By Chris Hobbs, Customer Excellence Manager
As the coronavirus pandemic continues to throw the world into chaos with different rules and guidance emerging daily, there is little to no sense of business as usual at present.
With government guidance currently stating people should work from home, if possible, there are many customer communications now happening remotely. This teamed with issues including market volatility, heightened emotions and reduced operating hours, poses challenges for customer service teams across the globe.
In the following piece, Chris Hobbs, Customer Excellence Manager at Great Annual Savings (GAS) provides some examples of challenges and guidance on maintaining excellent customer service throughout an everchanging pandemic.
Working from home
Managing a remote team comes with challenges, throw customer communications into the mix and you are faced with an ever-evolving task. Ensuring employees working from home have the necessary software to maintain high levels of service is critical.
Prior to the coronavirus outbreak, only 34% of employers used messaging systems like Slack. However, the market has unsurprisingly boomed since March as employers look to evolve. Pre-COVID, our Customer Excellence Advisors were office based and had to quickly to adapt to effectively work from home.
Instant messaging software has aided in ensuring our colleagues are not feeling disconnected when working remotely whilst also allowing quick and dynamic changes to be made when necessary. The shift to more flexible, cloud-based software has been a necessity for a lot of businesses.
Managing changes in communication volumes
Depending on the industries you work in, you may have seen drastic changes to the volume of contacts with clients. Whether your volumes have increased or decreased, it is vital that you alter your procedures and processes to ensure you maintain high levels of service.
It is important to take the customers preferences into account. So, if your volume has decreased and you have a customer who has stated that they do not prefer to be contacted very regularly; regardless of having additional time, you should ensure you are complying with customer wishes. However, if you have customers that prefer regular contact now would be the prime time to engage.
With industries such as hospitality being heavily impacted, businesses working with these sectors have understandably seen an influx of customer contacts. And, as we navigate through this time, customer-focused teams must ensure they are proactive with their messages. Waiting to communicate may lead to speculation and uncertainty in your business in an already uncertain time. So, getting on the front foot and communicating as the information comes available will prevent an influx of calls from concerned customers.
Stating call wait times and offering different forms of contact will aid in managing the flow of customer contacts. Here at GASs, we have invested in growing the Customer Excellence team to better serve our customers.
Tackling changes to operating models
Depending on industry, changes and delays to the supply chain may be common. This can cause shifts in consumer behaviour and attitude. We all saw and experienced issues with panic buying of household supplies during the initial stages of the virus outbreak and would want to avoid encouraging this type of impulsive consumer behaviour.
Remaining calm and reassuring your customers is playing a much bigger part in our everyday communications. Being a constant source of valuable information will not only reassure your customers and aid retention, but it will also enhance your brand.
The personal touch is more important than ever
With livelihoods at risk for many businesses, it has never been more important to provide an excellent, personalised service at every point of the customer journey.
To us, the personal element of the business is critical. Even prior to the pandemic we removed the IVR system to ensure our customers are speaking to a person when calling us. All relationships have an emotional component, and with the current pandemic, emotions are heightened for many. We, as customer service professionals must factor that into our approach with every client.
What channels of communication should you use?
At GAS, we have different avenues for communication to make getting in touch with us as convenient as possible for our customers. We can be reached by phone, email and via WhatsApp.
Other firms have explored video conferencing with clients provides a more personalised approach. Clients are able to put a face to their advisor, rather than simply looking at a screen, and they get the impression that the company cares.
As a result of the changes we have made at GAS, we have seen an increase in positive reviews across Trustpilot and Google throughout the course of the pandemic which is fantastic for boosting team confidence as well as enhancing the GAS brand.
About the author:
Chris Hobbs has more than a decade of experience in customer relationship and complaints strategy. He has worked for some of the UK’s most recognisable brands, including Tesco Bank and Direct Line Group.
Chris believes in a “get it right first time” motto and has been a key individual in creating a customer-centric approach at Great Annual Savings Group, as well a customer journey remodel and the growth of the Group’s value-added services.
Read more of Chris’ blogs here.