The internet has been taken by a storm.
Simply google the word ‘refund’, and your search page will fill your screen with hundreds of articles, reports and links to online forums and discussions about companies offering vouchers in place of refunds for cancelled flights and holiday bookings.
Whilst some customers are more than happy with credit notes, with the intention to rebook trips once we return to some kind of normality, others are calling for better customer service and greater transparency as to when they can expect a cash refund.
Be it business owner, or consumer, we all find ourselves in an unprecedented situation, which means we require more support than usual. Therefore, as businesses begin to navigate the landscape of the ‘new normal’, it is important that they find innovative ways to address the new business model, to ensure that the customer sits at the heart of every decision and communication, to help mitigate the type of uproar currently taking place.
Both businesses and customers are having to take each week as it comes, with the situation changing rapidly. We’ve found that week by week, there has been a significant shift in support request volume, with Zendesk’s Benchmark Snapshot data indicating a 17 percent increase in companies average weekly ticket volume in the UK from late February of this year to mid-April.
Most notably, there has been a link between the spread of COVID-19 across the globe, and the number of service requests raised. With tickets up compared to this time last year, we saw Italy face the sharpest increase first, closely followed by the UK.
With service agents therefore busier than ever, how can they manage the current volume of calls for support with questions like; ‘When will I be refunded for my cancelled flight?’, ‘What happens when my credit note expires in a year if I’ve not used it by then?’, or ‘When will you get back to me about my request?’.
The power of a proactive customer service
One of the ways that businesses can begin to build a new business model, is to anticipate customer questions before they arise, and get ahead of the game.
By considering, for example, the questions customers may have about a holiday package they’ve booked for September and providing the answer before the customer even thinks to ask the question – businesses are able to position themselves as a trusted partner, not just a one-off problem solver.
We’ve all been in the customer’s position and received an email from a company that’s surprised us as they go above and beyond. Maybe they were contacting us to explain how we can go about getting our refund before we had to spend time working it out. Or, maybe, they thought creatively about ways to surprise us – by offering us an extended grace period to return our recent clothes order that perhaps has taken longer to arrive than usual.
Being transparent and proactive like this is linked very closely to customer satisfaction scores (CSAT), and ultimately, customer loyalty. Our benchmark analysis has shown that across industries, whilst service requests have risen, CSAT has remained stable, increasing by 0.4 percent since the beginning of March – perhaps further emphasising the impact of the small things businesses are doing to show they value their customers, and that perhaps, customers are more forgiving in the current circumstances.
Another way businesses can adapt is by embracing technology and automation. This can play a critical role in alleviating some of the current pressure on agents as businesses scale their support services, linking customers with the quick answers already available on an organisation’s website.
Companies in the gaming, remote work, and learning and telecommunications sector in particular are leaning on AI to solve more of their requests. AI tools like our Answer Bot, have been solving more queries than before – having solved more than 70 percent more tickets for gaming companies recently than it did in late February.
There’s something incredibly special about coming together at times of hardship. Random acts of kindness, understanding and empathy in communications to customers, transparency over current wait times and a proactive approach will all go a long way to managing a more challenging landscape. Whilst the state of deliveries, holiday bookings and flights may remain up in the air, businesses can develop a new model to serve their customers in a fresh – and appreciated – way.
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