One of the biggest challenges facing companies today is the ability to maintain and service customers in an environment where nothing is familiar or certain. Currently, it seems that every company around the globe is being impacted in some form by the COVID-19 crisis, ranging from cancelled travel plans or insurance-related questions to customer concerns over the ability to pay their bills. These unprecedented times mean that most companies are now facing higher call volumes and working to support customers who are frustrated, scared, or upset.

Because of this, what should business leaders be doing to address customer concerns and emerge stronger from this crisis?

Here, we outline five key considerations for reimagining customer service:

1. Support your teams so that they can deliver for your customers.

We are all working to manage our response to this challenging new environment. If team members are struggling with stress or anxiety, they will not be able to adequately support the needs of others. Providing equipment and logistics to ensure that your teams have the necessities to work remotely or ability to work safely from the office will be critical to effectively support the needs of your customers.

2. Provide clear and consistent messaging.

Ensure that the customer service representatives who are responsible for fielding service calls have the adequate training and knowledge to provide consistent, transparent, and relevant information to customers. Given the heightened anxiety that customers are facing, standardized tools to help agents diffuse stressful situations while providing customers with the requested responses is critical to a successful interaction.

3. Direct additional resources to support call volumes.

Assess your current workforce to determine where you might have the capacity to shift resources into a customer-facing role. Are there areas of your business that are slowing down? Can those resources be trained to respond to customers? The ability to pivot internally to support critical tasks, such as customer service calls or emails, can boost utilization while also reducing wait times, thus enhancing the customer service experience.

4. Identify and address common requests through digital channels.

Customers should be able to access answers to commonly asked questions through digital tools – such as your website, direct email, chat bots, or text updates. Finding additional ways to communicate with your customers through these channels demonstrates your ability to provide transparency and a sense of control, and helps to reduce stress that comes with the unknown.

5. Optimize technology for long-term success.

Assessing your current technology environment and implementing enhancements can seem like an unnecessary expense right now, but the benefits could drive long-term cost savings and enable customers to be self-reliant. For example, Robotic Process Automation (RPA) can provide options for 24/7 customer support without the need for on-call resources during those hours. RPA has been used for features like chat bots to answer routine customer questions or provide status updates such as tracking the progress of an order. Leveraging RPA can help build capacity within teams by automating bots to prioritize calls and supply categorized customer data so that representatives can focus their time and attention on resolving the concerns of the customer and increase overall satisfaction.

Supporting the needs of your employees is the first step in your company’s ability to better support your customers. Understanding the needs of your customers and adapting quickly to meet those needs will help businesses maintain the loyalty and trust of their customers during this unprecedented time.  Likely, the shifts organizations implement to support today’s demand will drive opportunities for growth as we look to emerge from this economic downturn.