Pandemic customer service journal: documenting lessons learned

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Journaling (and the edgier bullet journaling). Some might call these the modern and adult term for keeping a diary. Regardless of which form you prefer, they are an effective means of capturing thoughts, making plans, and documenting occurrences for later review.

Going into the pandemic, most companies had a business continuity plan to draw from. While these plans generally ensure operations can continue with minimal disruption–including customer service–this situation was not a typical short-term flu epidemic or natural disaster limited to one location they address. That business continuity plan didn’t prove to be as useful for these remarkable circumstances and the ensuing issues.

And there have probably been more than a few noteworthy issues in the days since customer service went to reduced staffing, agents working from home, some combination of the two, or even completely shuttered. Taking those actions might have tracked somewhat to the business continuity plan; other steps might not, requiring quick evaluation and a speedy decision. Some scenarios might still be playing out and being adjusted on-the-fly.

In all of these circumstances, data will be generated. Ongoing reporting will show the results. But what about the factors that led to such changes in the first place? And should these modifications revert back post-pandemic or remain longer-term (perhaps with further tweaks)? Answering these questions is where journaling becomes important. From these entries, as much can be learned from the reasons behind the decisions made as the outcomes. For customer service, several topics bear recording for future evaluation.

Operational needs

Many companies have already adopted a cloud-based infrastructure for customer service tools. These tools support typical customer service use cases such as customer and case management as well as live customer engagement (telephony, chat, etc.). This being the case, remote work may be an easier pivot, but it may create potentially new challenges such as secure access needs, connect from home policies, and more.

For most companies, delivering customer service at prior service and productivity levels is currently difficult. Metrics and KPIs have been adjusted to reflect what is possible as well as what makes sense in the current climate. What led to those decisions, what measurements were changed, and why?

With everyone now outside the office, were adequate tools already in place for customer service teams to collaborate? Have learning systems proven to be up to the task of educating existing employees on new products, services, and policy changes as well as to onboard new employees (if hiring has continued)?

Agents’ needs

Cloud-based infrastructure might bear much of the burden, but agents’ needs when working from home are another matter.

Did they have hardware that can easily be moved from work to home, including a computer, headset, and any other devices necessary for their work? Did any policies inhibit their ability to simply pack things up and temporarily move it all home? Did they have adequate bandwidth available at home? And what seems to be the minimum amount needed for them to be successful?

Besides technology, the agent’s home workspace should also be considered. Is a somewhat private area being used to minimize disruptions? (This may be especially important if providing customer service in a regulated industry.) Ergonomics is also important. Collect feedback from agents about their work environment, but also encourage them to journal and share their own findings as they “field test” what may be the first time they have worked from home.

Customers’ needs

Fundamentally, a customer is looking for the fastest path to resolve their problem or answer their question. Those expectations may have tempered somewhat, but customer service still has its mission, and attaining it might involve getting creative.

Most companies changed many of their customer service policies immediately. Change fees, product return windows, and loyalty point expiration dates were modified or eliminated. What were the changes, the reasons behind them, and how did customers respond?

If it becomes necessary to reduce available service channels on a temporary basis, what led to the decision? Which channels were turned off (and which left in service), and why?

To a brighter future

The examples listed are but a few of the countless ways in which companies have adapted customer service delivery in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. While business continuity plans may have provided some guidance, the unique nature of this situation means new ground was broken. Documenting those journal-worthy details ensures nothing is lost.

It’s not too late to start. As analysts and pundits put out their predictions for what business will look like post-pandemic, those living it and journaling it will capture not just the outcomes but also the discussion and reasoning behind the changes. This will not only ensure greater preparedness for future circumstances, but also inform how quickly-improvised routines like working from home might be properly implemented for the long-term.

On top of that, the act of journaling has been shown to help us heal faster. Be that in customer service or our personal lives, we can all definitely use a path to recovery and a brighter tomorrow.

Paul Selby
I am a product marketing consultant for Aventi Group. Aventi Group is the first product marketing agency solely dedicated to high-tech clients. We’re here to supplement your team and bring our expertise to bear on your top priorities, so you achieve high-quality results, fast.

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