To still be working in your normal job at the moment is a privilege, even more so if you are working in one of the lucky industries to be busier than ever.

One industry that is indeed thriving and under immense pressure at the moment is customer service and customer support. Individuals across the world are being faced with uncertainty over financial, professional and personal circumstances, and will therefore need extra time, care and reassurance from their suppliers and institutions. This will come in the form of superlative, patient, customer care.

‘Putting your customers first’, ‘the customer is always right’, these are platitudes often spouted but rarely lived by. However, in the aftermath of COVID-19, consumers will remember the brands that actually helped in their time of need and those that simply claimed to care. It’s time to put your money where your mouth is, and really, genuinely put the customer first.

Download our report on which businesses will emerge from the current pandemic here!

A few simple ways you can show you care:

Increase numbers of call handlers and customer services advisors

I expect every single one of us has found ourselves in an automated queue in the last month or so. Personally, a certain high-street bank took several hours and numerous years off my life expectancy, and I still didn’t manage to complete the task I phoned to do. Having a large team at your disposal means waiting time is reduced and customers feel cared for and prioritised. This is where technology comes into play; it takes a substantial investment and the right programmes and security to allow an office-based team the flexibility to move home at a moment’s notice, and the unfortunate truth is that a lot of businesses are not set up for virtual working. If you need call handlers fast, you may need to find a source that is already set up and ready for the virtual workspace while you catch up with your existing roster. Visit our call handling services page to find out how quickly we can mobilise teams of tens or hundreds of customer service and virtual call handlers at a moment’s notice. Regardless of whether you outsource or equip your existing workforce, now is the time to invest in overflow support; patience is wearing thin at the present moment, and automated, hour-long queues will only add to existing frustration.

Expand your hours

Again, this is dependent on capacity, but one solution could be to expand your opening hours to allow for customers who work unsociable or shift hours, like NHS workers, to call at times convenient for them. At SmartPA, we support many clients with overflow and 24/7 support to allow them to offer more flexible engagement times to their customers. Watch this quick video with one of our call handlers, Amy, who explains how we had overflow support ready for a client at a moment’s notice.

Offer extra training 

It is likely your customers will be stressed and/or frightened if addressing sensitive subjects like mortgage payments or personal income. Training your call handlers, or outsourcing to those already equipped to deal with the situation, ensures that those on the frontline of your company are prepared and offer an improved customer experience. Even if not holding sensitive discussions, showing an extra level of care and concern for your customers’ wellbeing is a well-placed gesture and will often lead to higher levels of customer loyalty and retention. I know we’re all rather tired of the old ‘every challenge is an opportunity’ adage, but it is time to consider that these customers will still be customers once COVID-19 is over, and they will remember how you responded.

Perhaps you are already well-established and prepared for remote call handling solutions on a grand scale. If this applies to you and your business, congratulations; you’ve achieved a difficult task under immensely pressured circumstances. Our only extra piece of advice to you, and all others offering customer service, is to be kind. People need support, understanding and patience at the moment. Now is not the time to tell a customer they have let things slide or not done the right thing, now is the time to find positive solutions to their problems. Pandemics like this always come with revelations and out of darkness so often comes light. Perhaps by putting people and customers at the heart of all brand purposes going forwards, businesses may find themselves fostering larger, more loyal followings than even before.

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