unhappy woman sitting in glow of computer
PHOTO: Niklas Hamann

As the world continues to shelter in place, enterprises with brick and mortar channels such as bank branches and retail storefronts are adapting to a rapidly changing situation. Amidst the turbulence, one thing hasn’t changed: the need for exceptional customer experience. Providing your customers with peace of mind in this environment is invaluable.

Here are 10 ways customer-centric businesses can improve CX during the pandemic.

1. Ask Your Customers How You Can Help Them

The best way to understand how your customers’ needs have changed is simply to ask. Whether or not you've paused your automated surveys, make sure to review all of your surveys and update the timing and messaging, where appropriate. Let your customers know you’re listening and ask how you can help them.

2. Enhance Employee Experience

Employee experience is the key to excellent customer experience. Many organizations are allowing more flexibility in how and when employees work, particularly parents with younger children who cannot continue with business as usual. Supporting remote employees with options can spur productivity and efficiency, which will deliver value to customers in return.

In addition to increased flexibility, some enterprises are offering additional services to support employees during the crisis. For instance, First Citizens Bank implemented an assistance program for its associates. Employees seeking financial guidance or counseling can now receive confidential advice through this program.

Related Article: Why Employee Experience Is the New Customer Experience

3. Strengthen Your Internal Operations

New challenges will arise as the crisis continues. Leading enterprises are assembling a cross-functional team of executives to make critical decisions and guide their response to the outbreak. The primary responsibility of this team is to provide consistency and clarity to both employees and consumers. Building a crisis team, or nerve-center as McKinsey calls it, will streamline decision-making and align the entire organization on your organization’s response as the situation continues to evolve.

4. Reassess Planned Communications

What your customer wants and needs to hear now is dramatically different than what you planned even a few weeks ago. It’s time to pause and re-evaluate your automated campaigns to avoid tone-deaf messaging.

As your customers’ goals and journeys shift, consider which messages will add the most value. For instance, many customers may need training to accomplish tasks they haven’t done before, such as depositing a check via a mobile app, now that physical bank branches are closed. Prioritize helpful content that reflects the current environment rather than bombarding customers with already scheduled promotions for new products and services.

Related Article: How to Engage Customers in Times of Uncertainty 

5. Personalize Messaging

Most companies have already deployed initial, one-size-fits-all messages explaining their response to COVID-19, but many lack a personalized approach.

Yet many enterprises haven’t targeted their customers with more tailored communications to address their concerns. Start by delivering more personalized messages to your high-value customers. For instance, some wealth management advisors are offering additional consultative services to high lifetime value clients.

6. Mitigate the Increase in Call Volume

Customers have flooded service and care centers with calls as uncertainty rises. Some credit-card holders have had to endure three or more hour waits to reach a representative.

Interactive voice response (IVR) systems have offered callback features for quite some time, but not all companies have implemented them. Callback features provide customers across web, mobile and IVR touchpoints with the option to receive a call at a more convenient time. If you haven’t already, take the time to test and prioritize the implementation of this feature to minimize frustrations due to long wait times and disconnects.

Related Article: Why Your Approach to Chatbot and IVR Projects Is All Wrong

7. Communicate Self-Service Options Proactively

Companies across industries such as financial services, telecommunications and utilities are raising awareness about the digital channels customers can use to ask questions or identify and solve minor issues. Institutions such as Bank of America, First Republic Bank and Wells Fargo have already emailed their clients to promote digital banking options.

Specifically, Bank of America is offering tutorials to help new users of their mobile app and their personal assistant, Erica, to help with depositing checks, viewing balances and monitoring transactions. They also provide digital resources for clients concerned about fraud, as well as payment relief.

Additionally, Cox Communications is offering a remote help desk for customers who need to load applications, such as classroom support applications and web conferencing services. This cuts down on call volume and also makes the customer’s life much easier.

8. Provide Payment Leniency

In the US alone, more than 17 million people filed for unemployment in the last month, making it difficult or impossible to make payments as scheduled. Many organizations are providing assistance or relief to affected customers.

Utility companies like Pacific Gas and electric company and telecom providers like AT&T and Verizon are accommodating customers by no longer terminating service. Most banks are handling clients on a case by case basis by waiving late fees, increasing credit lines or developing payment programs.

Related Article: Agile Marketing Your Way Through the Next Recession

9. Temporary Upgrade of Service

Businesses across industries have provided free access to their service or product for a limited time. For instance, Comcast is offering free access to hotspots and unlimited data for any user for 60 days.

While some might see this as an opportunity to upsell or cross-sell customers, the No. 1 priority is adding value to your customers during a difficult time. Overtly promotional messaging will likely backfire. Upgrade offers should enhance your customer’s experience with your brand and shouldn’t come with strings attached.

10. Be Compassionate and Empathetic

Wherever, whenever and however you engage with customers, remember to act with compassion. Don’t underestimate the value of mindful, empathetic engagement.

Related Article: Why Marketing in the Current Climate Requires Empathy and Deep Content Analysis

What’s Next?

We are living in unprecedented times. Strategies and tactics that might have worked last week may no longer be appropriate. Navigating an uncertain future requires agility. Those who can adapt to a new normal and better understand their customers’ rapidly changing needs will weather the storm and emerge with stronger customer relationships than ever before.