During the COVID-19 pandemic, individuals and businesses are facing tough financial decisions. As many find themselves scaling back, companies must also ramp up their customer service to retain customers.
If your business impresses customers with communication and understanding, it is more likely to survive and thrive.
Communicate Openly With Your Customers
Communication is critical during the pandemic. Customers will appreciate your honesty, and consistent contact will help address concerns before they arise.
Viny Amin, founder and CEO of Eu Natural, an online herbal supplement store, says his strategy is to double up on customer service efforts during this crisis.
"We are keeping in touch with our customers on an ongoing basis with positive content that informs, teaches, and, most importantly, reassures," Amin says. "This is a win-win formula we have implemented."
Amin suggests sending emails, newsletters, videos, blog posts, quizzes, and webinars to help build trust. "At the end of the day, a close relationship, especially during a major health scare, creates a lasting bond of trust," he says.
Another way to convey confidence to your customers is to decrease your email response time. By responding to customers more quickly, they will feel that their needs are your priority.
"With more and more businesses moving fully remote, people are adapting to digital communication and interaction with service agents," says Jayson DeMers, founder and CEO of EmailAnalytics, a tool that helps customers track and visualize their email use. "Ninety percent of customers want an immediate response, and 60% of customers define 'immediate' as 10 minutes or less."
Show Empathy and Understanding
While some businesses are struggling, so are many customers. In order to address your customers' fears and worries, you need to truly listen to them, not merely pay lip service to customer care.
John Cho, founder of My Pet Child, started his business in order to help pet owners find financial assistance during the pandemic. "Good customer service has follow-through, and can be accomplished by assessing your customers' needs and believing their concerns," Cho says.
Cho encourages other business owners to offer concrete solutions for their customers, such as providing more online resources, offering shipping and delivery options, and even being lenient with payments. "Everyone is struggling right now, and whatever you can do to make your customers feel safe, secure, and served will help your business both short term and beyond this pandemic."
Another way businesses can show empathy is by donating to those impacted by the current crisis. Vikram Tarugu, CEO of Detox of South Florida, an alcohol detox center and drug rehabilitation facility, says seeing news of companies helping out during a crisis goes a long way to make customers more comfortable.
"Everybody is going through this turmoil and now, more than ever, people need empathy and help," he says. "Many companies have contributed personal protective equipment to frontline emergency personnel and healthcare institutions and seeing that is heartwarming. Just the type of news we should get behind."
Using Artificial Intelligence for Customer Service
While a personal touch is always welcome, some customer concerns can be addressed by chatbots, or artificial intelligence (AI). Although this may seem sterile at first, your customer service time could be freed up for more complex issues by utilizing this technology.
Dylan Max, head of growth marketing at Netomi, an AI chatbot company built for customer service, recommends companies use AI to fill in the gaps of customer service during the pandemic, as customer service requests are skyrocketing.
"Companies who don't have adequate support staffing face a lasting backlash for not being available when their customers need them the most," Max says. "AI allows support teams to respond to customers significantly faster on a daily basis and has them much more well-prepared during times of higher demand."
For many businesses, customer service representatives are highly sought while also being scarce in availability so that AI chatbots can alleviate some of the more common issues. Mollie Newton, founder of PetMeTwice, an online pet-care resource, has found AI helpful during the pandemic.
"Chatbots and AI technologies have come a long way, and they can significantly reduce the workload for your customer representatives by answering simple queries that customers have," Newton says. "Implementing self-service systems immensely helps you meet demands more quickly and efficiently."
As with any other hardship you might encounter in your business, flexibility is key. By keeping lines of communication open, remaining empathetic and understanding, and considering alternative means of customer service, your business can retain its customer base and emerge from the pandemic with a solid reputation.