Has your business been affected by COVID-19? Keeping operations running during a pandemic is uncharted territory, and businesses everywhere are doing their best to stay afloat. The reality of financially surviving this time includes a high chance you’ll need to cut back on costs, if only temporarily. Labor is typically one of the largest business expenses.
If the pandemic has put you in a position that requires cutting back on staff, you can still provide excellent customer service while your employees are quarantining at home. Many employers are worried about the wellbeing of their staff during this time, and cutting back on hours causes worry that their employees won’t return when businesses reopen. If cutting labor costs now allows your business to survive now, it will benefit the workers you employ in the long run.
Here are some ways to make it through COVID-19 while maintaining a positive relationship with your customers.
1. Keep your customers updated
Communication is key when it comes to major business decisions and changes. It’s important to update both your employees and your customers as changes occur, especially during the uncertainty of the timeline surrounding COVID-19. Will shipping take a little longer than expected? Are certain items on your usual product list temporarily unavailable? Addressing these details proactively can eliminate confusion down the road, all the while keeping your company at the top of customers’ inboxes and minds.
Consider adding a banner to your website with information about your company’s response to COVID-19. Other ways you can reach out to your public are via email, text lists, social media platforms, and standard mail. However you usually reach your audience can be a valuable outlet for spreading important company information.
2. Use a chatbot for common conversations
Chatbots are an inexpensive alternative to human customer service conversations. In fact, chatbot statistics show they can save up to 30% of customer support costs. Used for websites, social media platforms and text conversations, chatbots simulate human conversations to help customers online. Instead of paying your usual customer service specialist to address common concerns, save money by utilizing these artificially intelligent helpers.
When programming your chatbots, you’ll be able to address frequently asked questions for your specific business. Here are some examples of questions a chatbot will be able to answer:
- How do I open an account?
- Can I get a refund?
- How long does shipping usually take?
- What is the price difference between two products?
- What are common solutions to the problem I’m experiencing?
Keep in mind, using a chatbot doesn’t necessarily mean your current customer service specialist is out of a job. Chatbots address simple and common questions so human customer service representatives can spend their time on more complex inquiries. This way you can keep your customer employed, while cutting back on costs.
3. Prioritize urgent interactions
COVID-19 has caused a spike in customer service interaction, as consumers struggle to navigate new rules, regulations and product restrictions. For some industries, wait times to reach customer service representatives have extended to ten or more hours due to high volumes of callers. While all customer questions should usually be given attention, an overwhelming quantity of inquiries paired with reduced staff makes prioritizing interactions important.
What are the urgent interactions for your company? A good way to decide what to prioritize could be to make a list of common customer questions, and rank them in importance. That way you’ll be able to connect customers with more pressing questions to a human representative.
Consider the best way to vet important or urgent interactions opposed to those that could be answered with a chatbot or mass email. Since there is no set end to the pandemic, you should prepare to change the way you communicate with your public for the foreseeable future.
4. Choose chatting or texting over phone calls
While customer service via phone call is usually essential to maintaining positive customer relationships, it might need to be cut back during this time. Phone calls often eat up valuable paid time with long pauses, poor connection or questions that could have been answered via text or chatbot. Encourage your customer service team to push communication to text rather than phone call. You can help them do this by limiting the customer service call hour window and communicating the change to your customers via text list or email.
Another way to push customer service online is to announce an email-only communication strategy. If possible, it’s beneficial to allow a few hours a day in which customers can reach a human representative. However, if you’re in desperate need of reducing customer service costs, switching to online inquiries only could be the best plan of action.
Utilizing other customer service communication strategies, like website banners and email updates, can help cut down on unnecessary calls as well. Updating your customers frequently eliminates confusion and lessens customer service workers’ need to answer phones.