Addressing Customer Issues Creatively During a Crisis

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Addressing customer issues has become a priority for businesses during the current crisis.

With so much uncertainty in the world, your customers will turn to you for guidance and assistance.

And for your business to thrive in this economy, you need your customers to feel comfortable with you.

Your business goals will have pivoted over the last few months—as revenue generation has got harder, you’ve had to become more creative in the way you manage customer relationships.

Another outcome of this crisis has been the growing number of people online—they’re ready to partner with businesses, but they can also tear you down for any mistakes.

Customers should always be prioritized but more so in this crisis—because a problem in itself won’t end your business. Your reaction to it definitely will.

Let’s look at a few creative ways you can address customer issues to improve retention and revenue generation.

1. Heart of the (Customer) Matter

The moment you learn of your customer’s issues, you will start looking for technical or software fixes, or a way to send a replacement item.

But are you looking at the psychological aspect of the matter at hand? A customer isn’t simply looking for that item to be fixed—they want this relationship with you fixed.

During a regular sales period, this kind of issue wouldn’t be so dramatic—during a crisis, a faulty item or badly delivered service can seem like the end of the world.

Emotions are heightened right now—people are scared for their health and safety, and they’re struggling with isolation.

If you really want to help your customer, you need to understand what’s making them tick now.

How do you do that? Start by re-examining your customer personas. You will have their demographics, but you need to understand their psychographics.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • What are your customer’s current frustrations?
  • How can you alleviate those frustrations?
  • Where will your customers see your message?
  • What value addition can you offer?

Once you answer these questions about your customers, you will be able to get to the heart of not only the matter at hand but the customers themselves.

Armed with this knowledge, you will be better able to calm a customer when issues arise.

2. Customer Service Adaptability

Offering customer support without focusing on the situation around the customer won’t help you improve retention numbers during this crisis.

For one, customers aren’t homogenous entities—they are individuals and they needed to be treated as such.

You can have a blueprint for addressing customer needs but applying the same formula to every person won’t work.

Each customer has a different relationship with you and is on a different path towards your product.

Once you understand the pain points of a customer, examine where they are in relation to you.

Are they an existing customer? Are they a newly returning customer? Are they a first-timer with your company?

You need to examine the customer lifecycle to understand what phase they’re in right now before applying your strategies to them.

To break it down, the lifecycle includes these phases:

  • Awareness – your company creates a product or service that is designed to relieve certain pain points for customers
  • Engagement – to bring customers into the fold, you actively promote your product on various channels
  • Evaluation – customers looking for a solution come across your product, among other competitors
  • Purchase – having evaluated the options available to them, customers decide to make a purchase
  • Advocacy – the customers enjoyed your product or service enough to advocate for your company
  • Now imagine two customers who have a similar issue but one is at the evaluation phase while the other is at the advocacy phase.

If you handle them both in the same way, you are likely to lose one.

The customer who is still evaluating your product or company will need more of your time and patience—they know the competitors out there and can easily leave.

At the same time, you can’t assume that the advocacy-stage customer will simply put up with problems because they’re already a loyal customer.

To retain these customers, you need to adapt your strategy and the way you speak with them—adaptability will ensure you don’t lose either of the customers.

Part of your crisis plan will also be about the tone you use when addressing customers.

Customers are in a fragile state right now and they just want things to go right. If your support team uses their usual patient, but distant, tone, your customers will not be pleased.

It is worth changing up the greetings and salutations to acknowledge the pandemic—don’t be afraid to ask for a bit of time or patience so you can do the best job at addressing their problem.

We are all in this together—apart—and with a little bit of patience and resilience, you will be able to put customers at ease.

3. Get Creative with Platforms

Where are your customers right now? Online. Practically everybody around the world is online. That is where your company needs to be, as well.

But the online world is massive—what channels should you be using to address customer issues?

This is not an answer you will like but it’s the one you need to hear—you need to be on all the channels possible.

I know this is difficult but people are resurrecting their discarded accounts on social media so that they can stay connected to the rest of the world somehow.

Additionally, the flow of information and the number of posts in the digital world has been steadily increasing to keep up with the demand.

By limiting yourself to one or two communication platforms, you increase the chances of your messages being lost in the ether.

Up your email marketing game by taking inspiration from newsletter examples in your industry and beyond.

Make use of the social media channels that continue to be popular—Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn.

For the more adventurous among you, create accounts on Snapchat and TikTok to share fun but educational content that customers can enjoy.

Seriously consider incorporating live chat on your website so customers can get instantaneous replies even without customer support being present.

4. Know When to Escalate

Most customers accept that things can go wrong and a quick call or live chat will fix the problem. But there will always be a situation where that doesn’t work.

Nobody wants to have to bring in the big-wigs for a customer problem, but for the unreasonable few, this might be a necessity.

As we have mentioned, tensions are high in the current situation—there’s so much uncertainty around that everything feels like an insurmountable task.

If a customer isn’t satisfied with the response they have received, it makes sense for the support team to escalate it to a manager or higher.

In many cases, the manager will simply reiterate what the customer service agent had said—the customer will be mollified and that will be the end of the matter.

But if that doesn’t work for them, then the situation might have to go higher—a call from a senior-level executive will certainly please an angry customer and end the issue.

Another reason for bringing in higher management for a customer support situation is so that they can give customers some value addition to the product or service.

This is rarely in the purview of an agent—but when an issue is particularly problematic, addressing it may not be enough. Giving them a little something extra might just do the trick.

5. Preempt Customer Issues

The pandemic is unprecedented and we have no idea when things can go back to normal. But, in a way, we are actually adjusting to a kind of new normal.

There are certain cadences to our new way of life that businesses can adopt when handling customer issues, which help to reduce customer churn.

For instance, event cancellations are now a way of life—companies can preempt any conjecture by announcing that an event has been postponed or that it will be held online.

It also helps to update the FAQ page on your website with information about changed product launches, the delivery of services, curbside pick-up, and protective equipment for onsite teams.

You should also make a note of recurring issues that customers bring up—acknowledge that people have come across a problem and that you are in the process of addressing it.

The way we are now living our lives has changed dramatically, but we have now had enough time to adjust to some aspects of it.

Key Takeaways

Customer relationships can be challenging at the best of times—during a crisis, it becomes harder.

Despite the difficulties, addressing customer issues in a timely manner and with empathy is imperative.

We have outlined five creative ways that customer support teams can address their customers so that they continue to partner with the company in the future.

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