With numbers rapidly growing, it’s hard to deny the global pandemic we are currently in. Just take a minute to flip through the television (or don’t—we won’t blame you), there’s not a single news channel not reporting on the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
Customers are increasingly looking to companies for guidance and relief during this state of emergency. Experiencing a catastrophic loss can be one of the worst moments of your customer’s life, and it is important that companies are prepared to help out.
With COVID-19 numbers continuing to climb (and hand sanitizer within reach), we’ve put together a list of 6 steps businesses can take to provide customers with not just good but also meaningful customer experiences (CX) when disaster hits.
Evangelize a preparedness plan across the organization
If crisis hits and you don't already have a preparedness plan in place, the first step is to assemble a crisis management team. Look for leaders across the organization that can represent different departments and offer different points of view. This team will be responsible for agreeing upon how the company and employees are to adjust behavior and roles internally given the current circumstances.
Once a plan has been established, identify a single spokesperson to communicate this plan throughout the organization. It's important that your company maintains one clear and consistent message to share both internally and publicly.
Since this is clearly a tough thing to do during a disaster, it’s important that your company has a preparedness plan in place for the steps necessary to handle any disaster before, during, and after it takes place. Your company must know the answers to questions like, “How will manager roles and responsibilities change?", “How will we communicate with customers?", and “Will we postpone conferences and meetings with clients?"
Moments of crisis often involve complex decision making, so it’s important to have as much of these decisions made in advance. Evangelizing these plans through education and training is key. And don't forget, a preparedness plan is a living document, make sure to keep this plan updated and reviewed often.
Be proactive and respond quickly
When a customer reaches out for help, especially in times of disaster and panic—a fast response plays a crucial role in providing both good and meaningful CX. Pay attention to what your customer is asking for or needs and be as accommodating as possible. Showing your customers you value their needs when they need you most, and having the ability to give an inch now, will get you miles ahead tomorrow.
Although responding quickly is important, being proactive is even better. If you can foresee your customers' needs and act on them quickly, you will have a higher chance of keeping customers happy and improving their loyalty to your brand. In addition, this can lead to less support calls and workload for your agents.
Amidst the recent outbreak of Coronavirus, Walgreens has proactively made alternative arrangements for those unable to pick up their medications, health and wellness products, and other convenience products.
Although grocery stores currently remain open, with safety concerns at a peak, Instacart (a grocery delivery startup) rolled out a new “Leave at My Door Delivery” feature to give its customers flexibility in how they want to receive groceries. Brands like Postmates and FreshDirect have also implemented similar services.
If your business operates from a physical location, a disaster might displace your employees and leave limited people on the job to help customers. Even if your business is completely digital, a sudden disaster could cause a delay in product distribution or the delivery of a service.
It’s imperative that you communicate with your customers and let them know what you are doing. Luckily for you, businesses have email and social media to turn to keep a wide audience updated, consistently.
Be human and express empathy
Chances are the conversations you will be having with your customers during a crisis won’t be the easiest ones. It’s important that alongside the hard answers you might have to tell them, you are able to express empathy to show them that you understand their point of view. The first step here is to actively listen. Give your customer the same respect you would want, and hear them out completely.
Express curiosity about your customers' situation, and ask questions rather than assuming you know their difficulties. This may sound like an obvious one, but remember to always check your attitude and stay positive. It’s easy to do this the first time around—but after a long hard day filled with customer support issues, it gets harder and harder. Always remember that your job is not to be right here, but to truly help the customer.
Empower agents of change
In a time of crisis, every minute counts. Enable your employees at every level to help customers. If you’re in leadership, empower your service reps to be agents of change. Give them the ability and freedom to go off of the script, be human, and even break the rules from time to time when they deem it necessary.
In response to the unique circumstances of the COVID-19 outbreak, the Hilton Hotels announced their dedication to providing their customers with peace of mind by making additional adjustments to their booking policies. One of several changes includes their decision to not enforce their “non-cancellable” reservation policy.
At Hilton, we believe it is in challenging times like these that the power of hospitality is needed most of all.
United also temporarily eliminated their change fee policy to better accommodate their customers in during these challenging times. It's ok to break the rules, sometimes.
Ask for feedback
With crisis amongst us, companies can be reluctant to ask their customers for feedback. It can be easy to ignore day-to-day customer service and CX measurement protocols. But doing this can have detrimental effects for both the customer and the business.
If you have the right feedback program and structured reports in place, you’ll be set up to quickly take action on your customers feedback as well as measure the impact the crisis has had on your business. This will also create a benchmark for your company to compare against in the future. Measuring average disaster related CSAT cases and comparing it to non-crisis related tickets is a particularly useful CX metric to keep track of during times of crisis.
After the disaster has cooled down, it’s important that we ask ourselves and our customers how we did and what could we do better? There are plenty of ways to collect feedback through survey distribution channels such as email, sms, mobile app embed and more.
If you don't already have a feedback program in place, don't stress - this is where GetFeedback comes in. We've got a ton of free resources to help get your feedback program up and running almost immediately. Our guide on How to Run a Successful Voice of the Customer Program is a great place to start. Once you've got your foundation built, head over to our to our guide Getting Started with GetFeedback and Salesforce to learn how to make that feedback actionable.
By maintaining focus on your customer’s and their experience with your brand you’ll be poised to help them through the difficult times. And don't forget, during any disaster, being prepared can go a long way for your company and your customers. Leaving you with the famous words of Hellen Keller, “Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much.”