Customer service has never been as important as it is now. Finding customers and keeping them is vital in the current conditions to keep our businesses going through the COVID-19 crisis and to do that you need to rely on your customer service team, even though in many cases they are working remotely.
It is your responsibility to ensure your customer service teams remain engaged, productive and effective even when they are working from home. The skills needed for this are somewhat different to the ones they use when in the work environment.
Productivity can be affected when working remotely as workers do not feel like they have the same amount of support as they do when others are around. Customers are also more anxious and stressed and workers don’t have the infrastructure to manage things the way they do in the workplace.
One of the biggest challenges for employers/managers is to keep their staff safe. Keeping communication regular is vital to staff to maintain their health and stay positive. When you are in the work environment, you can see when people are struggling or people can come to you but when they are remote, you need to communicate more. Keeping staff up-to-date with any changes or new information is important to ensure they still feel like part of a team. Also, keeping staff ‘in the know’ about the current state of the business is important. Staff are concerned about their jobs at the moment, so giving them regular updates on the business will help with their concerns.
Another challenge for customer service teams is the increase in customer enquiries. Customers are also facing many obstacles and people who would perhaps not normally shop online are now doing so, therefore the enquiries are going to be more frequent. As customers are facing their own uncertainties you can be sure they are more stressed and anxious which can make them (and your team) more reactive. Providing team members with constant support will help them to manage the influx of calls and sales in a calm manner which in turn helps customers to remain calm. Empathy goes a long way to understanding customers, so training staff to be empathetic to customers will help to improve the customer service standards during this intense and difficult time.
The most important thing for you as a business owner or Manager to remember is that:
- Employees are facing uncertainty and anxiety during this time
- The way customers approach your service team can increase stress levels and anxiety in staff members
- You need to invest in the well-being of employees to improve customer service and customer retention
The main thing that customer service team members need to know and understand is that their communication methods will impact future customer numbers. Here are some tips to help deal with customers who are highly stressed and anxious:
- Show them you care – offer information and support to customers during times of hardship. Using social media can help customers to know that you are there to support them with information and assistance when required.
- Keep customers up-to-date with the state of the business – announce changes that impact the business. Don’t let the customer call your number only to get an answering machine saying you are temporarily closed or don’t let them order something online only to let them know at the checkout that you are out of stock.
- Offer something to help customers – during this time offering a hand up can make customers feel like they can rely on you for example, free delivery
- Not everyone is in a difficult situation at the moment, some people are actually doing better than before COVID-19 so; ask the customers who are doing well to offer assistance. For example, the supermarket down the road from me is asking people to donate tinned or packaged food and personal items, to be distributed to the people who are struggling. This shows your customers that you care about them.
Remember, everyone is living through changing times and everyone is trying to adapt to the impact COVID-19 has made on their lives. The best thing you, as a business owner or manager can do is to help your staff members and customers during this time. Increasing and improving customer service standards will help you all in the long term.