The whole world is living in unprecedented times. Countries, businesses, and people are forced to adopt a new routine and adjust their strategies and behavior to navigate the new frantic environment challenges of the novel coronavirus pandemic.
The global health crisis has shifted the way people go about their daily lives. Among all of the uncertainty brought upon by this anxiety-inducing event, business owners need to keep their communication lines open and humanize their processes to provide the best customer care now more than ever.
You should prepare and brief your customer support team to serve each client with extra caution, knowing that whoever is on the other end of the line may be affected in some way by COVID-19. Businesses that lead with empathy and genuinely listen to their customers to address their needs can improve the customer experience and strengthen relationships.
Here are some tips on how businesses can provide better customer support during a crisis.
- Be transparent about how your business is responding
A lot of businesses have been greatly affected by the pandemic, with some even needing to shut down their places permanently. If your company managed to hold on and found ways to stay afloat through the crisis, communicate the steps you’re taking to keep your employees and customers safe and happy during this time.
For instance, outline your protective measures in-store, your current business hours, and the steps on how customers can place their orders online.
- Inform customers about your updated processes
Selling products and providing services in a time when quarantine and lockdown protocols are in place calls for new processes. Make sure to inform your customers what they should expect: new business hours, ordering process, and other changes. Assure them that you’re doing this to take precaution and that you’re doing it to ensure everyone’s safety over profit.
For example, a restaurant may only accept takeout and delivery orders or implement social distancing protocols for dine-in customers (a limited number of persons per table and in-store).
- Tell customers where and how they can reach you
Will you be utilizing chatbots? Are you setting up accounts on messaging apps like Viber, or will you be sticking with your social media accounts? Do you find it easier to attend to customer concerns via email? Determine the channel where you can best manage customer inquiries or orders.
You may remind customers on your social media platforms to reach you through a specific channel, such as Viber, for order requests. However, it’s best to stay reachable through all channels for better communication, as some customers may be more comfortable contacting businesses through one method than the other.
- Have a reference point for frequently asked information
If it takes one too many steps or back-and-forth conversations between your support agents and customers for common questions, it’s time to create a central reference point where your customers can find the answers they need.
This page should include the current information, such as return or refund policy, shipping/delivery information, store information, payment details, and customer support hours. You can set up a FAQs page on your website, pin this information on Facebook, or create an Instagram highlight dedicated to it.
You can also ask your customer support to direct customers to the FAQs information to address their concerns quickly. Do also regularly share updates on your social media accounts where your customers are active.
- Educate your support agents on how to reduce customer frustrations
Customer service policies and practices pre-pandemic may not work as effectively these days. You must update your guidelines and protocols to reflect the current reality. Also, encourage your support reps to listen actively and empathize. Saying that they’re “powerless to help,” although true, can turn any customer’s ears hot.
You can educate your agents with language techniques for better communication. Saying something along the lines of “let’s see if we can solve this together” is already enough to make them feel that you understand where they’re coming from. Try to minimize redirects, too, as it can make customers feel as if they’re being passed around without a resolution in sight.
- Review and adjust your current marketing strategy
Chances are, your business already has a marketing plan laid out for the coming months. But since we are in the middle of a crisis, that plan may not be as relevant or useful as initially planned.
Review your marketing material and strategies, including your social media content plan and advertising campaigns. This also applies to your email marketing strategies. Check your campaign materials—you may spot thoughts or phrases that may sound tone-deaf, considering the current situation people are in. If you skip this critical process, you may risk sharing something your customers may view as insensitive.
- Make cancellations easy
A lot of people are going through financial hardships right now. The least you can do to help customers get their finances sorted out is to make it easy for them to cancel services or subscriptions without additional costs.
You may not afford to lose customers during this time, but it’s still better to leave strong relationships even with parting customers. They may unsubscribe from your service now, but they may still return when they’re in a better position.
- Support the emotional needs of your customers
Even if your business does not provide services or products that can directly help your customers make home life a lot more enjoyable now that they’re forced to stay at home, you can still do something to help—from sharing social media posts that remind them to take a break and financial tips to food recipes they can try at home.
If you’re feeling a little generous, you can provide limited discounts or offer free online seminars or classes related to your service. This way, you can forge lasting connections with customers.
Summing it up
The COVID-19 health crisis has put many business owners, leaders, managers, and service agents under extreme pressure they’ve never experienced before. Leading with empathy during these challenging times can help you build real and lasting connections with customers. With the right skills, approach, mindset, and strategies, your business can come out of this pandemic stronger than ever.