Opinion

Building consumer trust during times of turmoil

Prakash Shetty | Updated on February 26, 2021

Holding hands through times of crisis   -  istock.com/

How businesses deal with their customers during crises is key to their long-term prospects

In the wake of the recent pandemic, the “business as usual’ is quickly becoming thing of the past. Companies have to learn not only how to navigate their business but also how to serve and reassure customers through challenging and uncertain times. In this new reality, companies are scrambling to cling to their existing customers.

The bigger question, in this time of uncertainty though, is — how brands can continue to be a source of security for those who have placed their trust in them? And, most importantly, how can they continuously earn that trust?

Here are a few thoughts and clear actionable strategies that the customer-experience leaders can adapt:

Staying in touch

In just a few short months, it’s been made abundantly clear how quickly a crisis can change everything — and with those changes, businesses now face new challenges in customer service, namely, how to best serve customers and maintain the trust that they have worked so hard to build. Especially, where people were isolated and longed for physical touch, many realised that customer service perhaps is the only touchpoint that needs to be working and working (maybe) more efficiently than ever before.

Here are a few steps that ‘customer experience leaders’ must take to put together an effective plan that will not only reassure customers during times of uncertainty but will also generate long-term trust and loyalty.

1. People First: People-first is the approach that brands need to adapt as the first measures to deal with the general fear and peaking anxieties. It is important to bring in empathy across internal and external customers along with people that work for you.

a. Employees: The crux lies in first taking care of your employee’s safety. Not to be done just with the view to run the organisation but to be seen as a social responsibility towards the community.

Consistent internal communication further will furnish employees with the knowledge required to serve customers. Unify communication through an internal digital channel to surface relevant updates not only help them have assurances but also lead to build cross-functional collaboration and help them navigate how to manage the business during turbulent times.

Consistent and clear internal communication empowers customer-facing teams to have access to the most updated and accurate information on-demand leading to them provide quality service with speed.

b. Internal and external customers: In a crisis like this or otherwise too, it is paramount that you reach out to partners/stakeholders that work for your brand and to the ones who use your services — your end customers. Assure them that you are in there for them in these tough times and that you will do whatever to make sure their businesses continue, their needs fulfilled. A simple word of empathy goes a long way to earn an everlasting trust in your brand.

2. Build Customer Trust: Reassurance is critical in any customer journey, at any time but the need to have that intensifies especially in such times of turmoil. We must therefore put our best foot forward to continue assuring and re-assuring our customers. It helps customers feel confident in their decision to choose you.

Their concerns around finances, safety and wellbeing amidst disrupted routine of everyday life must be attended to and addressed.

* First, show your customers that you aren’t solely driven by profit, and give them a reason to interact with you with confidence. Give them something of value before you ask anything in return.

* In the era where many have resorted to using a voice that sounds robotic and cold, you must find the simpler and conversational style of communication with your spin of quirks and defects and that will make you sound more human and approachable.

* Be it in the form of a great product or high-quality digital platform, give your customers value regularly and provide excellent customer service. Your customers over the period will learn how trustworthy you are and word will spread around.

* Overall re-visit the customer experience road map and plug in ‘empathy’.

There are various steps aimed at short-term benefits or a long drawn strategic moves that one can undertake but efforts must be made especially in the era of cynical nature of the consumer-brand relationship.

3. Self-Serve Digital Channel: The most effective method to manage and facilitate customer communications quickly is through the use of self-service digital channels. While many organisations understand the necessity of having digital solutions, not all have explored self-service options that enable customers to solve their challenges on their own.

Adding a self-service element to existing digital channels such as portals, websites, or mobile apps builds trust by:

(A) Cutting customer wait times that can increase friction in high-pressure situations.

(B) Allowing customer service representatives more time to identify and resolve larger problems more quickly, rather than answering the same FAQ’s

However, self-service is no longer just a “nice to have” option put in place to alleviate the volume of customer demands during times of crises. Relying solely on live channels for customer communication, especially when tensions are high, is both costly and resource-intensive.

Things that helped us restore our customer’s trust:

Being in a business of lending, it was even more critical for us to reassure our customers and to provide that connection and comfort to them amidst these difficult times with an assurance that we are there with them and “we-are-in-this-together”.

That very thought resulted in us putting an amplified focus in the area of customer service, some of the success stories are:

Adopt to change: As stated above, the first most important aspect that we looked at it was our employee's safety. Facilitated them with the necessary means (laptops, broadband, dongle, noise reduction headsets etc.) to work remotely. Evolved leadership’s role to engage with teams much more than ever before to create a sense of community despite the absence of physical presence/touch.

Proactive reach: The pandemic crisis and the lock-down nature of the reaction to this crisis yearned organisations to adapt to the digital or remote way of doing business while keeping both internal and external customer experience intact. As a first step, we realised that it is extremely necessary not to lose touch with your customers. We reached out to all our customers through various communications aimed at assuring them that we are there.

Self-Serve: As this novel coronavirus forced people into a digital-only way of life, we felt the need to strengthened virtual experiences for our customers. We ensured that we have all the basic necessary servicing needs available on our customer portal to enable customers to serve their needs themselves. Not just that, we ensure that even our loan processing is completely online and seamless.

Customer-specific financial aids: Being in the business of lending and collecting back, we stepped up to effectively support our customers’ financial needs by helping them have regulatory relief like moratorium (EMI holiday) and restructure (revised ROI, Terms etc.). Everything was done seamlessly and through online mediums.

Conclusion

Crises put pressure on all relationships. Regardless of the approach businesses take, they must be willing to dedicate the time and resources to make their plan successful. The experience customers receive during uncertain times will either make or break customer relationships. Consider how you can begin to equip your teams to plan accordingly for the crises to come.

The writer is Head of Operations, Compliance & CS, Clix Capital

Published on February 26, 2021

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