In the wake of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, many businesses are struggling to keep operations running smoothly and customers engaged with their products and services. The possible long-term economic impact of this health crisis is still unclear, but if rising unemployment is any indication, companies may be in for a rough year.
As of March 21, new unemployment filings have surged to 3.3 million, ABC reports. This is nearly 5 times higher than the previous record set in 1982. Additionally, as more people are encouraged to practice social distancing and work remotely, many experts are seeing a reduced demand in the world economy and an increase in supply chain disruptions, according to The Brookings Institute. For businesses, staying connected with consumers has never been so important. But how can your organization offer customers the support they need during this (and other) global crises?
Keeping an open line of communication
During times of great uncertainty, it’s common for businesses to see a downturn in sales and a steep rise in customer inquiries. Even a cursory glance of search engine results and enterprise websites will show that COVID-19 communications are top of mind for almost every for-profit organization. However, a simple banner or web page rarely offers the personalized information customers are looking for, which is why robust call solutions are so essential.
Whether your company is looking to maintain its profitability, manage a massive influx of calls or keep customers informed about service disruptions, your business phone line is likely your most valuable asset. Considering roughly 70% of consumers prefer to speak with a human customer service representative over a digital agent or chatbot, according to a 2018 survey from Retail Dive, it’s crucial to offer customers direct channels of communication in times of crisis. To that end, here are five ways you can use your business phone line to stay connected with customers:
1. Create a dedicated hotline for COVID-19 inquiries
One of the major benefits of enterprise call solutions is that they allow companies to set up new phone numbers and routing options on demand. In the current business climate, this means your organization can funnel calls related to COVID-19 to specific representatives, which may help keep your other sales and customer service lines open. Keep in mind, the longer your customers wait in a queue, the more likely they are to abandon the call altogether.
Start by creating a new hotline specifically tailored to COVID-19 concerns and special requests. Next, share the number with your customers through online and offline channels, including social media, your company’s homepage, emails and even direct mailers. Once your hotline is established, it will be important to track inbound calls, resolution times, abandon rates and other call metrics to ensure you’re meeting customers’ expectations.
2. Leverage advanced IVR and routing solutions
Interactive voice response (IVR) systems have been around since the 1970s, but technology has come a long way since the early days of call automation. Modern business phone solutions empower organizations to create, manage and adjust their interactive menus, offering more control over inbound call routing and an opportunity to incorporate self-service options.
Using these features, businesses can create special menu options for COVID-19 that allow customers to find answers to frequently asked questions, send personal information or speak with representatives trained to handle their inquiries. Rather than flooding your sales teams with calls they likely won’t be able to address, IVR can help ensure callers are sent to the right place with minimal wait times.
3. Integrate remote employee call routing
Staying connected with customers is only one side of the coin, as your remote employees will also need to have direct lines of communication to effectively handle incoming calls. Luckily, many phone service providers offer advanced call tracking, routing and processing features that can help get the right request to the right person. By incorporating these features into your workflow, you can exercise greater control over employee scheduling, geo-location routing, and more.
Enterprise IVR systems will also play a crucial role in supporting remote workers, since many will likely need to call in for guidance on special requests and COVID-19 updates. Setting up a dedicated line for internal calls is, therefore, essential to maximizing the efficiency of your workforce, whether they’re in the office or at home.
4. Focus on personal, live connections
While exceptional customer service is a top priority for almost every organization, the need to maintain profitability during the COVID-19 pandemic isn’t lost on business leaders. Without stable and predictable revenue streams, companies could find themselves filing for bankruptcy in a matter of months, even weeks. This is especially true for brick-and-mortar retailers and other in-person services, as calls for self-isolation are only growing.
In response, some companies have shifted their marketing strategies to target passive, online audiences that may be spending more time browsing the internet. However, research has shown that inbound calls are roughly 10 to 15 times more likely to convert than leads generated from web forms. Encouraging consumers to reach out by phone, therefore, maybe the best way to cultivate new sales opportunities and build customer loyalty.
5. Establish a web-to-call pipeline
Inbound calls may be the most effective way to generate sales, but your business website and digital resources should still pay a major role in your call marketing strategy. Placing easy-to-spot reminders on your homepage, sending out emails and posting regular updates to social media may help nudge potential customers to reach out through offline channels – i.e., your sales and customer service numbers. This can also be a perfect opportunity to personalize your buyer’s journey, as call tracking features can help you understand the precise needs, demographics and expectations of your callers.