5 Tips for Customer Service During (and After) the Coronavirus

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It’s great to see my fellow Customer Experience experts Jeanne Bliss, Bruce Tempkin, and others post their advice this week on Customer Think1 about dealing with the coronavirus and Covid-19. I’d like to share five tips for Customer Service management during and after this crisis:

  1. Take care of your agents and managers
  2. Refine Knowledge Sharing
  3. Perfect Work at Home
  4. Improve your BCP
  5. Reach out, share, and help others

Please add your experience and comments, and let’s continue to raise the bar for our customers and for our staff during and after the coronavirus. I’d be happy to send more ideas so reach out – It’s essential as we navigate this crisis together! As you scan through these tips, think through how many of them deserve to become BAU (business as usual).

  1. Take care of your agents and managers

First and foremost, this is a critical time to take care of your agents and managers so that they remain healthy and engaged, and be able to continue to support your customers. Start with plenty of feedback and encouragement, listen even more closely to their suggestions, and be present – at least virtually by video and frequently using email, text, Slack, and other channels. Provide all protective measures, relax handle time and other KPIs, and post results widely. One of my clients created a compelling metric “Number of lives saved today” to reinforce to their agents and managers their core mission; many companies can adapt something like this today. Remember to engage even more with your outsourcing partners! Site visits are out, but with online video and chat or Jabber you can “be there” virtually. Also, it’s a good time to select and apply actions that reinforce agent experience along the lines of the “7 Needs” in my 2nd book Your Customer Rules!2 especially “You make it easy for me” and “You help me do better, you help me do more”.

  1. Refine Knowledge Sharing

There is no better time to ensure that your knowledge management system (KMS) and knowledge base (KB) are current and relevant. Years ago I started to promote a different definition, Knowledge Sharing (KS)2, as a more dynamic alternative – Finding ways to collect and curate better responses (especially important with new logistics, presumed “cures”, and conspiracy theories abounding). Engaging front line staff, smart developers, and your customers is the best way to create knowledge that helps.

  1. Perfect Work at Home

For years in the States agents at home have been a hot topic but by my count it plateaued at 22% of the customer service jobs, but the coronavirus has meant that nearly every company and agency has had to scramble to enable their agents to stay at home and support customers. I’ve been encouraging working from home for years including an including an old CustomerThink post “Move Agents Into Their Homes for a Double-Win” back in April 2006. I recently polled some of the companies on the Global Operations Council (GOC) that I formed and chair with “What would you say are your best practices with agents from home?” and heard back video conferencing, creating a troubleshooting guide for manager to lessen the burden on IT, and fun engagement events such as selfies with your favorite coffee mug. See again my 1st point “Take care of your agents and managers”!

  1. Improve your BCP

You’ve had a Business Continuity Plan (BCP) for years, right? And required one from your partners? I’d bet that you didn’t have time to test it, except for natural disasters that fortunately passed quickly. But now this crisis will last for a very long time, and it’s important to improve your BCP: Working from home and Knowledge Sharing as I’ve shared, but also network redundancy, reporting a new set of metrics, having your CEO communicate regularly with far-flung staff, repatriating managers traveling overseas, how to deliver or repair or process returns safely, stocks of PPE (Personal Protective Equipment), and much more that we are experiencing. There will be a “next time” so let’s learn and apply now.

  1. Reach out, share, and help others

I was heartened to hear that in Ohio a travel company’s call center offered their services to a beleaguered government office, and to read about local websites encouraging volunteers to connect with fellow citizens who need help shopping. I’m working with a classmate to get a PPE exchange off the ground. The customer service industry has so many skills to offer – Reach out, share, and help others, and spread the word!

1 “In this Time of Coronavirus…Let Goodness in Business Prevail. Human and Financial Prosperity Will Follow.”, March 19, 2020 by Jeanne Bliss https://customerthink.com/in-this-time-of-coronaviruslet-goodness-in-business-prevail-human-and-financial-prosperity-will-follow/, accessed 21 March 2020; “Adjusting your CX program to deal with COVID-19” March 20, 2020 by Bruce Tempkin https://customerthink.com/adjusting-your-cx-program-to-deal-with-covid-19/

2 Your Customer Rules! Delivering the Me2B Experiences That Today’s Customers Demand (Wiley/Jossey-Bass 2015). Here are the 7 Customer Needs that Lead to a Winning “Me2B” Culture; each Need breaks down into a total of 39 Sub-Needs.

  1. “You know me, you remember me”
  2. “You give me choices”
  3. “You make it easy for me”
  4. “You value me”
  5. “You trust me”
  6. “You surprise me with stuff that I can’t imagine”
  7. “You help me better, you help me do more”

3 I’ve promoted Knowledge Sharing (KS) as a more dynamic alternative to more static Knowledge Bases (KB), for example in my January 21, 2016 post https://customerthink.com/zcr-zero-contact-resolution-getting-it-right-the-first-time/

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