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Making customer service really count, in lockdown and beyond

It's been 11 weeks since the UK went into lockdown and for those of us that are lucky enough to be able to work from home, the novelty may be starting to wear off. As screen time reaches an all-time high, the reality of technology and phone calls being our only method of communication with our friends, customers, partners and colleagues can be tiresome.

A couple of recent personal experiences really got me thinking about what a difference your interaction with an organisation can make to your mood, the way you think about them and the way you talk about them.

Right now, your customers can't always see you (apart from all those video calls). In the B2B world, we've lost the ability to have face-to-face meetings, to grab a coffee or to have an informal chat with our clients; all of those moments that really help grow and maintain our relationships.

In the B2C world, where we are providing end-user support, I think it's fair to say at times we can all be a bit more demanding; our emotions are heightened and we perhaps have a bit more time to spend dealing with those long-standing issues or new questions that might pop up. But more time doesn't necessarily mean more energy. We want to know that when we raise something it will be dealt with quickly, easily and with care.

For me, this is exactly why customer service is more important than ever. We've got an opportunity to impress, to be genuinely helpful and to differentiate ourselves from our competitors. And here are some simple ideas for putting this into practice:

Show personal accountability

This may seem pretty basic, but there is nothing more refreshing and reassuring than knowing someone has taken personal accountability for your query, concern or complaint. It's even better to have direct contact details where possible, so that you can check-in for updates if you need to.

Have clear escalation paths

It's so important that your clients do not feel "trapped" and have the ability to speak to someone else in your organisation. This usually isn't because the person dealing with the complaint has done something wrong -- it just offers the customer reassurance that your organisation is taking things seriously and genuinely cares.

Ensure your contact methods are reliable

Firstly, make the phone number and email address readily accessible on your website and make it easy for your customers to contact you. If you are using a chat function or similar, ensure that it's set up to really add value for the customer. Going back to phone calls (still a very popular method), try and ensure that the agents taking the call have the ability to help the customer straight away – even if this means transferring the call to a colleague or ensuring they get a call-back. No one wants to be in a situation where they are being asked to contact email@... and wait 24 hours for a response.

We have already seen sectors that have traditionally been slow to embrace remote working and UC solutions – such as legal and healthcare– embracing the 'new normal' to great effect. These early successes already bode well for the future and demonstrate that the associated technology is reaching a level of maturity and acceptance that frees organisations from previous concerns about their infrastructure, allowing them to focus on delivering a great customer experience.

Listen to the feedback

It may sound cliché, but feedback is your best friend. In challenging times when we are all under pressure, running with smaller teams, or coping with significant changes in demand, you can't shy away from what your customers are telling you. At Exponential-e, our real-time NPS system means that we always know exactly how we are performing and if we take a dip in performance, we can quickly address this and put things right for our customers.

Show compassion for your customers, for your colleagues, and for your suppliers

Paradoxically, in many respects this time apart has made us all a little closer and I know personally I've seen a huge increase in collaboration and understanding. This is one aspect I really hope continues long beyond lockdown!

Rather than these unprecedented times marking the end of traditional customer service, this new way of working has highlighted its importance more than ever, as we collectively work to ensure we can deliver a consistently high-quality experience across all channels – old and new. With intelligently implemented UC solutions as our foundation and the active promotion of a strong customer service culture across all teams, we will be well-placed to make this a reality.

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