During the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, U.S. consumers were suddenly faced with widespread product shortages, which was something the public hadn’t really experienced in decades. People were scared, confused, and inundated with misinformation. Suddenly, basic details — like where to get paper goods or fresh produce, or whether public areas were closed — were difficult to obtain.
Making matters worse, many organizations were unprepared to handle the sudden spike in call volume, or the shift to remote operations. Organizations across all industries, from travel to finance to local governments, struggled with long wait times and service delays in their contact centers.
One of the most important takeaways from the pandemic is that companies need to have scalable customer service continuity strategies in place, to keep communication flowing throughout any situation.
Pandemic Customer Service Tips
Here are some customer service tips that companies should consider when it comes to disaster preparedness.
Leverage The Cloud
The days of using large, in-house contact centers are coming to an end. Customer service, like most other business processes, has gone remote. Companies can enable powerful remote customer service using the cloud, which allows agents to securely access tools and databases from their home offices. Every contact center should have a cloud-based communications and collaboration platform for agents and managers, which can connect to cloud CRMs and other business platforms. The cloud is a must-have technology for contact centers in 2020 — even organizations that have resisted it thus far.
Offer Flexible Communications
Unified Communications can streamline both customer-facing and internal communication, providing a mechanism for exchanging information in a way that is flexible and convenient. Look for UCaaS solutions that enable secure text messaging, voice, video, and digital fax between agents and customers.
Implementing UCaaS and expanding your communications channels is a great way to reduce overall call volumes. This can help resolve issues faster, reducing complaints and lowering costs.
Offer Extended Support
During an extraordinary situation like a pandemic, when people are busy rushing around tending to emergency situations, they don’t always have time to tackle daily problems within normal business hours. Extended service hours should be offered, to accommodate customer requests and help people solve their challenges. This is especially true in critical industries like finance and lending, where customers may need to speak with representatives about making payments.
Companies that cannot afford to offer extended support should look into using chatbots and automated attendants, which can help triage requests and assist customers with basic questions at all hours of the day.
Analyze Customer Needs
Some companies are throwing the towel in for 2020, and using the remainder of the year to rebuild, with a plan to hit the ground running and sale in 2021. This is a good time to reflect on customer feedback, and build services that are more in-line with end user needs.
This is where it pays to have a robust CRM service with UCaaS functionality, for recording conversations, sharing feedback, and strategizing as a group. After all, customers don’t typically hold back when speaking to customer service agents. Teams should be monitoring calls looking for small nuggets of insight that can be applied to products and services. The best solutions will also provide you with actionable data integrated with your communications, allowing you to continuously improve your customer experiences.