If you’ve ever spoken with Standard Bank’s Customer Care Center team, you know we have local, long-term bank employees. We take pride in our low wait times and thorough customer service from our experienced, knowledgeable, and fully dedicated team. Through the years, we’ve adapted to new products, services, and technological advancements. However, COVID-19 brought the most extensive and positive adaptions to date. Below we list just five ways our customer service adapted to serve you better in response to the pandemic:
Like all businesses experienced in 2020, work-from-home orders and social distancing protocols created large disruptions to our normal routine. Every small business learned the challenge of physically separating a small, interconnected team.
Prior to the pandemic, our group functioned as a team in an intimate office setting with immediate in-person communication. When the new COVID-19 orders were released, like many of you, some of us felt unsure about whether we could do our jobs from home. We needed to learn and embrace new technology, change our processes and communication styles… and fast. So for our first adaption, we learned to serve customers from new (and multiple) locations.
Standard Bank employees always had an instant message system, but our department never really needed it given our close physical proximity. Now—we do a lot of instant messaging back and forth. Initially, we did utilize Zoom meetings so we could see each other and go over any issues. We also spent a lot of time on the phone with each other.
Ultimately though, patience and having a growth mindset were the real keys to our success. We kept our customers’ needs first in our minds throughout. That helped us stay focused and work as a team to serve our customers in a timely fashion. Day after day, we started to learn what communication methods worked best for our team and for our customers.
We became well-versed in thinking outside-the-box and working our way around obstacles with growing ease. We also experienced growth and process changes that really improved our department as whole—all starting with our new lines of communication.
Of course, we had the necessary tools to work remotely: secure technology, new equipment, and new marching orders. So how did we adjust? Trial and error and creatively using the tools we had in front of us. Our persistence in developing new ideas and workflows paid off.
We took the time to cross-train so that every team member could pick up any daily job without interruption. Increased training and less interdependence helped us grow as individuals. Our mindsets began to work through issues more critically and independently. As we grew individually, we grew to be an even stronger team.
More education and independent thinking then allowed us to better streamline our processes. We created detailed checklists so that we completed each task properly. Our efficiency as a team grew by the day. This meant we could offer our customers an even better customer experience when they called our Customer Care Center. Eventually, everyone experienced the benefits of a reimagined workflow.
You don’t have to work with customers long to learn that many times their frustrations stem from larger picture situations. Business shutdowns and health concerns surrounding COVID-19 caused new physical and emotional disruption for our customers. They had to bank in new ways; many faced new financial struggles.
Customer service takes a lot of shapes and forms. Each customer’s call had different needs that we first had to understand the customer’s circumstance before we could help address their questions. For example, we saw a dramatic increase in calls from lonely, elderly customers who just wanted to talk. Calls from our ‘well known’ customers started coming in more frequently, if not daily. Many needed someone to listen. In fact, every so often we still will make a phone call just to check in with them.
We often listened to customers’ personal struggles as they navigated new challenges and fears. Our Customer Care Center grew not only in knowledge and efficiency, but also in empathy and understanding for our customers.
Since our department had become more flexible, organized, and cross-trained, 2021 provided the perfect opportunity to expand the bank’s Customer Care Center hours. There are situations where customers need to speak with us after-hours or immediately. For example, a customer whose debit card declines in the check-out line or experiences fraudulent activity in their account needs help immediately. Adding evening and Saturday hours helped us stay accessible to our customers to better meet their needs.
Over the past two years, our whole team has come to appreciate the need to reanalyze routine, processes, and workflow. Like many of you, we still experience some of the growing pains we experienced at the beginning of the pandemic. Change never comes easily, but the benefits to our customers have made it all worthwhile.
I have one piece of advice for our fellow customer service community struggling with the same changes: practice patience. Be patient with yourself, with your staff, and with your customers. Always try to be empathetic to what struggles another person may have going on in their life. When receiving a call from a ‘heated’ customer, try to remember that they are not targeting you specifically. The customer could be mad about the situation that they called about or about something totally unrelated. We can only control ourselves and how we choose to interact with others. Try to wake up each day with the mindset on being the best version of yourself possible that day. Look back on the day and recognize areas that could use improvement.
Reimagine the predictable. Work on being the positive change the world needs, even if it is one phone call at a time.