A woman participates in a remote business call over her computerCustomer Service Advice During Crisis

There is a lot of value in understanding Trust in customer communication better. A lot of this involves understanding which particular touchpoints, policies, processes, products or employees affect Trust. But for purposes of this post, I will stick to very high-level recommendations that make sense regardless of your business.

1. Communicate

Communication is key. Make sure all customers are aware of any changes in policy happening now. If you are not communicating to them that you are doing good things for them and why you are doing it, change can be perceived as a negative.

Take a physical store, with longer lines, distancing, etc. These measures might be taken as a negative if they are not communicated as a benefit. Communicate clearly what is being done to benefit/protect/help customers. This will immediately create Trust and customers will better understand what is happening. It also satisfies the honesty dimension of Trust, e.g. “;…;we understand this may be difficult for you, but it”;s in your best interest, and we care about you.”;

Communication should be timely, clear, honest, and transparent.

2. Be Confident

Confidence is important, communication that mimics official public health guidelines can give immediate benefit in terms of competence and that you are following scientific public health guidelines. When possible linking to government/public service announcements should have increased benefit of authority.

3. Be Fair

Fairness may play a smaller role but still can matter. Is it fair to give preferential treatment to people at risk such as allowing senior citizens to shop at grocery stores earlier? Most customers would see this as very fair, and even admire it. However, take the example below which was posted in social media a few weeks ago when virtually no airline travel was available or advisable. Is this fair?

The Gold Member who received this message posted it along with the comment

“;Are you frickin kidding me, @americanair?? In the middle of a pandemic, you basically tell frequent flyers that the only way to save their miles (500K of them, BTW) is to book travel? #epicfail #marketingdisaster #tonedef”;

I do not think I can add much to what this Gold level Member said. And her friends on social media all agreed…;

4. Be Proactive

Make changes proactively to the policy before people have problems. Before you get 1,000 complaint emails. If a company does not do anything, then trust will be affected of course.

Take insurance companies like USAA, State Farm, and others that have recently reached out with a letter and rebate on car insurance. The letters/emails acknowledge that no one has been driving much during COVID and that the insurance companies have decided to be proactive and have calculated a deduction from the payment term.

In the case of State Farm, the company gave policyholders a 25% credit on premiums paid between March 20 and May 31. That is $2 Billion to 40 million policyholders.

This is a great example of being both fair and proactive. Possibly staving off multiple individual calls and emails asking for discounts, while looking good in the process.

5. Empathize

Almost every company already has guidelines in place regarding empathy when customers are emailing, chatting, or calling with issues and problems. These typically include basic advice such as saying sorry, let me see what I can do to help you with this, and acknowledging their pain. Customer Service/Success should offer solutions that solves problems. As opposed to no, nothing can be done bye.

These are normal best practices. If you are following these, you are already doing it right. There is no need to talk about COVID-19 issues per se. BUT ASSUME that your customer is under extra stress (Note we OdinAnswers can help you measure this as well). If your agents are not already very empathetic then maybe they should be extra so now. Remind them. –; Think, this could be someone from a family that lost two incomes, maybe they really need to be allowed to cancel/return, etc. Extra understanding should be available.

If COVID-19 is mentioned by the customer, then of course it is ok to respond, yes, we are aware the current situation may have impacted you in several drastic ways. Even bots are trained to exhibit a high level of empathy. It is not just nice to be empathetic any more it is a MUST.

It is Important For Us to Recognize That the “;New Normal”; is Not Normal

The initial reaction to the crisis among customers was simple gratefulness for simply being open. During these initial stages of a crisis, there is a shift in customer attitudes. Customers’ likeliness to complain decreases and there are less likely to be complaints around wait times or out of stock issues.

Rather than reacting negatively to out of stock issues, the default was reacting positively if something was available and in stock. Customers will suffer through a lot more before they hit a threshold where they feel the need to complain.

Companies that serve customers better during this time will build Trust. This trust will benefit them long after this crisis is over.

We welcome your comments or questions below. If you would like more information on how OdinAnswers can help you understand Trust and other key issues in your customer communication and feedback feel free to contact us here.

This article was originally posted on CustomerThink and in a related post he talked about what Trust is, why it”;s more important than CSAT or NPS, and how it can easily be measured and tracked in real-time in all customer communications (surveys, emails, chat, transcribed phone calls, etc.)

Read more: greenbook.org