Modern thought leaders love to emphasize invested employees, integration of technology, and supply chain management as the most important elements of running a successful business. However, at the end of the day, these pale in comparison to the customer. No matter what industry you operate in, the number one factor to success remains summed up in that old adage that “the customer is always right.”
It doesn’t matter what new business model or leadership trend emerges, the emphasis on the customer doesn’t change one iota.
There’s no doubt that the importance of the customer remains a critical element of success. However, the current question facing many leaders is how to deliver a consistent, high-quality customer experience during a pandemic. With face-to-face meetings difficult and customer service teams working remotely, here are some of the best ways that you can make sure to avoid a customer service slump during the COVID-19 pandemic.
1. Unite Your Customer Service Channels
Once upon a time, a company’s customer service consisted of a few dozen reps in a call center. Now, the modern customer service experience is provided through a number of different channels, including:
- On-site chat.
- Social media.
With so many different customer service options available — and often more than one utilized by a single customer service department — it’s important that you unite these into a single contact center experience.
With a global epidemic raging and personnel scattered to the four winds as they work, it’s essential that your various customer service communication channels become as united as possible. It’s wise to focus this unification effort on a cloud-based system that doesn’t require any physical maintenance. Instead, provide a single online location where customer service messages can be collected. This gives your cloud-based contact team easy access to any and every customer communiqué, whether it’s an email, a social post, or any other message.
2. Set Clear Expectations, Goals, and Objectives
Along with uniting your customer service channels as you operate from a distance, you absolutely must set clear expectations for your customer service team. This should include everyone, from phone reps to website development teams. Anyone who is involved in crafting and delivering your company’s customer experience should have a clear idea of what that experience should look like.
This is absolutely critical during a pandemic. The intricate business of weaving together an effective, omnichannel customer experience is already difficult at any time. However, it’s further complicated by the fact that your team is likely operating on a remote basis. The lack of thorough, consistent communication that comes with working in close proximity to one another can quickly lead to a breakdown in uniform collaboration. The solution is for leaders to set clear standards and objectives to serve as a guiding light for their team to work toward.
3. Maintain Clear Internal Communication
Remote work requires complex technology and endless information to be constantly transmitted from remote locations. This makes it essential that you set up and maintain clear communication channels within your customer service department. The specifics should be tailored to each unique situation. However, a few factors should always be considered:
- What hardware and software does your team need to effectively communicate? Does everyone have a good computer, headset, internet connection, and so on?
- What software should your team be using to communicate internally? You may have clear channels set up for outward-facing communication, but does your team have well-established modes of internal communication as well?
- Have you codified communication best practices for your remote teams? It’s important to set clear guidelines and communication norms. For example, you can come up with acronyms (such as NNTR, “no need to respond”), create acceptable response time windows, establish writing style and tone, and avoid sending excessive or unnecessary communications.
By cultivating consistent internal communication standards, you can ensure that your team remains well-informed, in touch, and on the same page at all times.
4. Strive to Stay Human
In a world defined by technology, efficiency, speed, and convenience, the human factor has become a rare customer service commodity. As customer experience consultant Micah Solomon put it, “The human touch…has become the Midas touch.”
This is more true than ever when providing customer service in the midst of a socially-distanced pandemic. Delivering a human touch encourages customers to engage with your brand. It helps them relax and feel comforted. It speaks to their humanity and can foster trust, respect, and loyalty. As Solomon puts it, it provides a unique “one-size-fits-one” solution that is easily reproducible within your customer service activities.
As you attempt to maintain efficiency and quality in your customer experience, remember to look for ways to maintain the human touch. This can come through the tone and word choices used with customers. It can also include training representatives to demonstrate critical behaviors, such as active listening and empathy.
5. Embrace a Continuous Learning Approach
Finally, with the coronavirus threatening to drag on for months, it’s important that you make a consistent effort to implement continuous learning in your customer service efforts. This can come in multiple formats.
For instance, continually learning and implementing new tools or skills is critical to sustained success. This is especially true in a 21st-century business landscape that is perpetually evolving at breakneck speeds. As both leadership and team members acquire new knowledge, they can use it to improve existing activities and innovate new ideas.
In addition, a continuous learning mindset can help to analyze existing behaviors and methods in order to identify errors. This is a critical factor in avoiding a slump as you lean heavily on new things. For instance, you may have recently embraced a fully remote customer service department and cloud-focused customer service solutions. Both the setup and execution of this new system will hardly be flawless. A continuous learning approach can help to refine and perfect the particular system that you choose to implement.There are many ways that you can proactively keep your customer service on point throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. You can unify customer service channels, set clear expectations, tend to internal communication, adopt continuous learning, and maintain a human touch in your team’s interactions. The most important factor of all, though, is that customer service leaders take ownership of their department and search for solutions before a slump takes place. Only then can they avoid the long-term effects of recovering from a dip in customer service quality. Not only that, but their effort will set them up to maintain a cutting-edge position within their industry in the process.