Life During Quarantine 12: Customer Service During Covid

This topic has been on my mind for a very long time. Why? I work in a few businesses and my function is sales and service. Everyone is home and that warps time perception. What seems like hours is minutes and one day morphs into another. Consumers are more impatient, but seemingly more polite. I just had a pizza delivered at my house and asked the pizza guy. “What is your perception of customer service during this time. He remarked that he thought in general people were nice, though a little more anxious for their orders to arrive. I thought I would start with technology. Its interesting for me coming from a sales background to understand immediately why customers want a call. That support and assurance, the warm fuzzies that emails can’t replicate. COVID-19 has overwhelmed lives and livelihoods around the globe. For vulnerable individuals and the customer teams that serve them, it has also forced a rethinking of what customer care means. Suddenly, examinations of customer journeys and satisfaction metrics to inform what customers want to have given way to an acute urgency to address what they need. https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/marketing-and-sales/our-insights/adapting-customer-experience-in-the-time-of-coronavirus

“One of the hardest-hit departments is often customer service. To better understand the impact of this crisis on customer service departments, our team at Tethr (an AI and machine learning venture) recently completed a study of roughly 1 million customer-service calls involving more than 20 companies representing a broad cross-section of industries. All of these calls took place between March 11, when Covid-19 was declared a pandemic by the WHO, and March 26. Our analysis used a proprietary 250-variable algorithm that allowed us to score the effort level of a customer’s interaction — ranging from “difficult” to “easy” for the customer to accomplish their goal — as well as the underlying drivers behind those scores. In short, the analysis paints a troubling picture of customer experience and customer service leaders. In just two weeks, the average company in our study saw the percentage of calls scored as “difficult” more than double from a typical level of 10% to more than 20%. Issues related to the pandemic — from unexpected travel cancellations to appeals for bill payment extensions and disputes over insurance coverage — dramatically increased the level of customer emotion and anxiety in service calls, making a job that is hard for reps on a normal day far more challenging. One company in our study saw financial hardship-related calls, among the most difficult for reps to handle, increase 2.5 times in the span of a week.

https://hbr.org/2020/04/supporting-customer-service-through-the-coronavirus-crisis

Two parts of the equation customer and service. Thought I might see what the accepted version is described as:” What Is Customer Service? Customer service is the direct one-on-one interaction between a consumer making a purchase and a representative of the company that is selling it. Most retailers see this direct interaction as a critical factor in ensuring buyer satisfaction and encouraging repeat business. Even today, when much of customer care is handled by automated self-service systems, the option to speak to a human being is seen as necessary to most businesses. It is a key aspect of servant-leadership. https://www.investopedia.com/terms/c/customer-service.asp

In sales, commerce, and economics, a customer is the recipient of a good, service, product, or an idea — obtained from a seller, vendor, or supplier via a financial transaction or exchange for money or some other valuable consideration. In economics, a service is a transaction in which no physical goods are transferred from the seller to the buyer. The benefits of such a service are held to be demonstrated by the buyer’s willingness to make the exchange. Public services are those that society pays for. Wikipedia More people have more time so that means an increase in urgency to solve problems which equals more customer service hours. I thought I would see if there was anything to back my hypothesis! “Many customer service teams are used to seasonal changes in their incoming support volume: The Black Friday rush for retail stores, the Christmas-New Year lull for many B2B services, or the sporadic peaks of event-focused businesses. Teams know to expect these changes and can prepare for them, for example, by scaling their team size or adjusting support hours. COVID–19 has created changes much greater in scale and with much less warning. The graphs below represent the weekly number of customer responses being sent by Help Scout customers (though we’ve anonymized the information). Across all Help Scout customers who have at least 100 customer conversations a week, 12% are now handling more than double their February weekly volume” https://www.helpscout.com/blog/support-volumes-covid/

An interview with a respected expert, Michael Maoz, senior vice president of Innovation Strategy at Salesforce, is a customer experience and customer engagement management expert. Maoz shared his thoughts on the 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. The accepted wisdom is that the enterprise must be ‘digital first.’ Think about that for a moment: do you want to lead with technology, or lead with the process? What is it that they teach in Engineering 101: Form follows function? First, imagine the right way to engage with your customers — safely, with trust, and in their immediate and overall context. We need a new perspective on engagement in a world that is increasingly digital and absent a human employee. Engaged means that there is a sense of commitment from both sides on a successful relationship. Define the components of that commitment. Measure them. Be transparent about how close you are to achieving this state. Technology changes and enterprise goals change, and customers change, and so do their expectations. Therefore we always call the customer experience a journey, not a destination. https://www.zdnet.com/article/the-impact-of-covid-19-customer-service-digital-transformation-and-the-new-normal/

The positive ways we can influence customer service.

1. Focus on care and concern for customers and employees

2. Meet your customers where they are, mostly online so customers need not only hi-tech solutions they also need at-home, and low-touch options

3. Reimagine how your service model can change for the positive post COVID

4. It will be key to understand changing dynamics and new pain points as well as agile innovation to address them. Customer leaders who master that approach will create value for consumers in high-priority areas and in an environment of increased competition.

I think both giving and receiving customer service is essential in making dynamic work. So please be a good customer and give good service and here are some basic rules to remember from Salesforce: https://www.salesforce.com/products/service-cloud/best-practices/customer-service-best-practices/

Hire the right people, and treat them well, deftly manage customer expectations, nail your first impression, collect as much data as you can — and use it, personalize the relationship, be where your customers are, maintain your focus. Be well and happy

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Salonista Cynthia

Salonista Cynthia

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Passionate about art and science, I identify as a poet. Concentric careers made me an entrepreneur. My imagination is where I live!