Since the coronavirus outbreak, many businesses are continuing to have their customer service representatives working remotely. Even if some have been furloughed, there may still be a limited number of them addressing queries from key customers—essential workers, for instance, or those who are priority to the business. However, there are businesses that have simply replaced the majority their representatives with FAQ web pages or live chat software. There are even those which have threatened to make redundancies, such as the fashion brand ASOS where up to 100 representatives are at risk of losing their jobs.
This is unquestionably a very anxious time for business owners; reports of recessions and economic collapse, compounded with the unknown of when life will return to some form of normality, are making them more conscious about money than ever before. Under the circumstances, one can empathise with business owners who feel that it is necessary to furlough, reduce or even let go of certain members of their staff. However, customer service has never been more important to a business than it is now. Businesses should, in fact, be encouraged to ramp up their customer service offering during this time, not cut it down in a misplaced effort to save costs.
After all, businesses many be anxious about the coronavirus, but their customers are no different. They want to know that their bills are not going to increase, that their products are still going to arrive, and that they're going to be kept safe. If they feel their worries are not being addressed, they will simply take their custom elsewhere; there are plenty of competitors who will welcome their custom at such a challenging economic time. The electronics giant Curry's was a well-respected name until COVID-19 when, as The Guardian reports, thousands of customers awaiting missing orders and unable to make contact with the customer service team started flooding their social media with negative reviews. It shows how important customer service continues to be.
Customers will be unlikely to engage with businesses with whom they have had a poor experience. At the moment, poor experiences can even create a public relations nightmare. This happened to Ticketmaster who started informing customers that they would not be able to receive refunds on events postponed due to the pandemic. It sparked outrage on social media, garnered negative press across the globe and even saw the company criticised by lawmakers and politicians. It has happened in the travel industry too; providers who have been slow to process refund requests have encountered PR disasters from which their business might never fully recover.
Customers have very long memories. The way they are treated by their favourite brands now will directly impact how their willingness to return to them after the peak of the virus has passed. Those who are uncaring and unresponsive may not only be left out in the cold once life has returned to some form of normality. It could even faciliate a public relations crisis which alleviates the coronavirus' impact on a business. As such, there has never been a better time to empower your customer service team. A business may need them now more than ever before.