Customer service is one of the worst-hit business segments in the COVID-19 pandemic. Here’s proof:
Using Tethr, an AI-powered conversational intelligence platform, with a 250-variable proprietary algorithm, researchers at Harvard surveyed roughly 1 million customer-service calls, including more than 20 companies representing a broad cross-section of industries during the beginning of the pandemic.
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- Many companies in the survey saw an increase in “difficult” calls by more than 100%.
- The typical levels of difficult calls ranged from 10% to 20%, but the pandemic made it even worse.
- There were more appeals for bill payment extensions, unexpected travel cancellations, insurance coverage disputes, and other anxiety-induced distress calls.
- Some companies in the study saw hold times increase by as much as 34 percent, and escalation calls (calls sent up the chain of command) balloon more than 68 percent.
Adding to this, mostly all customer service employees work from home, where there are not enough tech resources that one would find in a call center. There are also issues of bad network connectivity, less to no support from peers, and the pressures of the home environment; maintaining customer relationships has become difficult.
But it is not impossible.
Here are 8 ways that will guarantee great customer relationships even working online.
8 Ways To Create Great Customer Relationships While Working Remotely
1. Chatbots Help You Serve 24/7
The first thing that any customer expects from a brand is the availability of customer service whenever they face any issues. Yes, it is becoming mandatory for almost all businesses to provide 24/7 customer support.
But, it becomes a tough task in situations such as the current pandemic times. All the employees are working remotely, and it becomes difficult for them to coordinate. We all know how important internal collaboration is to offer a great customer experience.
Thus, when remotely placed, a centralized customer-focused solution is recommended. A centralized solution such as an AI-based chatbot can allow the customers to log in to their queries and get answers to frequently asked questions.
Chatbots also use machine learning to learn what the customers and visitors are saying with each message and then give contextually appropriate responses. These systems can issue tickets for remote workers to follow through when their shift starts for complex queries.
2. Ask your team how they are doing.
This one is for all the leaders and managers. Following what Richard Branson famously said,
“take care of your employees, and they’ll take care of your customers.” You gotta take care of your team.
This pandemic is new for everyone, and each one of them has a different way of dealing with it. Just be practical and ponder for a moment whether your team members will be able to focus on their work if they are facing any personal or family issues.
So, being a leader or managing the team, you need to understand the situation of the team members by regularly connecting with them.
If you’re a manager, take some time out to call your teammates about things that don’t work. Ask them about their health and well-being. Ask them if they need anything to make their WFH easy. Ask if there are any difficulties at work they’ve been too uncomfortable to complain about?
Though this might sound benign, such questions have immense calming and anxiety-reducing effects. Moreover, your employees will also see you as a leader and the company they work at in an even better light.
Having said this, make sure your good intentions don’t come off like you’re badgering or micro-managing them or being intrusive in any way.
Finally, the better your employees feel, the better they’ll be able to maintain customer relationships.
3. Tailor-made communication
This is more important when the communication has gone fully digital due to remote working. The goal should be to offer as good a customer experience online as you’d offer in-store, if not better.
Whenever you are remotely solving your customer’s problems, the first thing you need to ensure is that you have completely understood what they need. As there is no in-person communication, offering tailor-made communication helps you deliver optimum custom relationships.
This can be again done with centralized tools like CRM software or a Unified Inbox. These software can help sales reps and support staff know all prior customer communication across their journey in one place. This helps you offer quick solutions to their exact problems.
Additionally, an AI-based chatbot can also offer personalized experiences using data like their name, location, past purchases, products in their cart, and even their device type!
4. Follow A Plan
There should be a plan to communicate with your clients. A predefined response plan will help you know how to contact customers and what information is to be shared.
Creating a communication plan for your clients might be a lifesaver and help you stay on schedule. The information you pass on should not only be about the business but any article or upcoming promotions that interest your customers can be shared.
This approach will make your customers feel more valued and build your customer relationship more strongly.
5. Practice Active Listening
Usually, people tend to overhear someone when they are in a conversation, but that should not be the case here. Try and engage in active listening with clients so that you can actually learn what they want to share rather than just listening.
Instead of preparing your next responses, pay attention to customers’ needs. You can even note down the information that helps you prepare and provide the actual response to customers’ queries.
Even if you’re engaging with clients via email or messaging apps, you can practice active listening. Ensure you read the entire message fully, understand it before responding.
Here are some active listening techniques:
6. Keep all the Organization Changes Transparent
The core of any customer relationship should be transparency. Transparency will help them feel more confident in your services and ensure they have all the information they need.
It’s up to you to make sure your customers get the information they need, whether they want all the specifics or just a brief overview.
If you do not maintain transparency, it can only lead to confusion and problems in the future, which is not good for your relationship with customers.
Be active on social media. Write posts mentioning all activities and changes in the business to let customers know what’s happening! This will also give you a chance to engage with them online! Two wins for your business!
7. Be Open To Constant Feedbacks
With all of the changes taking place, you can try to work in any way you choose, but you won’t know if your new methods are productive until you are open to feedback. Collecting customer feedback is an important and vital business activity.
Positive feedback strengthens a brand’s image, while negative feedback identifies places for improvement. It also provides a platform for customers to share their views or complaints, which will help you retain clients and build customer relationships.
To digitally garner feedback, you can use social listening tools like a social media sentiment analysis tool.
This tool gives you empirical insights by tracking positive and negative words and phrases in social media comments, tweets, mentions, and more.
Here’s how it looks:
Additionally, you can enable customer experience scores like CSAT, NPS, and CES. Very helpful to get real-time insights on how your customers are finding your businesses, products, and services.
Different scores help you gauge different metrics. Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT) is to track the quality of support you provide. Net Promoter Score (NPS) is to see how many customers will refer your products to their friends and family.
Customer Effort Score (CES) is to know if your customers find dealing with your business seamless or effortful.
8. Be Careful With Your Choice of Words
Another subtle but very important point when it comes to nurturing customer relationships is careful communication. Sometimes your words can also be a cause of problems in your customer relationship.
More importantly, while interacting with customers online. Online communication comes with problems caused by bad connectivity, improper hardware like earphones, and more — from either of the two parties.
It is, therefore, better to keep a check on your connectivity and hardware. Also, try to stay on point. Do not use words or industry-specific phrases or jargon that are difficult for customers to understand.
Finally, you should keep in mind that you choose your words carefully, which convey the exact meaning to the customer.
Create Better Customer Relationships While Working Remotely
While working remotely, Creating customer relationships can be challenging. But the tips we shared with you will help you in current times and build your customer relationship stronger. Being transparent, taking customer feedback, ensuring the well-being of your employees, offering tailor-made experiences, and investing in digital customer experience tools are some of the ways to maintain great customer relationships remotely.
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