The current Coronavirus pandemic is a crisis, no doubt about it. Understandably, very few businesses were prepared for it and many will see the effects of the lockdown for a long time to come.
Many industries are seeing a drastic increase in customer enquiries – people who need help or who are unsure about what is going on or what should be happening next. It’s now more than ever that a business can make a mark – good or bad – by how they respond to their customers.
Read on for tips for dealing with and helping your customers in the midst of a crisis.
1. Be Kind
The vast majority of people are stressed out, so you might find your customers are lashing out. Some are facing severe loss of income and other difficulties as a result of the lockdown. You, of course, may also be in the same position, and it’s important to remember that we all must be kind to one another. In many cases, kindness breeds kindness and meanness breeds the same. If you can respond to a frustrated or worried customer with genuine understanding and compassion, you may find that you’ll win loyalty while making the world – and an individual’s day – just that little bit better.
2. Be honest and open
I’ve been blown away by the generosity and understanding of my clients’ customers over the recent weeks. And people are more likely to respond positively if you’re open about what you’re doing, how you’re doing it, and any issues you are facing. The majority of people understand that this is a difficult situation and that you may not be able respond to them as quickly as usual or get their product in the post on the same day. You don’t need to whine and you don’t need to moan, but if your customers know where they stand, they’ll feel much calmer and be able to trust that you’ll get to them when you can.
3. Don’t lash out
As mentioned above, people may be short-tempered and frustrated, and they may make comments – either publicly or privately – that they wouldn’t at other times. When you get lots of people doing the same, it might seem overwhelming at times and you might feel like letting loose with exactly what you’re thinking. Don’t! Even if you’re angry, frustrated or upset, responding really negatively to a difficult or concerned customer will only escalate a matter and will make a bad impression on others. If you’re struggling, draft a response, leave it overnight, and then re-read and re-draft it the next day. You’ll be amazed at how much easier it will be to look at things objectively.
4. Stick to your guns… mostly
It’s best in these kinds of situations not to change your mind constantly and not to feel cornered into changing your stance. If you do, you can come across as indecisive and untrustworthy. Instead, consider your course of action carefully and stick with that. Make it clear to your customers what it is, and help them get the best out of the situation. It’s important to be fair to all your customers, too, so do your best to treat everyone the same. If you have a different rule for each person, some will understandably feel unfairly treated.
Saying that, sometimes you DO have to be flexible. Don’t stick with a decision out of pure stubbornness and, if you’ve made a mistake, own up to it, learn from it, and adapt. If a situation dramatically changes, it may make more sense to adapt how you deal with it. Just remember to keep your customers updated with where you are.
5. Be realistic
Repeat after me: You. Cannot. Please. Everyone.
However well you handle a crisis – or any difficult situation – you will be unable to do right by absolutely everyone. That’s just something you have to accept as a business. Yes, you may receive some negative reviews, or you may have a back and forth with a customer for what seems like forever but decide where to draw the line, write a final (polite) response, and leave it. There’s more to life than winding yourself up by the minority who aren’t happy with what you’re doing.
Remember to keep calm and stay positive! You’ve got this.
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