The COVID-19 pandemic caught the world by surprise. In the nearly two years since the coronavirus began first impacting the United States, Americans have experienced a great deal of disruption. Initial panic caused stores shelves to empty practically overnight. The “stay at home” phase saw friends huddled around their laptop screens for Tiger King viewing parties. In the long term, we’ve seen significant changes to the way Americans live and work. The labor shortage, in particular, is shaking up the way we do business, how we work, and how we receive services as customers.
We’re all seeing the effects of the labor shortage in one way or another. Hold times are longer, deliveries are delayed, and many businesses can’t staff enough employees to meet demand. In particularly challenging times, the customer experience is what sets a business apart from its competition. With so much beyond our collective control, businesses must rise to the occasion and do more with less than ever before.
The Great Resignation
So just why is there a labor shortage, exactly? It helps to reflect back to the beginning of the pandemic. Circa March 2020, there were a lot of unanswered questions about COVID-19 and how it might impact society. The health and safety concerns alone were enough to motivate many employees to leave the workforce. Back when it was unclear how COVID-19 was spread, people were unwilling to put their health on the line to work with the general public. For a fraught few weeks, Americans stayed at home, wiping down their groceries and mail in fear of catching the coronavirus. This sparked the initial labor shortage.
As the pandemic wore on, we all got used to doing more with less. With schools and daycares closed, many parents opted to work remotely – or to trade in their full-time positions for new roles as homemakers. Even once childcare centers reopened, many parents felt hesitant to send their kids into environments where they might be exposed to COVID-19. Eventually, many of the remote working parents felt burned out by their efforts to “do it all” – juggling Zoom meetings with diaper changes can quickly take a toll, after all.
While remote work was a lifesaver initially, a misalignment began to brew between workers and employers around work/life balance. As costs of living continue to rise, many professionals found their salaries simply aren’t enough to cover costs anymore. Rising inflation is one of the biggest reasons for the Great Resignation; many employees are leaving their positions for new opportunities that offer higher rates of pay.
Money isn’t the only factor inspiring people to resign, of course. After months of successfully working from home, many employees are starting to be called back into the office. Many professionals are unwilling to sacrifice their remote status and instead opt to look for new work from home opportunities. Others are going back to school, pursuing their passions, and developing their soft skills. Just as there’s not one reason for the labor shortage, there’s no one reason an individual might opt to quit their position and begin looking elsewhere for work.
The Impact on Customer Service
In many ways, the Great Resignation is doing wonders for the rights of American workers. Employers are making an effort to improve salary offerings, benefits, training, and overall work/life balance. Implementing these changes, however, takes time. While employers work to evolve their offerings, the labor shortage is seriously impacting the customer experience. Virtually all industries with labor shortages are feeling the crunch, but customer service and support teams are facing unique challenges.
Even if you haven’t personally been impacted by the Great Resignation, you’ve likely already felt the effects of the labor shortage. A shortage in the supply of customer-facing employees means long wait times, missed calls, a greater number of mix-ups and errors, unmet expectations, and poor customer experiences overall. This all adds up to unsatisfied customers, damaged reputations, and negative impacts on businesses’ bottom line.
The rise of “skimpflation” is another side effect of the employee shortage. It’s the term economists are using to describe the way companies are charging the same or more for services that simply aren’t what they used to be. Stores may reduce their hours or open fewer registers for checkout. Restaurants are offering pared down menus and smaller portions. Lines are longer everywhere you go, and prices are higher than ever. All of this boils down to frustrated consumers eager to take their business elsewhere.
Strategies for Overcoming Labor Shortages
There’s no denying it: we’re at a unique crossroads for business in customer-facing industries. This could be a defining moment for your organization, an opportunity to review your hiring standards, compensation packages, and flexibility extended to employees. These kinds of changes take time, though. If you need help meeting customer expectations right now, you need a customer support solution you can implement as soon as possible.
Start by managing the expectations of customers. People are growing to expect long lines and lengthy hold times. Still, sharing your limitations and being upfront about the challenges you’re facing can help empower customers to make informed decisions. For instance, if a popular product is out of stock, it’s best to be honest about how long it might take to return to shelves. By letting customers know the truth and allowing them to make the right decision for themselves, they’re less likely to feel misled or resentful about their purchase.
Strategies for employee shortages should also focus on making the most of each customer interaction. If a person waits in line for a half an hour, they’ll be much less likely to hold a grudge about it if they’re ultimately greeted by a polite professional. Focus completely on the customer, bring a smile to each interaction, and show gratitude for their business. Most people are willing to forgive long waits, but they’ll never forget a negative interaction with an employee.
Customer Service Solutions from MAP Communications
The labor shortage has made for an increasingly competitive job market. In virtually every industry, employers are fighting to hire reliable, experienced workers. If you can’t manage to hire the right people quickly enough, customers may take their business elsewhere. MAP Communications’ customer service solutions could be the ideal way to resolve this uniquely post-pandemic challenge.
Customers had patience at the beginning of the pandemic, but that patience has begun to wear thin. Take control of your inbound calls by partnering MAP to leverage our phone answering services. Our U.S. based team is ready to fill in the gaps of your particular labor shortage by answering calls 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Each of our employees is highly trained and highly experienced in the art of the customer experience. They work from customized call scripts that emulate your existing customer service offerings – or build on them to create an experience that’s better than ever.
Our services are especially helpful for understaffed teams. If you and your colleagues frequently find yourselves juggling multiple tasks and struggling to meet customer expectations, our inbound call answering services may provide the relief you need. Imagine how much more you might accomplish in a day if you weren’t being constantly interrupted by the ringing of the telephone!
The effects of the labor shortage are likely to be felt for years to come. Businesses have a unique opportunity to rise head and shoulders above their competition by offering stellar customer experiences. People are shopping around for the best service, rates, and products than ever before. Great customer service shines brighter nowadays – take this as an opportunity to win over new clients and keep them coming back time and time again. Of course, the only way to do this is by working with the right partner.
Try MAP’s Live Answering Service for Free
We know times are tight. If your business is eager to deliver quality customer experiences but you’re finding it more challenging than ever to do so on a budget, why not give MAP Communications a try? We offer affordable plans at every price point, allowing you to navigate the future of customer service without breaking the bank.
We’re even offering a free trial for new users who are intrigued by our offerings but uncertain about how MAP will fit into your organization. We’re confident that after seven days of our live answering service, your team will be reassured and even excited at the prospect of outsourcing inbound calls. With your calls handled, you’ll gain the free time necessary to truly over deliver on customer expectations in person. While we can’t entirely resolve the employee shortage, our call answering services are sure to provide some much needed relief for your team!
Ready to sign up for the trial? Click here and answer a few simple questions. We’ll be in touch shortly to set you up with our live answering services, free for an entire week!
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