The 7 ‘A’s of Customer Service During Crisis

At times like these, customer service becomes a key pillar for any business to restore and reinforce the fortitude to move forward.


Long after the Covid-19 pandemic is gone, the one question we will ask ourselves is how prepared were we for such a crisis? And how prepared are organizations now for such a scenario in the future?

The Coronavirus Pandemic brought our world to a still. While it disrupted the entire supply chain network, industries, including livelihoods, it undoubtedly is forcing organizations to rethink their crisis strategies. It has already exposed multiple vulnerabilities that companies worldwide are gearing up to resolve. And it is imperative for all of us to organize this transition in as smooth away as possible to mitigate the damages caused and to recover successfully.

At the time of crises, panic and confusion prevail in society impacting businesses in more ways than we often realize. With the advent of social media and other networking platforms, this panic is only amplified by the abundance of sensationalized and malicious information. More than ever, in a crisis, people tend to believe that they are “alone” and need to find solutions on their own.

At times like these, customer service becomes a key pillar for any business to restore and reinforce the fortitude to move forward.

Does our customer service strategy in a crisis like this need to be different? Or are existing strategies of strong BCP/DRP good enough? Answering these questions is of paramount importance especially now.

What Abraham Lincoln said in the mid-19th century remains relevant till date, “I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis. The great point is to bring them the real facts."

We have seen this in the current pandemic as well. When WHO gave the facts to the world, nations started gearing up to face the crisis. When the central government stated the facts in public, organizations across the country got ready to not just steer themselves through these turbulent times, but also help the entire ecosystem they operate in. In a crisis, information dissemination – complete and correct – is central to effective customer service.

The 7 ‘A’s of Customer Service in a Crisis

Assurance - Start by Being Transparent

The leadership team must take cognizance of the situation immediately and highlight the steps being taken to assist customers and all stakeholders. This communication needs to be made available across all customer service channels including SMS, Email, IVR Systems, the corporate website, and all social media channels. Crafting a standard communication template that all company spokespersons and representatives must follow is crucial.

Addressing customer needs is vital, and if employees are unable to service customer requirements it is important to inform them in advance with the probable date of service resumption. E.g., if home visits are impossible (as in the current scenario) timely information ensures that customers do not panic in the interim.

Accessibility - Make Information Easily Available

Setting up crisis desks with adequately trained personnel to answer queries and assuage customer fear is critical. Simultaneously, using AI chatbots to provide basic information during off-hours could ensure a good mix of human and technology-based solutions. Provide information in the easiest manner with minimum inconvenience.

Attitude – Be Helpful

In times of crisis, providing empathetic solutions should be the priority. Organizations should try and go beyond the call of duty to support their clientele and society. Organizations must also recognize that they are not alone and need to collaborate with the ecosystem to provide empathetic and digital solutions to assist during this crisis. Food delivery platforms enhancing their offering to deliver groceries, companies offering virtual meal cards to employees working from home, a free extension of the warranty period for electronic goods are some examples of how corporates have stepped up to support consumers and society during this crisis. It is also important to ease certain processes as per the need to minimize inconvenience to the customers.

Application – Use Technology Effectively

The current crisis where physical distancing has become the norm, technology plays a vital and critical role to deliver solutions. Adopting omnichannel solutions in customer service with real-time monitoring of the services being provided is essential when we work from home. The use of chatbots to enable self-help and faster and easier access to information and services enhances the experience when the working hours are no longer clearly defined.

Alignment – Get Employees to Realise That Crisis Situations Need “Crisis Solutions”

An organization-wide alignment across all teams is important even more during the crisis. A cross-functional team can be tasked with ensuring that customer service remains working at optimal levels, even during the worst of times. If necessary, all non-critical functions/ departments can work as part of customer service to enhance the customer experience. It is important to set up a crash course to onboard cross-functional teams into the customer service team.

Agility – Do it Now, Do it Fast

It is necessary to constantly and consistently review the situation and understand areas of customer concern and inconvenience to fine-tune solutions or implement new solutions during this period. Speed is of prime importance as crises call for quick solutions. For example, in the case of the Fintech industry, if the physical delivery of cards is not possible providing virtual card solutions can enable customers to transact without any problem.

Also, regular meetings with key decision-makers to enable faster decisions on process changes, new service offerings, etc. act as a catalyst to drive agility within the organization. The alignment of teams enables the agility to deliver solutions that cater to the immediate needs of customers.

Appreciation – Put Together a Team and Motivate Them

Last but not the least, do not forget to keep employees motivated. Staying connected virtually with staff with more frequent meetings than normal makes them feel connected and safe. Extending virtual gift cards

to top performers to ensure constant motivation. Introducing relevant digital employee benefits like Wellness, Learning & Development, Internet Support, etc. ensures your workforce has the support and tools they require to perform to the best of their ability.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house

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