Think a crisis will never happen to your brand? Think again.
2018 proved that reputation-damaging blunders are more prevalent than ever, their devastating effects amplified by the related complaints and commentary buzzing on social media. From Hawaii’s fake missile crisis to the death of a French bulldog aboard a United Airlines flight, many organizations have recently found themselves on the defensive, doing their best to mute negative conversations surrounding their brands. As Ashley McCown, president of PR firm Solomon McCown & Company, notes, “The longer the public has to wait for a response from a company or individual after a crisis, the harder it is to convince it that you’re taking the issue seriously.”
A sluggish response, such as ignoring customer outreach on social media, or placing customers on hold for indefinite amounts of time, can intensify the backlash and cause long-term reputational damage. Relatedly, as the public-facing voice of your brand, call center agents play a crucial role in responding to these crises. Whether a crisis is caused by a technical glitch, a disgruntled customer gone viral, or a data breach, there are several ways your call center can effectively manage these events.
Incorporate Social Listening
Social listening goes beyond just monitoring online conversations: It’s a combination of qualitative observation and quantitative analysis of sentiment and intent. Social listening is a brilliant tool to have as a customer service executive in the midst a brand crisis.
Social listening can provide insight into the severity of the crisis and the specific reasons why people are angry. It can also help you in crafting an apology and offering a targeted solution, ensuring your agents are well-prepared for aggrieved customers.
Channel Calls to a Separate Line
Separating calls related to a crisis from regular customer service calls is a great start. It should help provide you with an estimate of how many agents you’ll need so that you can resource accordingly. This step also ensures that these calls don’t disrupt normal business activities at the call center.
JetBlue’s customer commitment and social media manager keeps its customers cool in a crisis by looking “at these kinds of complaints as a chance to showcase our humanity and our empathy with the situation that customers are going through.”
Showing empathy is key to moving forward. Not doing so adds fuel to the fire and maintains the crisis narrative. One way to create empathy is to overreach in consumers’ favor. In other words, do more than you have to when resolving the issue. As Unicom writes, “choose compensations so generous your rivals and detractors will marvel.”
Don’t Ignore Your Agents
While it may seem counter intuitive, giving your agents the opportunity to catch a breather between “disaster” calls is a good idea. It lets them release the stress that builds up in from these interactions. Otherwise, their frustrations may boil over and negatively impact their interactions with customers.
After the effects of the brand crisis have passed, it is important that you acknowledge the extra pressure your agents have been facing. Listen to their feedback, respond to their concerns, and be sure to reward them for their good performance.
Depending on the severity of the crisis, ensure you have a plan and that your legal team is involved if necessary. Always humanize the situation and create a genuine, company-wide response. It’s also important to ensure that you keep brand managers informed and suggest solutions based upon feedback from customers.
Ensure that your call center has call-back technology in place. During crisis-related call spikes, the IVR can \dvise customers waiting in the queue that they can avail of a call-back. This is a win-win situation for customers, as well as for contact centers. Customers can avoid the frustration of waiting in the queue, and contact centers will be able to manage the spikes well. As previously mentioned, minimizing hold times during a crisis is paramount.
While contact centers are rarely the cause of a brand crisis, they are often left to repair the damage caused (all while the Twitter multitudes jeer). It’s a thankless task and there’s a lot at stake. Therefore, it’s crucial to have certain strategies in place to deal with these scenarios. With the right plan, a contact center can emerge as the hero of the day.