The short-term steps you take immediately after a crisis can have a huge long-term impact on customer trust. You already knew that. You probably even had a business continuity plan that detailed the 3 basics for rebounding after catastrophe: move swiftly to identify and contain the problem; reassure your customers – and employees – that you have solutions in place to correct the problem; and make the changes necessary to prevent the problem from happening again.
Problem is, so many of the old rules got tossed out the window when the pandemic came along. You didn’t cause the coronavirus – and you’re forgiven for not having predicted it. But as a customer care leader, you’re suddenly expected to help contain, even somehow correct, for the frustration, pain, and worry it is causing your customers.
So how do some brands manage to weather this storm and build customer trust instead of depleting it? I’ve put together a list of the 5 critical steps that make the difference. I’m calling it the TRUST code.
Tell the Truth Early, Everywhere, Always
Customers want to believe you have their best interests at the very heart of your brand. They want to believe you’re doing everything in your power to make good on your brand promise. They want to believe in you. Because of that, they’re inclined to be forgiving of the bumps and hurdles along the way, if you’re honest with them.
If you’ve had some stumbles that disappointed customers, accept the blame and apologize. Even more importantly, set realistic expectations going forward. If you haven’t done so already, create a crisis communication team. Include representatives from your call center and all major disciplines, from marketing to I.T. to finance. Agree on what you’ll say, how you’ll say it, and who will be in charge of posting updates across your entire online presence. Create a clear decision tree on who decides what gets shared and how it’s communicated.
Rally Your Troops
As busy as you are right now, your customer-facing team needs you now more than ever. They need to see your face, cheering them on during zoom calls and videos. They need to read your words of encouragement. They need to wake up every morning, trusting that you’re aware of the challenges they face and you’re working hard to keep the company strong and make their jobs easier.
You need to send those messages every day. You know who else does? Your front line supervisors. They are the people with the single greatest influence over your employees’ experience and how they treat your customers every day. Empower them. Ask them what’s working, what isn’t, and what they think might work better. Then keep them informed on how you’re proceeding. Beyond everything else, thank them.
Understand Your Customers’ Needs, Expectations, and Experiences
This is not the time to rely solely on your usual set of performance reports. Seriously, brands who come through this experience with improved customer trust are those brands whose leadership looked well past AHT, CSAT, or even NPS scores.
This is the time for asking your customers how it’s going. Train your agents on how to listen effectively, empathize appropriately, and escalate whenever necessary. At an organizational level, email your customers, survey them, listen to call recordings, and scour brand rating sites and customer forums to find out what people are really thinking. But as I’ve said before, whenever I’ve talked about the importance of surveying, don’t even ask if you’re not committed to following up on what you hear. You don’t have to try every suggestion. You might not be able to fully fix every complaint. But you do have to circle back, acknowledge the input, say thank you, and explain what actions you’re taking.
That doesn’t mean your other performance metrics are suddenly unimportant. They’re more important than ever. But enlist talented data analysts to help you identify the correlations between those metrics and the real-life feedback your customers are sharing.
Share Progress and New Developments Regularly
During the early months of this emergency, most customers have been very understanding of hiccups like long wait times and the occasional incomplete answer to a question. Don’t take that forgiveness for granted. And don’t think it’s going to last. At the end of the day, if you’re unable to figure out how to deliver a superior customer experience, your customers will find someone else who can. At this stage in the pandemic, customers expect to see that the brands they trust are moving out of the band-aide mode and into sustainable solutions. Reassure them that you’re doing just that. Update them consistently. Don’t share the small stuff by bombarding anybody with emails. But do create a place online where your customers know they can get the most up-to-date information.
Train Your Agents and Supervisors for the Long Haul
In the early days of the pandemic, there was so much talk about “getting back to normal.” Then it seemed that the conversation moved toward trying to predict and prepare for the “new normal.” Neither of these mindsets works too well. Instead, I recommend that the messaging to your team (including your training, hiring, and onboarding) shift toward a “next normal.” In other words, acknowledge that, in a future filled with unknowns, some things remain constant: your customers need to feel heard, understood, and well cared for. The best way you can support them is by training your agents to deliver on those needs. Train for active listening skills, rapid resolution, and escalation techniques. Recognize team members for their flexibility, willingness to help others, and eagerness to learn new skills. At a time when customer worries run high and patience runs thin, your highly trained team can be the constant reminder of why you’re the brand to trust.
If you would like to know how Skybridge Americas can help your brand regain, rebuild, and grow customer trust, please reach out. We would love to talk.
Senior Vice President, Sales and Marketing
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