This coronavirus pandemic won't be the last crisis in our collective lifetimes. There will come another point in time when companies must suddenly pivot their operations. Today, that means embracing a remote working model for many organizations, but future crises could entail something entirely different. No matter what's happening around us, though, one thing must remain consistent and effective – your customer service and communication.
To state the obvious, without your customers or clients, your business ceases to exist. And while I've focused on internal aspects of remote teams and operations so far in this series, I haven't said much about customers yet. That is, until now. Your customers, whether you're B2B or B2C, are feeling every bit as nervous and overwhelmed as you and your team are right now. So for that reason, I want to take a look at four simple best practices that your remote team can adopt to ensure customer service, support, and communication at a time when your customers need it most.
1. Take the Communication Bull By the Horns
If you're like me, you've received no fewer than 25 emails from businesses and their responses to the COVID-19 crisis. And while I certainly appreciate knowing how a fantasy sports company and beer manufacturer are coping with the coronavirus, it seems a bit formulaic and boilerplate at this point.
Still, there's no right or wrong way to communicate with your customers during times like these, as long as it's true to your brand and what your company is about. If it just so happens that one of those emails suits you, then so be it. Just make sure it expresses how the crisis impacts your company, employees, and operations, as well as your response to that impact. Above all else, make it personal and warm, delivering the information you think your customers want right now rather than forcing them to scour your website and social media channels for it.
2. Lead By Example
This is a time when true leadership shines through. Resource and time permitting, use this crisis as an opportunity to display what your company and team stand for by spearheading philanthropic efforts, relaying critical information, and actively communicating how your business and people are making a difference. Sure, this is also helpful for public relations, but if you try to emphasize that angle too much, then you'll come across as disingenuous. In other words, you're walking a fine line. If you concentrate on leading by example, though, everything has a way of falling into place.
3. Revisit Your Messaging & Branding
Things like web copy and website design are nuanced, tailored to fit a specific feeling and tone. If your messaging doesn't necessarily fit the vibe you're trying to convey during these stressful times, then it's a good time to revisit and refine it. The same goes for your overall branding, where you should try to stay true to your ideals, values, and vision, but not if a customer might deem it awkward or, even worse, inappropriate given the current environment.
Of course, you also don't want to make it seem like you're trying to capitalize on the coronavirus pandemic or any other crisis. Begin the process by having your marketing team or a trusted third-party audit your current inbound content – blogs, white papers, infographics, and others – as well as your social media feeds, web copy, and email campaigns. And, yes, I do recognize the irony of linking to Creative Cave pages in this section, but we’re really good at what we do.
Anyway, this auditing process will take a fair amount of time and effort, but it's worth it to protect your brand and customer loyalty. If anything is blatantly out of place, pull it for the time being. Also, consider creating new content that speaks specifically to this time of crisis. There's no need to pretend that it's business as usual if that couldn't be further from the truth.
4. Create a Crisis Team
I understand that if you're a small business, you might not have the resources and personnel to create a designated team to handle things like messaging & branding, customer outreach, and philanthropic or community initiatives. Likewise, if you're new to remote working and still trying to sort out the details, then you certainly need to focus on your operations and technology first.
However, if and when it's feasible, reskilling some of your customer service agents as crisis management specialists – perhaps use a less foreboding title, though – can be a relatively fast and cost-efficient way to establish a crisis communication plan. Afterward, use the plan as a template to foster proactive communication with your customers.
Of course, using the coronavirus crisis as an example, a senior living community will have a far greater need for effective crisis communication than a restaurant or manufacturer. Put another way, your particular industry and business will dictate what you need to communicate with your customers effectively.
Long story short, you can distill these tips – as well as much of what I've discussed throughout this series on remote working – into a single element: empathy. In fact, empathy plays such a powerful role in your operations, not just during times like this COVID-19 crisis but even during "normal" times, that it's the subject for the final piece in this series. Spoiler alert! Anyway, it’s Creative Cave’s pleasure to share our insights, knowledge, and experience when so many people and companies are looking for answers.