The Importance of Customer Service Post-Pandemic
The customer, as the saying goes, is always right. Customer service has always been paramount. If you take care of your customers, they’ll take care of you. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, many businesses were left scrambling to help their customers. We might be moving ever closer to the end of this pandemic, but that doesn’t mean the changes we implemented will go away. Many businesses prioritised empathy and engagement with a consumer base who were uncertain and devastated by job losses. Many customers now expect this treatment to continue even as the world continues to open back up. In fact, one report from Talkdesk suggests that the majority of consumers have higher customer service expectations today than they did prior to the pandemic.
Many businesses were forced to make essential safety precautions an integral part of their customer service experience. They enhanced their online presence, or created no-contact versions of their services. Companies that had only ever dabbled in e-commerce turned it into the thriving centre of their business. Instant delivery, rather than shipping delays, became the norm.
Because these digital interactions became the norm in 2020, customers were able to engage with brands at any time of the day or night. This was perfect for a nation stuck at home all day, and for those in precarious employment subject to hours outside the 9-5 norm. Customers who experience site issues, but can’t get help straight away, are prone to abandoning ship. Someone else will have a website that works. Customer service has transformed into a round-the-clock effort, because customers now engage with you 24/7.
The need for immediacy inspired several novel solutions. Some websites started using chatbots, with varying degrees of success. Based on instant messaging services such as Facebook messenger, these popped up when you visited the website, and offered pre-programmed responses to key stimuli. The stimulus might be keywords from the website that will prompt the bot to direct you to the area of the site that best suits you, or it might handle FAQs or general customer enquiries. However, most online customers are wary of AI and anything that feels disingenuous. Using a chatbot for customer service doesn’t exactly feel personal.
On the other hand, you could have an outside-of-business-hours customer service representative behind these chat windows. Exchanging texts with a real-life customer service agent is infinitely preferable to talking to a series of pre-programmed responses. Customers, particularly younger ones, are so accustomed to texting with their friends and family, that texting with their favorite brands is a very simple extension of a normal part of their lives.
During the pandemic, it became clear that we all needed empathy in truckloads to get through to the end. Brands leaned further into empathy and human connection than ever before. With economic instability looming, many customers were feeling the pinch of financial insecurity. If you can’t go to work, you might stop buying things. So how do you make your brand stand out from the pack?
You prioritise empathy.
Simply asking customers how they are doing can inspire loyalty. You can make your solution far more complex, reducing the pace of customer interactions to walk your customers through each step of the journey at their own pace. Critically, according to Forbes, business isn’t only about solving problems any more. It’s about building relationships. Businesses that displayed empathy and prioritised their customer relationships maintained loyalty at a time when people were more discerning with their dollar than ever before.
Forbes also reported on the consequences of callousness. During the pandemic, a customer’s law firm, like so many others, collapsed. They went to their financial service, who previously had a great reputation for customer service, to ask to defer their payments. The company simply refused, with no room to negotiate, and lost their customer. The customer will never do business with them again. You only have to lose empathy once to lose your customer forever.
On the other hand, some banks did the opposite. One bank, whose income levels were self-reported, reached out to customers facing financial hardship. They offered deferred payments and delayed collections. A short financial reprieve can make an immense difference in customers’ lives. The bank missed a month’s worth of payments from a few customers, but they ensured lifetime loyalty. Purposefully and empathetically reaching out to customers is great for business.
The lesson here is that customers have seen their employers and other businesses fold during the pandemic. They know that in these times, fortunes can change in an instant. The phrase “too big to fail” doesn’t enter their minds. If you don’t take care of them, they know that your business will collapse without customers, just like so many others sadly did in 2020.
Personalised customer experiences are the best way to ensure that your customers feel valued. They want to be seen as people first, and consumers second. The pandemic hasn’t changed this, but it has made it a far higher priority. Softbrik’s QR code technology allows you to capture the voice of your customers without programming buggy chatbots or hiring an out-of-hours customer service agent.
Acquiring customer feedback is an integral part of any successful customer service approach. Reacting to feedback, engaging with the customer, and doing so in a timely fashion, is the key to successful customer service. If they have a problem, you want to hear about it as soon as possible. If they’re happy with you, you want to know you’ve done a good job. Softbrik allows customers to simply record, in their own words and using their own voice, their feedback. Instead of something cold and impersonal, it’s the customer’s own voice telling you exactly how they feel.
This instant, authentic feedback mechanism engages customers, enabling you to retain them for longer. This, in turn, reduces costs, improves customer experience, and enables businesses to remain competitive.
Customer service, like so many things, changed during the pandemic. It doesn’t look like it’ll change back any time soon. Taking good care of your customers is the best way to ensure your success moving forward into our post-pandemic world.