In the last decade, a number of businesses have successfully embraced digital and social media to provide excellent customer service. On websites we’ve seen FAQs, blog posts and live chat, while over on social media, there’s been the development of dedicated channels on Twitter and Facebook and not forgetting the rise of artificial intelligence providing answers to the more straightforward customer enquiries via chat bots.
But what if the digital realm is new to you, an area you’re potentially having to consider to survive in business, or if you’re already active there how do you provide an incredible customer service experience during the current climate?
If you’re in the first category, both the Washington Post and Guardian recently reported that those businesses who have got their digital act together are mainly thriving, including those migrating to digital. However, I believe that for both those new to digital and those who have operated in this space for some time, focussing on customers’ needs, wants and crucially anxieties. through their digital platforms, will thrive more now and for the longer-term.
Additionally, customers can often seem irrational to those fielding their enquiries. During this unprecedented time, we need to remember that our customers are facing all sorts of uncertainty and fears, including loss of work, illness and even loss of life. This means that people could have shorter fuses than usual in their customer service engagements, which we need to respond with compassion and empathy.
It’s not business as usual
It’s clearly not business as usual and those who go out of their way to embrace their customers’ questions at this time are the ones who are succeeding. More on this later.
Some businesses are adapting their core offer to the current situation and changing their content accordingly. This could be your situation.
Bidfood, who until the lockdown, supplied products to 45,000 caterers and foodservice businesses in the UK, adapted quickly to provide home delivery, especially to those most at-risk. The Bidfood team adapted their offer, website and created content to promote their new offer on their social channels.
However, others seem to have carried on with their content calendar regardless, including mobile phone companies promoting, rather than educating about 5G services in their promoted posts. Not surprisingly these posts have been met with “strong” responses to say the least.
Even if your business doesn’t need to adapt, your content should adapt to serve your customers during this season.
Proactively create content to help customers
Personally, I’m applauding the fact that customer service has become a key feature of digital content over the last month, rather than an add-on for most companies.
From images to explainer videos, a number of companies are doing this really well, including Tesco who are even spending advertising budget to get their customer service messages out on social channels.
Creating pro-active content for your customer service channels also helps workload with potentially a reduced workforce due to isolation etc. First of all, you’re getting your message out in front of your customers before they need to ask the question and secondly customer service colleagues have content to which they can share links with customers making enquiries.
Email mailing lists should also be seriously considered for your digital customer service. Sainsbury’s Chief Executive, Mike Coupe and colleagues have successfully utilised their loyalty card database to get messages directly to customers.
Sadly, it’s a major crisis that has lead companies down the proactive content creation path for customer service. Proactively creating both social and digital (web, email etc.) content is something we’ve encouraged on our Customer Service On Social Media course for some time.
Reassuring your customers and setting their expectations
Most customers would be devastated to find out that their online order to you resulted in someone contracting Covid-19.
So there’s also an ethical consideration for your customers i.e. what steps are you taking to minimise the risk to the health of your employees? Reassure customers in your content and outline what you’re doing to keep colleagues safe.
Prominently displaying this on your website or by pinning content to the top of your social accounts (works with Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn Company pages) also will help customers with their expectation on the level of services you can currently provide.
In times of crises, businesses need more than ever to be compassionate, empathetic with customers, putting them first. Creating pro-active content, reassuring your customers and setting their expectations will help many customers as possible without causing customer service problems.
I’d love to know what great examples of customer service on digital platforms you’ve come across, especially during these unprecedented times.