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Capacity and Communication: the Key to Customer Service in a Crisis

From human error to natural disasters, unexpected circumstances frequently play havoc with businesses across different sectors and result in crises which can test the most efficient customer service team. In the summer months, we’ve seen this come to the fore for airlines and airports in particular. From fires in Greece and air traffic control failures seeing holiday-makers stranded to an airport fire damaging visitor vehicles more recently, crises beyond a business’ control can create significant ramifications for operations – and often customers in turn. So how do you handle customer service in a crisis?

Each crisis creates a long list of urgent challenges to resolve, but the customer remains the priority and providing timely customer service is more vital than ever – both for reassurance and reputation management. Concerns from the customer can span from safety to frustration about financial consequences, so when disaster strikes, capacity and communication are king.

In our super-connected world of social media, customer service failings spread quickly and can damage hard-won reputations in hours. Preparing for the unexpected and ensuring customer contact teams are primed to support in emergency scenarios is key. Here are some areas that businesses should consider, helping them manage customer service in a crisis.

Scaling up customer service in a crisis

Increased enquiry levels, driven by often sensitive issues, call for greater levels of customer support. Worried or frustrated customers need someone to be there to jump on their query, show understanding, provide reassurance, and explain what they can expect to happen next.

Understandably, customer service colleagues can feel overwhelmed when faced with an influx of queries – particularly when driven by a perceivably negative sentiment. To help in-house teams, and ensure customers receive the service they expect, scaling up support to provide greater capacity is key. Outsourcing customer service to trained teams can be an effective solution. A good outsourcing provider will seek to understand and integrate quickly, sharing the load of inbound enquiries. They will also be able to scale up and down as contact levels peak and trough as needed.

Communicating with concerned customers

It’s worth noting that while a crisis is emerging, businesses will usually need some time to understand and carefully assess the extent of the issue, before coordinating the resolution. But in the meantime, understandably, concerned customers will continue to reach out with questions.

Getting on the front foot with this and communicating with affected customers at regular intervals can help to manage the load. Deciding to outsource outbound customer service can help to facilitate this. This can involve outsourcers acknowledging the concerns of affected customers, reassuring them that providing a solution is a priority which is being escalated, and affirming that further communication will follow.

When a solution has been found and mobilised, it’s then vital that the business follows through and continues to provide timely updates. This is where effective omnichannel contact software comes in, ensuring that all customer enquiries are collated and managed in one central place. This ensures that the status of all individual enquiries is visible to customer service agents, helping to ensure that nothing slips through the gaps.

At FM Outsource, we support businesses of all sizes to outsource customer service, as well as provide consultancy to those organisations unsure of where to start. Visit our dedicated web pages to find out more about how we support businesses during unpredictably busy periods and the emergency cover we provide.