Delivering Great Customer Service Even in a Crisis

“Customers don’t expect you to be perfect. They do expect you to fix things when they go wrong”. – Donald Porter

Customers may be tough and even unreasonable at times. However, from reading the quote above, it is clear that they expect companies to be human – meaning they expect mistakes and are ready to overlook them as long as the company is quick and efficient in remedying them. This holds true even in the toughest situations and times of crisis, and the hallmark of a truly great company is one that delivers great customer service even in a crisis. Providing such service can prove to be the unique and differentiating factor for any company – drawing customers close and keeping them connected with it. We have discussed earlier too, the benefits of treating the toughest situations and sharpest criticism as opportunities for gain, and a crisis of any kind is exactly one such opportunity.

Since customers expect to feel a sense of comfort and satisfaction when transacting business with a company, it would be sagacious for a company to keep them at ease by delivering great customer service even in a crisis. Such treatment from a company keeps customers happy and loyal – which in turn makes them walking and talking advertisements for your company, its offerings, and the customer service. The message that such customers pass on to others proves to be an invaluable asset for a company and could work wonders to bolster the company’s reputation and market standing. Negative impressions from slovenly service have quite the opposite effect – sometimes leading to the closure of companies. The premise is simple – keep your customers happy and feeling welcome and they are sure to stand by you in the toughest situations.

The fact is that irrespective of how careful we may be in our personal lives and in caring for a business, there are bound to be moments or long stretches of crisis. A company would be dealing with some urgent situations, especially with regard to its customers, and the same would be true for the customers of customers. Things will go wrong but smart companies learn from these situations, become better, and forge ahead leaving their competitors behind. Companies that learn are the ones that take responsibility and put into action their best customer service even in a crisis. Such handling and management is what inspires trust and confidence in the minds of customers.

Many times however, customers face indifference and denial on the part of the company when something goes wrong. The company’s refusal to offer an explanation, let alone an apology, can drive customers crazy – vowing to shake the very foundation of such companies. Great customer service even in a crisis means accepting responsibility, apologizing publicly to the affected customer base, and swinging into action to not only resolve the situation, but also ensuring that there are no repeats. Service recovery is as important a part of great customer service, as any other aspect of it. Staying honest and transparent even in a crisis is possibly one of the shortest routes to profitability and success for any company. Customers of today are smart and intelligent – they are quick to see through the dishonesty, and poor handling of a crisis on the part of a company could quickly escalate and become a tidal wave of negativity, wiping away every single aspect of the company.

Does your company offer great customer service even in a crisis? If so, what does the service ‘look’ like and how do customers respond? We believe that the most important and critical thing for any company to do would be to apologize. A sincere and heartfelt expression of regret would go a long way in beginning the process of smoothening things out and keeping customers calm. Exhibiting such a demeanour will display the humane side of a business – an acceptance of their shortcomings as people, yet willing to make things right – a trait that is heartily supported by customers and others. The essence of great customer service even in a crisis and under normal circumstances is being able to exceed expectations by putting yourself in the place of the customers. This would mean, not just setting the wrong right, but also going an extra mile to ensure that customers quickly forget the trouble and inconvenience caused by the company. Customers expect that a company would make a complete disclosure of the circumstances that led to the crisis, and how it expects to alleviate the pain, and ensure that similar situations do not arise in the future. Even if the effort does not lead to a complete resolution, customers are sure to perceive and appreciate the endeavours.

The next step for a company, to delivering great customer service even in a crisis is to make promises and stand by them. A company should learn from the tough situations and resolve to make things better for their customers – as anyone running a business would know, it is always prudent to under promise and over deliver, rather than the other way around. Customers do not forget things that interest them – and eventually a company’s lie will be called out by someone, which would place it in an even deeper abyss than before.  The fact is that companies must have a crisis management strategy in place – proactively. No one knows when things may go wrong – and they will – so it is in the best interest of a company to remain prepared to deal with and provide great customer service even in a crisis. The worst part is that customers are even more miffed by a company’s silence / inaction – as compared to the actual annoying situation. They expect a swift and intelligent response from the company to mitigate their ‘pain’ and possible problems. With social media’s instant visibility, it is no longer hard for a company to communicate with their customers – inform them of the crisis and provide updates on what the company is doing about sorting things out. Stay prepared and responsive – watch how customers stand by your company and help it tide over the crisis.

On a number of occasions, tough situations come about by negligence. Companies seem to be caught up in expanding their business and acquiring new customers – which is necessary too. However, the self-defeating mistake they make is ignoring their existing customers – often putting the relationship with them on ‘auto-pilot’. During a time of crisis, the company’s existing and long-standing customers are the ones who would support it and be more tolerant of problems – it makes business sense therefore, to make these customers top priority and ensure that they do not feel neglected at any time.

To continue delivering great customer service even in a crisis, it would be great to have some kind of self-service for customers in place. During a difficult time, a dedicated team should consistently update these portals such that customers have current information and know what actions the company is taking to alleviate the problems. This saves time and effort for customers, and reduces the number of panic calls and queries that a company would need to answer – overworking the service staff, which could lead to a breakdown in service.

Both customers and business owners know that the manner in which a company tackles a tough situation would be its essential character. Delivering great customer service even in a crisis would be the company’s redeeming feature and lead existing and potential customers to engage with such a company for a very long time.

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