Providing great customer service can be challenging under the best of circumstances. When a crisis happens, offering stellar customer experiences becomes even more of a challenge. Customers look to customer service representatives for guidance, updates, and information. In moments of uncertainty, these professionals become the primary point of contact.
Most people can recount a customer service horror story where something went seriously off the rails. Such experiences can make a person swear off a company altogether. When the customer service is so bad that no freebie or discount can lure someone back, it can be hard to recover. The stakes are even higher when there’s a crisis at hand. Keeping customers satisfied during such a time can help your business avoid customer churn and save serious money in the long run. How you respond in the face of a crisis can inspire lifelong customer loyalty and set you head and shoulders above the competition. A business crisis management plan can help keep your service offerings on track, no matter what.
What is a Business Crisis Management Plan?
When your organization is facing a crisis, the customer service team becomes more important than ever. Quality service can help bridge the gap between your customers, the media, and your stakeholders. A business crisis management plan helps you to identify potential threats and put together a plan of action. It’s a set of strategies you can use in case of an unexpected adverse event.
What, exactly, constitutes a crisis? The answer varies based on your industry. Some of the most common types include:
- Inclement weather
- Natural disasters
- Data breach
- System downage
- The death of a CEO
- An office fire
- Going viral for the wrong reasons
To deliver great customer service under any condition, you’ve got to be prepared to make quick decisions. While it’s impossible to predict every possible crisis (see: the COVID-19 pandemic), you can address many of the most common kinds of crises with a plan. Aim to be proactive instead of reactive. With a plan of action in place, you’ll know how to respond before a problem arises.
Aim to prioritize customer service operations in the earliest phases of a crisis. Your customer service team will be on the front lines, and how they respond to customer concerns will reflect on your business one way or another. When handled well, effective responses to a crisis can minimize the impact on your brand and instill a sense of consumer confidence and trust.
Creating Your Crisis Management Plan
Learning how to provide excellent customer service in the face of a crisis starts with defining parameters. What constitutes a crisis for your business? A global pandemic is an obvious example, but what about an unplanned outage that lasts for 20 minutes? Depending on your industry, a supply chain disruption, natural disaster, or critical system downage could all constitute crisis status. By defining your organization’s idea of a crisis, you’ll be able to prepare more specifically for future challenges.
Next, set up a business crisis management team. These individuals should work together to evaluate new information and adjust your plan of action as the crisis develops. When selecting members of the team, try to choose individuals from various departments. Representatives from your legal team, communication department, and technical group can work together to evaluate information as it comes in and make adjustments as needed.
Questions to Guide Your Crisis Management Plan Development
The crisis management plan of a Fortune 500 company will look a lot different than that of a mom and pop boutique. Still, there are some guiding questions that can help guide the development of your plan no matter your size or industry. As you craft your crisis management steps, keep the following questions in mind:
- How might workflows change?
- Which priorities need to shift?
- How should customer service representatives respond to questions about the crisis?
- How will the team receive updates on the crisis?
- How should representatives escalate customer issues?
- What common questions will customers ask? How will you respond?
For instance, if your organization experiences an unexpected system downage, your customer service representatives need a plan based on the cause. As soon as it is clear what is causing the downtime, they should be updated with estimated restoration times. This can help representatives address customer concerns more specifically.
Prioritize Clear Communication Across Departments
In a crisis situation, communication across departments is crucial. It’s impossible to provide amazing customer service if your team isn’t on the same page. While it can be challenging to communicate updates as you put out fires, there are tools you can use to keep employees in the loop. Employee hotline services are a great way to convey a consistent, clear message across departments. They can help disseminate important updates and cut through the noise. This tool helps ensure that each person knows whether to stay home, work virtually, meet at a new location, and so on.
This united front should be reflected in your customer interactions, too. When updating customers, develop a message that is clear, consistent, and empathetic. You set the tone during a crisis; by updating your channels of communication with critical information, you send a message that you really value your customers. Be timely and relevant, but above all, be empathetic. During times of uncertainty, customers will look to you for leadership. How you respond in the face of a crisis will stick with people for years to come. Ignoring incoming calls, staying silent on social media, or neglecting to share updates can do more damage than the crisis itself.
The Answering Service Impact
An answering service should definitely be part of your business crisis management plan. While such services are useful all the time, they’re especially handy in moments of uncertainty. Whether you’re hoping to maintain consistent, high quality customer service or just keep employees in the loop about updates, MAP Communications can provide the support your organization needs.
Don’t take our word for it, though – register now for our free trial. By previewing our services for seven days, you’ll see first-hand how helpful we can be in moments of crisis. If you’re creating your business crisis management plan, keep MAP in mind.