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  • Writer's pictureDevon Harris

How to Handle a Crisis in Support

Customer service professionals often face a surge in requests for information and cancellations from unhappy and stressed customers during a crisis. Providing top-notch service in these challenging circumstances can be difficult. Here are some tips for effectively communicating during a crisis and maintaining high levels of customer service without sacrificing quality or risking burnout:

Get Your Facts Together

When managing customer communication and support during a crisis, collecting information is a critical first step. Here are some steps you can take to get started:

  1. Identify decision-makers who are responsible for your company's official response to the crisis. These individuals will review your crisis plan and provide approval.

  2. Determine which stakeholders and experts have a thorough understanding of the potential impact on your business and customers. For example, consider involving individuals in shipping, finance, and transportation, as they can provide valuable insights for your customer communications.

  3. Determine when you can expect updated information. While it may be difficult to predict, try to get an estimate from the decision-makers and experts identified in steps 1 and 2.

  4. Review your current policies on cancellations, refunds, credits, and rain-checks, and determine if any changes need to be made during the crisis. Make sure everyone involved understands the final arrangements.

  5. Identify key dates that are relevant to your customers, such as deadlines for cancellations or dates when you will decide if an event will proceed. Sharing this information helps build trust and patience among your customers, so they know what to expect.

Catch Up Your Team, Make Sure They're in the Loop

During a crisis, it can be challenging for your front-line staff to quickly understand the situation and respond effectively. To assist them, one or more people should focus on providing reliable information and support. Here are two steps you can take to help your team and customers stay informed:

  1. Establish an internal "source of truth" document: Create a central location, such as an intranet or internal knowledge base, that is easily accessible to all relevant team members. This page should include key information about the crisis, including its impact on your business, the decision-makers in charge, any customer-impacting decisions made (e.g. refund policies), approved language for speaking with customers, and the frequency of updates. Share this page with all customer-facing team members and consider offering subscriptions for updates.

  2. Set up a public information point for customers: Your customers will also need a reliable source for updates about the crisis. Adapt the information from your internal "source of truth" document for public use and make it easily accessible to all of your customers. This page should include information to help them make informed decisions, such as details on delayed products or services and any alternate arrangements you have put in place.

Prepare Your Answers for Customers

To create a set of prepared answers for customer inquiries during a crisis:

  1. Start a document and list the questions you expect to receive from customers. Look for repeated topics from previous customer inquiries through your support and social channels.

  2. For each question, craft an answer using information from key stakeholders in your company. Be empathetic, clear, consistent, realistic, and helpful in your responses.

  3. Have your sample answers reviewed for accuracy by experts and owners inside your company.

  4. Share the answers with your team, along with guidance on when and how to use them. Consider if certain customers require special handling or if answers should be adjusted for certain situations.

  5. Include a link back to your public crisis communication page in each answer so customers can access the latest information.

  6. Set up your customer service systems to reduce the workload of your team and amplify their efforts. This will help your team confidently answer customer queries.

The Aftermath & Questions to Consider

After a crisis has passed and the workload has become more manageable, it's important to review and reflect on the experience with your team. Consider the following questions:

  • What resources were helpful and which were missing?

  • Which responses were well received and which didn't have the desired impact?

  • What tools could be added to help in future crises?

  • How did the crisis impact our customers and stakeholders?

  • Did we communicate effectively and in a timely manner?

  • Were there any mistakes made or lessons learned that we can apply in the future?

  • Did we have a plan in place for the crisis, and if not, how can we create one for the future?

  • What were the most pressing issues during the crisis, and were they resolved appropriately?

  • What was the overall impact of the crisis on our business, including financial and reputational effects?

  • How can we improve our crisis response process to better prepare for similar situations in the future?

  • Did we provide sufficient support to our employees during the crisis, and were there any gaps in our employee support systems?

  • What were the biggest challenges we faced during the crisis, and how can we address those challenges more effectively in the future?

  • Are there any external partners or resources that we could leverage in future crises to improve our response efforts?

It's also important to remove out-of-date information and return your contact points to their non-crisis state. Take some time to practice self-care and then begin preparing for the next challenge. By being thoughtful and proactive in your approach, you can help your team cope with the pressure and better assist your customers during future crises.


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