Joanna Swash, CEO of Moneypenny, shares how businesses can ensure that they deliver exceptional customer service during these unsettling times
No one saw this coming. A virus sweeping the world in a mere matter of weeks, reducing economic activity and providing everyone, individually and professionally, with their own new challenges. But a crisis like COVID-19 forces us to innovate, adapt and do things differently, ultimately allowing us to become better at what we do.
As the situation developed our concern was being able to maintain an exceptional level of service for our clients hand-in-hand with ensuring the wellbeing of our staff. As the country was being put into lockdown, we were already discussing our responses.
Within a week we were able to send a few teams to trial working from home, learn from that and iron out those gremlins. Then, just two weeks later we were providing all our team members with laptops and equipment and our 1,000 strong workforce was working from home, thanks to an IT team working through and, whilst it is an ever-changing landscape, what we have learned as a result is important to share.
We need to learn from this pandemic and to look forward. Listening to your clients and employees and responding quickly is key. It has never been more important than now for businesses to be agile, flexible and even change business models, all at a rapid pace. Take this moment to revisit business continuity and crisis plans and plan for the unexpected. Don’t focus on specifics though, your plan needs to be able to be adapted – those who have a flexible plan will be more resilient. You never know where it will lead, for example, having seen how a hybrid model of in-office presence and remote has been working, we are looking at how we build upon this as a way forward for the business.
Use your data to make informed decisions
It is more important than ever to analyze your business data pre- and post- COVID-19. For example, at Moneypenny we have discovered that despite a boom in the use of social media to contact businesses, the telephone remains the most important communication method for customers to connect with businesses. 43% of our businesses say phone calls were even more important during lockdown and this is backed up with our figures showing that call volumes were up by a third in the last quarter.
Respond to customers promptly
We live in an age where instant gratification is the norm and that means that today’s customers want to be able to get in touch quickly and easily. Long periods on hold or phones ringing out are not acceptable. Whether it is immediate answers to queries or a simple human contact to reassure them, clients expect quick responses with accurate information. When lockdown restrictions are eased, clients will require this even more.
And remember don’t break your promises or forget the basics – if you say you will call back in an hour, do it; smile; say please. It doesn’t go unnoticed. The little things matter. Not only is it good business it is good PR, making them feel valued, and that goes a long way.
People value human interaction
Phone call duration has increased for our clients during lockdown. Our stats show a 22% increase in the average call time. People will remember the business that made an effort to call them to inform on the status of their services under lockdown and are likely to repay them with brand loyalty. In a time when face-to-face meetings are not able to go ahead, or advised at all in some cases, this is your lifeline. One simple call can make all the difference.
Trust your people
Culture is something we value extremely highly and you need to trust the people that you employ, otherwise, why employ them? Even with this at the core of everything we do, we noticed that productivity increased during the lockdown, with people doing that little extra at the start or end of the day. Having said that, we also had to tell people to ‘go home’ as they found it difficult to switch off.
Invest in tech
As we have all experienced, tech during lockdown has boomed with the use of tools like Zoom, Google Meets and Microsoft Teams. The companies that embrace new tech, such as live chat bots and AI will reap the benefits. At Moneypenny we have introduced various new bots within the office for staff to order lunch, ensure social distancing is being adhered to and to gauge employee wellbeing and we have also created bespoke self-screening health tools that our customers are able to use before they welcome anyone into their workspace. We will continue to innovate.
Looking at our overall business stats, call volumes increased by a third and the average length of a call increased by nearly a quarter during the initial lockdown. That tells us that people want to speak to people, especially in uncertain times. They want the answer now, but they also want reassurance. It is ever-more important that we get customer service right. We all want one thing and that is to feel valued. The minute somebody feels like they’re a number rather than an individual, then you’ve lost them. Just as you have been battling, so have your clients. It can make all the difference to your business.