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At this point in the year, many of us are usually crawling out from our winter hibernation and stretching our limbs to get ready for spring. Unfortunately, this year, there is very little that can be classified as usual about spring. Rather than enjoying the excitement of the season, we are faced with a worldwide pandemic, stock market volatility, quarantines, business closures and more.

Businesses are struggling with what to do with a suddenly virtual workplace. Employees are struggling with what to do with a suddenly stay-at-home job while the kids are also home from school. Many roles in organizations now have little or nothing to do; imagine being an event planner or a blackjack dealer or a waiter or waitress. But just because people are working at home, and just because their normal roles may no longer be needed at this moment, it doesn't mean they can't contribute.

Customers often look to businesses for guidance and confidence during stressful times. Any employee can be involved in contacting customers to see how they're doing and if they need any help. A simple phone call, handwritten letter, or personal email goes a long way in stressful times toward calming customers and letting them know you care about them on a human level.

There also may be ways that your employees can help in their community. Companies often have additional resources that can be used to assist in a time of crisis. Whether it’s money, supplies, facilities, or expertise, your organization likely has assets that can be part of the solution.

Underutilized employees can also focus on making those customer experience improvements that the company has wanted to make but has never had the time to do so. Now is actually a great time to take a step back and take stock of your existing customer journey and where it might need to be improved. Put yourself in the (virtual) shoes of your customer and walk through their customer experience one step at a time. Here are some things to look for:

  • Identify any written communications -- from signage to letters to call center scripts to email confirmations -- and look for opportunities to simplify the language, eliminate legalese, and write in a more human tone. This can include contracts, invoices, and legal disclosures.
  • Dust off the list of customer pain points and “known defects” that haven’t been addressed, and use some downtime to take care of those. According to Harvard Business Review, the number-one most important factor in a customer’s loyalty is reducing customer effort.
  • Assign cross-functional virtual teams to focus specifically on customer transitions and handoffs. For example:
    • From Sales to Customer Success
    • From Acquisition to Membership to Retention
    • From chatbot to human agent
    • From signup to first login to product tutorial
    • From one Customer Service channel to another
  • Look at certain high-stress or overly complex transactions and how to make them easier for your customers. For example:
    • Application forms
    • Contacting Customer Service
    • Locating documentation
    • Resetting a forgotten password
    • Billing and statements

Businesses must adapt to the new reality -- one which might last weeks, months, or even years. Things will eventually get back to normal, but until they do, it’s important to stay focused on the end goal -- ensuring readiness for when customers ultimately return. Your customers and prospects will thank you when this is all over, and you will have engendered deep loyalty that will last for years.