As numerous parts of the globe transitioned to lockdowns, various industries have taken a massive hit. In order to stay afloat, the commercial, tourism, hospitality, and other sectors are adopting new methods in delivering their products and services.
Here are five ways customer service has been impacted by the pandemic, and how businesses are evolving.
Migrating to digital platforms is the new normal. The majority of businesses thrive on foot traffic and in-person transactions, which is why COVID-19 has been so crippling to their profits. Shifting to digital transactions has become the norm for almost all businesses. If customers can do it online, they will, so having a digital platform is extremely important in customer service.
Many companies had to rapidly develop apps in order to continue their services. For example, grocery apps like Instacart have seen a dramatic increase in users during the pandemic. Online banking services are extremely useful nowadays too. And fitness centers are now conducting live stream sessions for their patrons.
It is also unlikely for consumers to return to their previous purchasing habits. According to Forbes, even if the stay-at-home orders are lifted, millions of consumers are creating new buying habits online. It is projected that e-commerce is going to be the new normal until a vaccine is released.
Customer communication can save a brand. COVID-19 is also affecting the world’s supply chain, with thousands of factory closures affecting the balance of supply and demand. There is a huge possibility that services are going to be impacted by this disruption, so keeping customers informed is important.
Customers will demand an immediate response to their queries, and being transparent will help alleviate their stress. Businesses should warn them about shortages in their products and services, then provide solutions and alternatives. After all, people inquire or show interest in buying when they have a specific problem to solve.
And because customer service channels are often busy, unavailable, or taking too long to respond, businesses should anticipate what questions their customers will ask. Having a self-service FAQ, an info-heavy chatbot, or any similar knowledge base will give them timely information if they can’t reach a business’ hotline.
Prompt online messaging is important. Since in-person transactions are unavailable as of the moment, businesses are actively utilising other forms of communication channels. Online messaging has become an extremely useful tool for businesses to reach out to their customers. Thus, prompt responses whenever possible can make a huge difference.
According to Facebook’s statistics, online messaging users have increased by 50% in places where the virus hit the hardest. WhatsApp, a popular instant messaging app, has seen a 40% surge in its users during the pandemic as well. WowSupport, a company offering $1/ hour chat support services, is also leading the industry in affordable 24/7 support services. This shows that if businesses want to reach their customers, prompt, reliable online messaging platforms are the key.
Another new thing I’ve seen during this time is establishments are creating group chats for their customers where they can send daily updates regarding their operations. Some businesses would even host live videos where they answer real-time questions and concerns from their customers. This gives the feeling of having a “face-to-face” interaction.
Home delivery options are a must. Home delivery has gone from being a convenient option to a basic necessity. Nowadays, if a business doesn’t have it as an option, then it’s definitely missing out on a lot of profits. Stay-at-home mandates are preventing customers from purchasing in-store, so businesses are bringing their products straight to their homes. As for non-essential products, many brands are closing their physical stores and shifting to receiving online orders and deliveries.
Food delivery services have seen a surge in demand since the start of the pandemic. In Asia, Grabfood, Food Panda, and GoJek are just a few examples of such businesses that are helping restaurants reach their customers. Other essential establishments such as pharmacies have also offered delivery services for prescription and OTC medicines.
A Philippine-based steak distributor, Steak.ph, shares their experience and rationale with how they adjusted to their version of the ‘new normal.’ “Everything that we did when we launched Steak.ph Online in 2016 was towards providing our clients a ‘shop experience’ – when a customer messages us, we act as if a VIP just walked into our steak shop. We give advice for cooking, custom cuts for occasions, wine pairings, etc. When the pandemic hit, we had to keep doing those, plus we had to keep our promise of same day delivery, whatever the cost.”
Steak.ph saw the surge in new clients, and even saw potential for expansion during this one-of-a-kind market shift.
Empathy goes a long way. Everyone is experiencing this crisis, and people need understanding and support now more than ever. The best thing that businesses can do is to empathise with their customers and make them feel safe. Many businesses have extended relief and support by donating food and essential items to families who have been affected by job loss. Some companies also donated personal protective equipment (PPE) to medical front-liners and healthcare establishments. This is a practice shown by both big and small businesses. It’s heartwarming to see, and truly the kind of news we can get behind during these times.
In just a short period of time, COVID-19 has negatively impacted millions of lives across the globe. In order to protect their bottomline, businesses must constantly evolve and look for new ways to ensure customer satisfaction despite the crisis.