Centuries ago, the customer service “universe” existed of how far you could walk to do business. While choices were fewer, so were complications.
Today, customer service challenges exist across the globe. When the company and customer base are relatively small, ability to be agile and make improvements quickly can be fairly robust. In part because of COVID-19, companies large and small alike have been forced to examine and change their customer service models and protocols quickly. In turn, that is inspiring new thinking and a nimble attitude not previously seen in large enterprises.
Behind some of this is the fact that home-based customer-service workers are now the norm, not exception—at least for now. According to an Amazon.com blogpost: “Global emergencies dramatically shift daily routines, forcing companies to react quickly to change the way they support employees and customers. COVID-19 has changed the way we work, including the contact center space…According to Gartner, ‘pre-outbreak, nearly 7 in 10 (68%) customer service and support organizations worked from traditional call centers’ and less than 10% of staff worked from home. That is now flipped, going forward, 71% of contact centers will be remote.”
This dramatic and sudden shift has spurred customer service policy and procedure reviews, as companies work to upgrade customer service quality as part of the infrastructure shift. A key consideration is to humanize customer service.
A zdnet.com article addresses the transformation: “Michael Maoz, senior vice president of Innovation Strategy at Salesforce, is a customer experience and customer engagement management expert. Maoz shares his thoughts on impact of COVID-19 pandemic…‘The global pandemic has exaggerated all that is wrong with a ‘contact’ strategy. The pandemic is also the best opportunity in over a decade to restart, re-energize, and re-imagine customer service and field service. There may never be a better time to press for an ‘engagement-first, digital second’ strategy…Step back and meet with customers. Talk to them, ask their permission to observe their activities related to your business.”
The article continues, “Give them ways to describe what they believe they want from you. Use forums and surveys and ‘tag alongs.’ Explain what your response is to what you learn and your understanding of what to do about it. We need a new perspective on engagement in a world that is increasingly digital and absent a human employee.’”
Here are key takeaways about the impact COVID-19 is having on customer service across the board and across the world:
Necessity is the mother of invention. It’s amazing how fast change can occur when it must. Prior to the crisis, many companies offered as little customer service as possible in the name of saving money. That’s changing quickly. Companies stepping up will increasingly separate themselves from those who don’t make the effort. Over time, customer service dinosaurs will die off.
Technology is key as a support system, but sincere, dedicated and supportive human interaction is critical as part of the formula. Both are needed. And, the more they are integrated to reinforce one another, the better customer service can be—along with the company’s bottom line.
Supporting customer service reps to in turn support customers must be an ongoing commitment, dedicating needed resources to make it happen. When much of the customer service workforce is home-based, training and empowerment measures done sporadically or “on the cheap” will backfire.
Just as forest fires spur re-growth and new life in their wake, so will the crisis trigger massive growth in customer service excellence.
Have you gone out of your way to provide more compassionate and caring customer service during the COVID-19 crisis? If so, those efforts can become a cornerstone of customer loyalty and buying. In addition to those who already know, tell the rest of the world about it! This is a case where prior “good acts” can stoke the fires of ongoing sales and word-of-mouth kudos. But, you gotta let everyone know first. One of the most credible and compelling ways to do that is to develop thought leadership articles, blogposts, social media content, podcasts, and even short videos to address what you did—and hopefully are still doing—to show your appreciation of and respect for those who keep you in business.
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Mark Lusky | 303.621.6136 | firstname.lastname@example.org
Veteran writer, storyteller and author, with 40+ years of public relations, advertising, marketing and journalism experience. Author of A Wandering Wondering Jew… and co-author of Don’t Get Mad, Get Leverage. Mark (aka The Happy Curmudgeon) is the owner of a Denver-based marketing communications firm.