How to Maintain Customer Relations When Disaster Strikes

Contributed content / By Joe Peters / 14 May 2020

Business disasters take a toll on profitability and customer happiness. What should every business do about maintaining customer relations in times of adversity?

Businesses can prevent losses in revenue and maintain customer trust with a disaster recovery plan.

Successful companies all have the ability to rebound from adversity. Businesses require a plan to maintain customer satisfaction during hardships.

The following four tips equip your business with strategies to navigate any downturn effectively.

4 Tips to Build an Effective Disaster Recovery Plan

  1. Be transparent
  2. Remain accessible to customers
  3. Connect with employees
  4. Establish a course of action early

The Real Cost of Business Disasters

Each SMB loses an average of $1 million per year to downtime. If technical issues concur with natural disasters, SMBs face millions in losses.

The real cost comes from lost customer trust.

Every business should aim to provide the best service to its customers. Brands such as Target, Disney, and Netflix remain highly reputed because they prioritize customers and exceed expectations to deliver value.

When your business cannot provide the level of service that customers expect, you risk losing the trust that you built over the years.

General Motors and Johnson & Johnson demonstrate that it’s difficult for businesses to regain trust.

You lose consumer trust in the middle of a disaster because you cannot provide a satisfactory level of service to customers.

Customer dissatisfaction leads to sustained losses. The majority (58%) of customers will never use the same company again after a negative experience.

where did your customers go?

Source

Consistent customer satisfaction may not mitigate the impact of severed trust from a disaster.

Businesses can execute on the following steps to maintain positive customer relations when disaster strikes.

1. Be Transparent

Businesses should be transparent about the problem at hand to maintain customer loyalty.

If the news of a disaster leaks, customers feel betrayed and won’t think twice about cancelling their contracts.

Let your customers know what’s gone wrong the moment disaster strikes. You can do this through homepage alerts or sending urgent emails. You can keep them in the loop about your business’s recovery efforts through social media updates or email.

At minimum, it’s important that your customers know:

  • What’s gone wrong
  • What or who is affected
  • What they are supposed to do in the meantime
  • When you expect to return to business

An example transparent communication in times of adversity is Canva’s email to its users when it was hacked earlier last year.

Canva email

The email clearly states the problem and how its users can stay updated on the situation or get in touch with the team.

A loss of customers is inevitable. However, a commitment to transparency will satisfy the majority of clients.

Once the disaster is over, notify your customers and express gratitude for their support. As well, tell them the steps that your team took to prevent a similar situation’s reoccurrence. This further reassures customers that you care about their well-being, hence boosting trust and brand loyalty.

Businesses will nurture customers’ trust by addressing the disaster on time and honestly.

2. Remain Accessible to Customers

Businesses should provide online channels for your customers to get in touch easily.

In times of adversity, your customers will scramble to contact your business and voice their concerns.

A business number is not enough in today’s digital landscape. A good start to have active Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn accounts.

Allow customers to connect with you on social media to prevent a barrage of calls as well as to spread the work among team members. This way, your customers are more likely to have their concerns addressed instead of waiting on hold for swamped call services staff — one of the big reasons why customers leave.

It’s also worthwhile to recall on-leave or off-duty employees to manage customers in adverse periods. The cost of overtime and additional wages for urgent support is cheaper than the cost of losing your existing clients.

Depending on the crisis, it can be a challenge to maintain a full staff around the clock.

For example, a natural disaster will present a danger to employees who commute to work. Even if it’s possible, it’s better for employees to remain at home.

If communication lines are unstable, remote work will also be a challenge.

Consider hiring an outsourced provider to handle customer calls if existing employees are unavailable. This ensures that employees are safe without affecting customer relations.

Outsourced firms have specialized resources and infrastructures in place that allow them to handle a large volume of customer calls without issues.

If you don’t have the resources to hire an external team, let your customers fix the problem themselves.

Apple provided a battery replacement program that required customers to resolve the challenge themselves.

Apple battery replacement

Source

Apple’s do-it-yourself MacBook battery replacement program conserved support resources as customers determined eligibility for replacements themselves.

Whether outsourced or in-house, keep your lines of communication open to meet customers’ support needs during moments of challenge. An accessible team will demonstrate your value as a solution-oriented partner. 

3. Connect With Employees

Businesses should gather employees and delegate responsibilities during disasters.

After a critical event, round up your entire team for a meeting. This should include the C-suite, outsourced partners, and other key stakeholders. It’s important that everyone knows their role in managing the crisis.

Businesses should answer the following questions to ensure an organized response:

  • Who will be involved in customer support, and what are the shifts?
  • What channels will you use for employee communication?
  • Which business tasks are vital, and which ones can you postpone?
  • Who are the key employees to contact for each department?
  • Where should employees meet if the office is not accessible?

It’s easier to respond to a disaster when every teammate knows their role.

An organized response to a business challenge helps to maintain customer relations by streamlining operations.

4. Establish a Course of Action Early

Businesses benefit from an established plan ready to deploy when disaster strikes.

A comprehensive recovery plan minimizes downtime while keeping operations smooth during tough times. These two benefits are essential considering that businesses lose between $10,000 to more than $5 million every hour to downtime.

After a cyberattack, 60% of businesses to shut down.

Your disaster recovery plan should prioritize backups to ensure operational continuity. To support consistent function, host your servers offsite and store backups on the cloud. This ensures your customers can still access products and services even if your office is under siege.

It costs less to hire excellent service providers with top-notch service-level agreements (SLAs) than to recover from a full-blown disaster.

For the best results, work with providers that guarantee at least 99.95% uptime. Any less is not only unacceptable for your business but also for your customers.

You may not be able to prevent a first disaster, but you can be ready for the second one.

Be Prepared for Disaster to Maintain Customer Support

Businesses can maintain customer satisfaction when disaster strikes with preparedness.

If you showcase honesty, readiness to accommodate your customers, and problem-solving abilities, the trust customers have put in you will remain the same. You could even strengthen your brand’s image.

Likewise, organize your team to work on the most important areas. Eliminate what’s not critical, and focus on what will keep your current customers.

With a set recovery plan, your business will minimize loss and keep customers happy in times of adversity.

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