Businesses that rely heavily on customer service are feeling the effects of COVID-19‘s supply chain issues. With the pandemic causing delays in shipments, customers are calling about their missing orders. Therefore, companies are struggling to keep up with the demand for products.
This has created a huge problem for many retailers who have invested heavily in customer service. Now, they’re feeling the pressure to invest more money into hiring new employees or outsourcing customer service altogether.
Managing the impact of the pandemic and ensuring that customer service standards do not slip is one of the biggest challenges that businesses across the world face right now.
COVID-19’s impact on global supply chains
COVID-19 has had a significant impact on global supply chains, causing delays and disruptions in the delivery of goods. This has affected businesses in the US, which are now struggling to keep up with customer demand.
With people across the globe being told to self-isolate when they contract COVID-19. While many travel restrictions still in place, the movement of goods has still not returned to pre-pandemic efficiency. This continued disruption is creating many challenges for businesses and causing tensions with customers. As China enforces more lockdown restrictions, supply chain problems look set to get worse before they get better.
Many companies are now facing shipping delays, which can cause products to arrive late or not at all. This can be a major issue for customers who need products quickly, as they may not be able to get them in a timely manner.
One of the most heavily impacted areas of business is customer service. Many companies have had to reduce their staff or close departments down entirely due to COVID. This has led to longer wait times on the phone and fewer available support personnel. All of this is happening in a time of increased demand due to supply chain issues, creating a perfect storm in customer service departments throughout the country.
Changing customer expectations
In the early stages of the pandemic, when countries were locked down and the only way to manage and control the virus was to stay indoors, people were more forgiving. Customers generally didn’t expect the same level of service they received in the past. However, that is all changing now as vaccination programs expand and the virus becomes less deadly.
With things beginning to return to normal, in some senses, customer expectations are starting to return to normal too. This is putting pressure on companies that have seen a decrease in customer service quality due to COVID.
As the pandemic continues, it will be important for companies to manage customer expectations carefully. If they do not meet customer demands, they may start to see customers go elsewhere. This could lead to long-term damage to businesses and their reputations.
This damage to their reputation, coupled with the excess stress that is put on customer service staff, is leading to morale issues and a drop in productivity in many businesses too.
Challenges facing customer service
There are a number of key challenges that customer service departments are facing as they try to manage the fallout from COVID-19-related supply chain issues.
Many customer service departments have seen a decrease in staff due to COVID. As the new Omicron variant continues to spread rapidly, businesses are seeing many of their staff off sick. There are also a lot of people that have changed careers during the pandemic. Many businesses are struggling to hire replacements.
This lack of staff can create morale issues, as employees feel overworked and undervalued. Additionally, it can lead to a drop in productivity, as employees become overwhelmed with the amount of work they are given.
The stress that is caused by working in a customer service department during a pandemic can be immense. Employees are constantly dealing with customers who are frustrated by the delays and disruptions they are experiencing. This, coupled with the increased workload due to lack of staff, is causing a spike in stress levels in customer service departments.
Customer service departments always have to deal with a small minority of frustrated and abrasive customers. However, this is becoming more common as a result of the COVID-related supply chain issues. Customers are angry about the delays and disruptions they are experiencing. It often leads to them taking their frustration out on customer service staff.
Lack of available solutions for customers
In most cases, a business can offer a simple solution to a customer’s problem. For example, products can be returned or replaced if they are damaged. But when it comes to supply chain issues, things are largely out of the control of the business. Often, they cannot give a clear answer as to when products will arrive either. This leads to a lot of unsatisfied customers who do not feel that their complaints have been heard and dealt with.
What can businesses do?
The key question in this situation is what can businesses do to take the strain off and maintain their standards until supply chain issues are resolved and operations can return to normal?
Set realistic expectations
The first step is to set realistic expectations with customers. Businesses need to be upfront about the delays and disruptions that are occurring and explain what they are doing to resolve the situation. They should also be clear about when they expect things to return to normal.
Customers are less likely to be upset by slow delivery if they have been made aware that it is likely to be delayed. But if you tell them that it’ll be 2 days and it ends up being a week, that’s when you have a problem on your hands. It’s always better to under-promise and over-deliver in a situation like this.
Invest in technology
In order to try and offset the lack of staff, many businesses are investing in technology that will help them automate certain tasks. This can include things like chatbots or self-service portals. This can help to take some of the pressure off customer service staff and allow them to focus on more complex issues.
Adding chat for website–based customer service also makes things more efficient. On the phone, a customer service employee can only deal with one query at a time. But with live chat, they can manage multiple customers at once. The customers will be happy too because they are getting an instant response.
You should also invest in technology to manage phone queues. This will help to keep customers on the line for a shorter period of time and ensure that they are not getting disconnected. The longer somebody has been on hold, the more upset they will be when they eventually speak to somebody, so this is an important one.
Although it requires an upfront investment, implementing new technology will improve the customer experience, help your team manage their workload more effectively, and save you money in the future.
Improve staff hiring processes
Even if you invest in technology, it is still important for businesses to fill skills gaps in their customer service departments. With many people shifting their attitudes toward work during the pandemic, businesses must work harder to encourage people to apply for demanding customer service roles.
Improve your hiring process by making sure that the job is appealing to people. This means having good working conditions, a positive company culture, employee assistance programs, and competitive pay and benefits. You should also make sure that the hiring process is efficient so that you are not losing out on potential candidates because of long wait times. Be clear about what you are looking for and always give information about salary and hours upfront.
Work with local supply chains
Another way to take the pressure off of your business is to work with local suppliers. This will help to ensure that there is no delay in getting products to customers. It will also help businesses to maintain a positive relationship with their local community.
However, many businesses choose not to work with small local suppliers because their prices are not as competitive. This is a factor you must consider, but in many cases, it is better to increase costs if it means improved customer service. In the long-term, a better level of service means improved brand reputation and an increase in revenue.
The final tip is to communicate with customers as much as possible. Keep them up-to-date on the latest developments and let them know what you are doing to resolve the situation. This will help to build trust between your brand and your customers. The last thing you should do is stay quiet and avoid customers because you don’t have good news. People much prefer to be kept in the loop, even if it is just to tell them that there will be further delays.
The COVID pandemic has had a significant impact on businesses in the United States and across the world. In particular, customer service departments have been struggling to keep up with the increased demand as supply chain issues cause more complaints. However, there are things that businesses can do to improve the situation. They should invest in new technology, improve their hiring processes, and work with local suppliers. They should also communicate with customers as much as possible to build trust between the brand and the customer.
Unless businesses can adapt to the new landscape, they will struggle to stay afloat.
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