The Covid-19 pandemic is affecting every aspect of doing business. Though many business sectors are facing unprecedented challenges, Customer Service has been one of the hardest-hit. They way in which a company responds to these new challenges will directly affect sales and customer retention rates. Particularly during times of crisis, a customer’s interaction with a company can trigger immediate and lasting effects on his or her sense of consumer loyalty.
How has the pandemic affected customer interactions?
With many businesses closing their brick-and-mortar locations, customer service representatives have become the face (or voice) of the company. The challenges that come with converting leads and retaining customers are even greater now that many companies that could previously serve their customers in person are forced to adapt to a new, remote model of customer interaction. For those service industry companies that are still able to have in-person interactions with their customers, the additional challenge of trying to prioritize both customer satisfaction and their employees’ safety has proven to be particularly difficult.
A recent study published in the Harvard Business Review of over one million customer service calls across diverse industries found that since mid-March (when Covid-19 was declared a global pandemic by the World Health Organization), the number of difficult customer service calls—defined by difficulty in helping the customer resolve his or her issue—more than doubled. Such a dramatic increase in difficult conversations is bad news for companies, as these challenging conversations are more likely to lead to churn and less likely to lead to new sales.
So what can companies do to navigate the changing nature of customer service?
While the Covid-19 pandemic certainly presents a slew of new challenges in the customer service industry, it also presents an opportunity for companies to create more dynamic and effective ways to develop their customer service employees. Well-trained people are key to ensuring that teams can evolve seamlessly with changing circumstances, take on new tasks and responsibilities, and adapt quickly to new kinds of customer interactions.
The rapidly changing environment precipitated by the Covid-19 pandemic has certainly taught us at least one thing about customer service: it must be adaptive to rapidly changing customer needs. The same thing can be said about employee development needs. Your customer service representatives are the front line of your business, and research suggest that your front line ultimately drives your bottom line. Researchconducted by Deloitte revealed that customer-centric companies are on average 60% more profitable than companies that don’t make customer service its top priority.
Now more than ever is the time to invest in training and development for customer service employees. Ninety percent of customer service professional believe that customer service is now more important than ever. Your business depends on your customers, so developing your people so that they can provide the best customer service possible is an investment you won’t regret.