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Delivering Customer Service in a Crisis Situation

Posted by Carissa Coryn on Jan 6, 2022

Crisis Customer Service

Emergencies happen. Sometimes they are technological failures, like your website going down, an app crashing or a hacker attack. Other times a natural disaster disrupts supply chains or damages your equipment. 

You also have to watch out for PR nightmares caused by a customer service failure gone viral or an employee misstep. And let’s not forget about the disruption that lockdowns, capacity limits and restrictions have caused over the past two years.  

In these situations, your customer service team needs to be able to respond to a climbing number of complaints, increased customer contact and process changes. And they need to do it quickly, without further worsening the situation for your customers. 

The good news is that while emergencies can be unpredictable, you don’t need to be blindsided by them. Planning ahead with crisis management can help reduce response times and mitigate damages.  

What Is crisis management in customer service?  

Crisis management is the way a business manages possible threats or an emergency situation. This response can be either proactive or reactive. 

Reactive crisis management is responding as a crisis situation occurs. Proactive crisis management is having a plan of action for how you will respond before a crisis situation occurs. And while you can’t predict every possible situation (after all not many businesses were prepared for the COVID pandemic), you can address common crisis situations and have general response plans for the unexpected.  

Putting customer service responses at the forefront of your crisis management plan is especially important as your customer service team will be at the front lines during the crisis. This will help keep your customer service team calm and consistent, which is what will help mitigate damage and help your organization maintain a positive reputation. 

Not to mention, a well-handled crisis can play a big role in building customer trust and confidence. 

Steps for developing a customer service crisis management plan

#1 - Create a crisis management team 

This team should be made up of key players from all areas of your business. They will help develop crisis management plans and be the leaders when a crisis hits.

#2 - Determine possible threats and crisis situations for your business

When necessary, be as specific as possible and create levels. You need to know how your response to a 20-minute service outage will compare to a service outage that lasts for days. You may want to involve department management at this step, they may be able to identify a risk that someone outside of the department can’t see.

#3 - Figure out who needs to be involved in each situation 

For example, in a PR emergency you will want legal, marketing and communications. You may even need HR if the situation involves an employee. For a technology crisis, you will want to reach out to the development team. Create a contact list for each possible crisis.

#4 - Design your crisis management plan

To do this, you will want to involve key contacts for each type of emergency as well as the crisis management team. This will ensure every aspect of the crisis response is covered. Create a detailed document that outlines:  

  • When customer service reps should contact the crisis management team
  • How the team will be updated on the situation  
  • What channels customers should be redirected to when omni-channel support is not possible 
  • Common questions/complaints customers will have along with templated responses that should be given   
  • Common questions staff may have  
  • Whether there will be workflow or process changes  
  • Who should be called if a new question/complaint arises 
  • What the process will be for escalation 

#5 - Ensure you have considered the mental well-being of your team 

This includes proper two-way communication to keep your team in the know and ensuring experienced staff are left to deal with tricky situations. You may also want to bring in staff from different departments to help with the increased load, even if it is to act as triage for redirecting customers to the best contact. For this to work, you will need cross-training or thorough procedures documents to ensure they can jump in. And once the crisis has passed, be sure to have plans to thank and celebrate your staff so they can unwind and have some fun!

#6 - Once everything is back to normal, use your experience to update and improve your crisis management plan 

Review tagged conversations, talk to the response team and ask customer service what they think went well and what needs improvement.  

How outsourced customer service can help with crisis management  

To ensure your crisis management is effective, you have to have the right processes and support available to respond quickly and professionally. The problem is, not every business has the staff members or time to plan and respond to a crisis. That’s where customer service outsourcing comes in.  

Professional contact center partners don’t only have the capacity to scale up customer service response quickly and efficiently in an emergency for your business, they have the experience, training and resources needed to manage crises, stay calm and deliver customer quality service. 

They also have infrastructure in place to communicate with all team members as updates are provided, which ensure each customer service rep is giving your clients the most accurate information. In addition, an outsourced customer service team can be available 24/7 to provide uninterrupted service, which is especially important during a crisis.  

For more information on how an outsourced customer service team can help alleviate the pressure during a crisis situation, please contact us today

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Carissa Coryn

Written by Carissa Coryn

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