Marketing may be having some ups and downs during the pandemic, but one thing we have seen stay strong is the need for robust digital and online customer support strategies. This is beyond having a “contact us” button on your website, or a chatbot on your home page. And it’s more than sending an email with Coronavirus updates from your CEO. We’re not saying these things aren’t important ways to communicate; they definitely have their place. But at a time when news can change hourly, having a team in place that quickly answers online or social media concerns is really important to your future relationship with them.
Our digital agency has worked with a number of brands to offer customer service strategy and support across a variety of industries. Through these last couple of months we’ve seen customer inquiries rise up to 30% for some companies – specially CPG brands. This large increase of work became a proving ground for how strong strategy can help navigate unexpected spikes in consumer needs. Here are the takeaways from our years working with clients, and these past months of disruption to the status quo:
Organized Action Plan
Having an action plan for ebbs and flows is key. Not only does that mean knowing what to do when an influx comes, but also managing expectations for the highs and the lows. A good action plan organizes customer response scenarios into levels of escalation. Some questions are asked often and can be easily answered by a customer service representative. Other questions may need approval from a member of the leadership team before proceeding.
Knowing which questions should be escalated, and who can be counted on for a quick response, provides customers with answers in a timely manner. Creating hard rules for response is important to this process. An example of this would be: Questions will be answered during work days within 12 hours, weekends within 24 hours. If a question is escalated it will receive a response within 24 hours from management.
Ready to Respond
Whether questions lend themselves to a quick answer or escalation period, a response should always be given as soon as possible. This means that even if an answer may need a 24 hour window for your company’s management to think about, a customer service person should still respond so your customer knows they’ve been heard.
It’s important to understand the question or comment before you respond, but in some cases something as simple as, “We’ve escalated your question, and will get back to you shortly.” Other cases, like public forums or social media, requesting the customer to contact you directly gives an opportunity for a more in-depth and personal conversation.
Identify Repeat Inquires
Another very helpful part of ongoing strategy is to identify repeat questions or comments. Doing this can help efficiencies within customer service, and speed up response time.
Every common question should have a canned response. This doesn’t mean a response has to be written verbatim each time, but it does mean that a very similar response can be given to very similar questions. Identifying and tracking common questions and canned responses is especially helpful in times like we find ourselves now, when unique customer inquiries may spike, but the uniqueness of the inquiry has not.
In times when things are uncertain, our advice to stay nimble applies to customer service as well. This may mean shortening or expanding response times that were set forth in the original plan, adding additional canned responses, or preparing for more escalated comments than normal. Connecting with your customers in a time of crisis can help strengthen a relationship and prove real interest in your customers needs.