Customer Service During Crises

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People are feeling overextended, underprepared, angry, sad, stressed, and scared.  Your customers, your staff (if you have one), you, and I are all likely experiencing some sense of these heightened emotions.  The extent to which these feelings exist in each person vary greatly as do their specific circumstances.  Generally speaking though, our “fight or flight” survival instincts (the body’s natural response to stressful stimuli) are lingering closer to the surface than usual. 

During times of crisis, you see evidence of this all around you:  the individual yelling at the cashier for the store’s “1 per person” limit; the beeping and yelling over that sought-after parking spot; and even an increased number of heated social media discussions that seem to have the voltage turned up a bit.  The beneficiaries of my stress . . . ?  These days, I find myself triggered by my children’s complaints of boredom (I suddenly channel my grandmother: “Be thankful you’ve got nothing to do, or I’ll give you something to do!”).  And God bless the telemarketer that calls my phone this month.

So what does all this have to do with your business’s customer service?  Chances are, your customers will have less patience than usual.  The person (or people) who works with your customers (even if that person is you) will probably have less patience than usual.  “The perfect storm.”  Unfortunately, any intense interactions will likely not be forgotten once the storm has calmed.  As illustrated by the info-graphic below, a disgruntled customer will process their feelings in one (or more) of a number of predictable and unfortunate ways. 

(Not topping the list of “What Happens After Poor Customer Experience”:
Customer will acknowledge that everyone is under a lot of stress and give the company the benefit of the doubt.)

How can we prevent ourselves from alienating customers during hard times?  Recognition is an extremely important first step.  One parenting mantra often repeated is, “Your child isn’t giving you a hard time; your child is having a hard time.”  This twist on perspective can easily apply to individuals of all ages who are having a hard time.  Before answering a phone call or responding to an email, take a moment to remember all the potential scenarios that people (including you) are dealing with right now:  serious health issues among family or close friends, loss of income and trouble paying bills, homeschooling children – in many cases – while working from home, etc.  Acknowledge all the weight that you and everyone else is carrying around.  Taking that moment will make a world of difference, I promise.

Going one step further, you may even want to solidify some more relaxed (short-term) customer service policies.  Formalizing a revised posture is particularly beneficial if you have employees that will be working with your customers during this time.  Having finite rules (that have been relaxed) will help your staff navigate this confusing landscape.

Good luck.  Stay safe.

If you have any questions or comments on this topic, we’d love to hear from you.  Scroll down to the comments section at the bottom of this page. 

Weathering the Storm

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As a small business owner, this virus will hit hard.  When sales stop, so, too, does our income.  In most cases, bills will continue to flow in. 

Yes, I will consider myself extremely lucky if all my friends and family survive this pandemic. 

Financial health would be some lovely icing.

The Small Business Association has a lot of great resources for this situation . . . from an Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program to Local Assistance:  https://www.sba.gov/page/coronavirus-covid-19-small-business-guidance-loan-resources 

A lot of other wonderful and necessary business accommodations, information, and tools are currently in the making as well, but the focus of this blog will be about creativity.  As the saying goes, “When one door closes, another opens.”  The lesser known continuation of the quote is “. . . we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us.”  In this terrible situation, I challenge you to look for another door through which you can temporarily rebrand your business.

Some business alterations are more obvious in this new climate.  Restaurants are open for takeout and offering free “contactless” delivery.  Retail stores are encouraging “retail therapy” from home and also offering free delivery. 

Some business have had to get a little more creative.  A few examples to help inspire your creative thinking include . . .

Craft stores are offering instructions on how to DIY face masks and hand sanitizers from products available for shipment. 

Businesses that typically have at-location customers (and now have an overflow of convenience products) are offering a free roll of toilet paper with their take-out product. 

Gyms are offering virtual classes.

Real estate agents are offering virtual tours (created by the homeowner).

Some entrepreneurs are investing a portion of their reserves in the stock market, betting on the long game.

Invitation businesses are designing postponement announcements.

Charities are hosting virtual auctions.

Some business that simply cannot function now are offering their customers discounts for booking their product/service in advance. 

Home improvement stores (which are able to stay open as an “essential” business) are providing instructions for DIY projects around the house – since most people are homebound with some extra time.

A blog that strives to help entrepreneurs create and develop their corporate identity is now focusing on crisis communications and rebranding opportunities.  (Ya, that one’s us.)

I hope offering a handful of business Coronavirus coping strategies sparked your inner innovator.

Remember . . . “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.” (Charles Darwin)

Good luck.  Stay safe.