Post-coronavirus customer service

There’s no doubting the impact of the coronavirus on our work and lifestyles and it’s far from over. COVID-19 has changed all our habits and that includes how we buy goods and services. For the providers of those goods and services that means they have to change not only how they sell but also how they deal with clients and customers both during and after the sales process.

One example of this is highlighted by a study from Harvard with research company Tethr. Approximately one million customer service calls across 20 companies were surveyed as the pandemic began to take hold in March 2020. The focus was on how easy or difficult the call was to deal with, according largely to the caller’s manner and approach. The number of calls classified as ‘difficult’ doubled, from 10% to 20% of the total, indicating significant increases in customer emotion and anxiety. This results indicates the expected initial impact and disruption caused by the virus as people attempt to deal with cancellations, interrupted deliveries, delays, etc. What about longer term impacts?

Pandemic prompts better customer service?

An article in Forbes suggests that customer service will improve after the coronavirus crisis, stating, “Experts agree that customer service may be on the verge of an historic improvement.” The reasoning behind this claim is the emerging trend for businesses to switch their focus to online ordering and apps that enable customer access to goods and services (in other words, for many businesses, the virus is encouraging a digital transformation). Furthermore, the crisis has prompted many to focus more closely on customers for fear of losing them, resulting in benefits such as free shipping.

How else can businesses use the situation to improve?

  • Empower your customer service representatives – It’s not a surprise that the best customer service deals with the customer as an individual and avoids the ‘policy defence’. The above survey found that lower-performing reps were much more likely to hide behind policy as an excuse for not being able to assist a caller. Understandable but it raises the question of whether your pre-COVID policies are fit for a post-COVID world. Ensure your reps have both the knowledge and the authority (including to make exceptions to the rules) to offer appropriate solutions.
  • Collaboration – An uncertain world needs new solutions and the challenge for customer service representatives is to come up with those new solutions and not just try to force-fit the old ones. This is where collaboration across the customer service team is crucial, using the ‘hive mind’ to leverage everybody’s experience and expertise, come up with new solutions and share them. In this world, sticking to the caller script is no more effective than hiding behind an outdated policy.
  • The right technology – As the (temporary?) shift to remote working has shown, apps such as Slack, Google Docs and Zoom are critical for team communication and information-sharing, and that applies equally to your customer service team. There’s also a renewed focus on externally-focused technology, i.e. customer apps. Online is the way to go and key to that is making the process of shopping and interacting with the company online as simple and intuitive as possible.

The times they are a-changin’? The times have already changed! Customer service reps (just like other roles) are finding themselves isolated, lacking infrastructure, and dealing with more challenging customers. Simply put, their job is more difficult. However, with the right technology and support, and the right policies, systems and processes, the customer service of the future could become less of a one-size-fits-all approach, resulting in a better quality experience for clients and customers.

Give us a call on 01582 463464 for a friendly chat on how we might be able to help you with your customer service.

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