COVID-19, otherwise known as Coronavirus, has had a significant impact on people all over the world. This impact is felt by everyone. It’s felt by people suffering from the virus. It’s felt by those caring for the sufferers. It’s felt by those grieving. And it’s felt by businesses and customers all over the world. At the time of writing, there are now over 1.2 million confirmed Coronavirus cases all over the world.
Many businesses have experienced a huge shift in the way they operate. Many businesses have decided to work remotely to help aid social distancing and stem the spread of the virus. Some businesses have changed the products or services they offer. Some companies have had to reduce their number of staff to survive financially during this unprecedented time. Whatever specific action has been taken, whether it’s large or small, you’d struggle to find a company that hasn’t been affected at all by this pandemic.
Significant changes in businesses have a huge knock-on effect on customers. Because of this, many businesses are experiencing an increased volume of customer service calls. This can be challenging and stressful for agents but responding to these customers provides a great service for customers. Support agents are playing a key role in this pandemic. They are keeping businesses running and customers happy (as much as is possible during this time).
With that in mind, we’ve compiled a list of 8 ways you can support your agents during the coronavirus pandemic.
1. Prepare Responses
It’s crucial that agents are prepared to answer key questions customers are asking right now. You may get customers calling to ask whether they can still buy your products. You may get customers calling to ask if they need to take any special measures, or whether your company has any special measures in place. This especially applies to the sale of physical goods that are delivered to houses. Many customers are increasingly concerned about how their products are handled.
Some businesses have started going “contactless” for physical deliveries. This means that the delivery driver will leave the parcel on the doorstep and then knock on the door and take a step back and wait for the person to answer before leaving the parcel. This means customers and delivery personnel can maintain social distancing while handing over goods. Some delivery drivers are wearing gloves.
You should decide what is best for your business based on the products you provide and advice from leading scientists and your government. Whatever you decide, your agents must be knowledgeable about it. Your agents must be able to answer questions from customers about the impact of the virus on your company.
Customers may also put forward questions you hadn’t considered. It’s also essential that agents can answer these questions without offering misinformation or misrepresenting your company’s response to the pandemic. If an agent is unsure, they can say “That’s a great question, let me just check and get back to you”. In times like these, it’s always better to air on the side of caution.
Once the agent has an answer, they can get back to the customer. They should also update the shared knowledge base for agents so other agents can answer similar questions in the future.
You can also instruct your customers to take action in small ways that will increase their safety as well as communicate that your company cares about them during this crisis. For example, tell them to wash their hands after receiving a parcel as an extra precaution.
If you have responses prepared, then agents can communicate them quickly and effectively and move on to the next call.
2. Use Chatbots
If you have to scale down the number of agents you have due to financial concerns, then chatbots can play a key role in ensuring you still provide excellent customer service. The same is true if your agents are experiencing higher than normal call volumes.
This pandemic is like nothing we have experienced in our lifetimes and this means there is a lot of uncertainty and fear going around. Your customers are most likely being impacted by the virus in ways you are not close to. They could be frustrated or scared. When you consider that customers are usually only calling customer service because they are already frustrated by a problem with your product or service, it’s easy to see how these negative emotions can be compounded. Making customers wait for a response will cause increased levels of frustration and anxiety. Chatbots reply instant to customers and can help mitigate this.
3. Use Live Chat, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger
On the phone, agents can only talk to one customer at once. They give the customer 100% of their attention for the duration of the call. This is great for customer satisfaction levels but it can cause serious delays in response time. Some customers will have complex queries that will require several minutes of call-time. Other customers might be waiting a long time to get through to an agent just to ask a simple question.
This simply isn’t efficient. And as we addressed in the last section, it can make customers more frustrated. Feeling abandoned isn’t good even in calmer times, in a pandemic, it’s even worse.
By using Live Chat, WhatsApp Messaging or Facebook Messenger, your customers can respond to multiple requests at the same time. This can significantly increase the volume of customer issues you can address without needing to hire more agents or make significant changes to your business.
4. Use an Omnichannel Platform If You Can Implement it Quickly
Omnichannel platforms make agent’s jobs easier and more efficient. They can handle all customer requests from one window and expertly navigate the software to quickly problem-solve. This is much more efficient than using multiple pieces of software which all have their own quirks and drawbacks.
Most omnichannel software is out-of-the-box and easy to implement. This is the kind of software you want to implement. You need something that can get running quickly and has a very low barrier to entry for agents. This means very little training is required and that the software is intuitive to use.
If you do decide to use an omnichannel platform, make sure you pick a provider that has a proven track record of success. Pick a company that has a solid client base and lots of good reviews and testimonials.
The key is to make the move as frictionless as possible. This is a time of huge change and operational upheaval. Times like these can be a great opportunity to push through changes you have been considering for a while. However, it can also be risky at a time when your support team is under a lot of pressure. Weigh up the pros and cons for your business and decide what makes the most sense for you.
5. Boost Morale
Morale can be strange during times of crisis. Some people become motivated by challenging and uncertain times and focus on carrying on. Other people will struggle to ignore the hardships of themselves and those around them as they try to carry on. Both responses are normal, and we can switch between them from day to day or hour to hour.
It’s crucial that your employees feel appreciated and safeguarded by you. When you take precautions to protect your staff, such as remote working, make sure you communicate this to them. If your employees are still working from the office, then consider if there is something else you can do to help them feel safe at work. This could be as simple as providing hand sanitation stations at regular intervals in the office. Or it could be on a larger scale, like organizing a bus service so your employees don’t need to take public transport.
Make sure you communicate that you appreciate the work your support staff is doing for your company during this time. If you’re all working from home, organize regular video calls so you can communicate with your team and make them feel connected.
6. Update Your Website and Social Media
Your agents may be experiencing a high volume of calls from customers who have questions about your response to the pandemic or your level of operation during this time. These calls from concerned customers are legitimate, but they also take resources away from customers who need help with more complex problems related to your product or service.
To mitigate this, update your website and social media to reflect your response to the pandemic. This update should ideally be on the front page of your website so that customers will see it straight away. If customers have to search around, they might give up and call your support team, adding more pressure.
For social media, send out communications regularly. Not everyone will see a post the first time you send it.
7. Create Self Service Articles
Create excellent self-service articles on a range of common topics that your customers have. These articles should be concise but contain all relevant information to the topic. Customers become even more frustrated when they try to solve the problem themselves, only to find that your self-help articles don’t contain enough information.
Don’t be afraid to create articles for every common issue you can think of. Some companies think that having a lot of self-service articles means that there are a lot of issues with your product or service. This simply isn’t true. Articles aren’t just for common issues, but also about onboarding, how to get the most out of your products, or how to manage your account. The goal is to educate and inform your customers so they can get even greater value from your company.
The more relevant self-service articles you have, the fewer calls you will get to your support teams because customers will be able to address most requests themselves.
8. Instruct Customers When and How to Get in Touch
You can significantly reduce the pressure on your support staff by instructing customers when and how they should contact your business. For example, you can post on social media saying “Got a question about our response to coronavirus? Read this page”. You can also do this with common requests like “Want to check where your delivery is up to? Click this link”. “Want to know how to claim a refund? Read this page.”. “Use our complaint form if you have a complaint”, “Here’s how you update your account”. The more you push out your alternative route to solving requests, the less traffic your support team will get.
You can also instruct customers to get in touch via Live Chat or WhatsApp if they have a quick question. Or you could say “Our phone lines are experiencing high call volumes. If you need an answer straight away, why not try our chatbot?”.
The key is to be positive and clear with your messaging, but also not to limit customers’ options. If a customer still calls your contact center with a common question, still provide help rather than tell them to read the website or use a different channel.
Stay safe! Our thoughts are with you.