. Additionally, all other major applications are also cloud-based and require zero physical in office presence to interact with our customers in a “business as usual” fashion.  

One of our larger clients called when the social distancing advisements first started, concerned with how a quarantine or a mandated shut down would affect their business. When we told them that our remote readiness was at 100% and we didn’t expect any reduction in service, they were more than ecstatic. As we sit here today, the entire company is working remotely, and I can honestly say it is business as usual. I recommend being productive during this down time and not only stabilizing, but improving your infrastructure and processes so that if you weren’t prepared this time around, you will be next time.

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