We’ve been hearing a lot during the COVID-19 pandemic about frontline workers. From doctors and police officers to truck drivers and grocery store clerks, our lives would be much more difficult without their ongoing service, and they deserve our deep appreciation.
Are you also thinking about your frontline employees? The people handling customer experience (CX) in times of crisis become even more important for your brand reputation and business success. These suggestions can help CX departments rally in stressful situations.
#1 Offer Emotional Support
Anxieties are high in periods of uncertainty. Service or sales representatives are going to be under pressure to address the concerns of stressed out people. This is when all of your customer training efforts to encourage empathy and building personalized relationships will really come into play.
Acknowledging the individual customers’ upset, anger, or frustration and demonstrating care and understanding takes away from the transactional nature of some CX interactions.
“Customers want to know that you care about them and their needs,” wrote the Miller Heiman Group (MHG). CX representatives can also better “create positive defining experiences that exceed your customers’ expectations” with a solution focus. Empower agents to help solve customer challenges by correcting mistakes, offering options, or being more flexible on policies.
#2 Keep Your Promises
A crisis situation is the most important time to deliver on promises to your customers. Perhaps the crisis is actually around a product recall or some other instance where the customers feel a brand promise has been broken. Take responsibility. Find a way to reestablish the promise of reliability and accountability.
This need for reliability in crisis could also be reflected in your brand’s external communications. If your business has always before worked to offer personalized service, for instance, now is not the time to go generic. Remaining true to your brand DNA, even in high pressure situations, helps customers to feel their expectations are still being met.
#3 Focus on Simplicity
Times of crisis is not the time to weigh your customers down with fine print and conditions that need met. They want a simple answer to their questions or a straightforward resolution of their issue. MHG suggests, “keep customer interactions at a high level; don’t bog them down in details about internal processes.”
It’s a good idea in a crisis situation to create a quick customer experience playbook. Anticipate the difficult questions customers will ask. Then, prepare your frontline employees with clear, concise answers.
Helping a customer who is anxious or angry is more difficult. Support your people by putting a crisis management plan in motion:
- Tell employees about any policy changes.
- Make readily accessible any dates customers may need to know
- Develop talking points or scripts that can help employees navigate the new reality
Additionally, do what you can to avoid customers having to transfer from department to department or work their way up through a convoluted hierarchy. No one likes to have to chase an answer at the best of times. Streamlining processes and ensuring people get to the right person the first time can make a big difference to customer satisfaction.
#4 Be Wary of Automation
You want to strike a personal note with customers. Be empathetic, clear, consistent, realistic, and helpful. All this can be challenging to manage in the midst of a crisis. You could need to bring in additional support. However, be cautious about automating your response.
HelpScout notes, “While workflows can really help manage the load, a crisis is typically not the time to experiment with automatic responses to customers. Use automation to save time that your team can use to carefully read customer queries and craft their responses.” And that’s from HelpScout, which is all about leveraging automation!
#5 Prioritize Health & Wellness of Your People
The hardest part of a customer experience job is handling disgruntled people throughout the day. Yet that isn’t normally all the CX worker is managing on a given work day. In the midst of a crisis, though, the balance can tip more heavily to the upset and unsettled customer who is quicker to lose patience. Meeting each of these customers with professional courtesy, respect, and empathy can be wearing.
In a situation like the COVID-19 pandemic, your employees are also dealing with their own stressors. They may be working from home, alongside children they are trying to home school, and be worried about personal issues like whether distant parents are OK or if they’ll ever find toilet paper in stock.
Help your frontline CX workers avoid burnout by prioritizing their health and wellness. This could mean:
- Relaxing targets for customer handling to afford agents more down time
- Offering more flexible hours
- Providing an extra day off
- Making virtual nutrition and physical fitness programs available
- Ensuring managers reach out to individual employees to check-in
- Recognizing and rewarding hard work across the business
- Surveying employees to solicit suggestions for how you can help
#6 Learn from One Crisis
When you come out the other side of a crisis, your business will breath a collective sigh of relief. You want to pat each other on the back, say “we did it,” and move back to the normal way of doing things. Don’t move on so quickly that you overlook the importance of debriefing.
What can you learn from one crisis that can help shape your crisis management planning for the future? Seek input from everyone — customers, frontline CX workers, managers, and more — to see what you did well and identify areas for improvement. Have these discussions while the most recent crisis is still top-of-mind. Then, take advantage of the calm between the storms to better prepare for the next crisis that might come your way.
Providing a positive customer experience in a crisis requires your frontline workers to be at the top of their game. Offering consistent, high-quality support in times of trouble is a great way to build brand loyalty. Take this as a silver lining in that stressful situation. Doing your company’s best in difficult times is not only rewarding, but it’s also relationship building.
Ready to measure and improve customer experience? Request a demo of SoGoCX today!