Protecting Your Customer Service Team in an Economic Downturn

For the better part of 2022, many businesses and individuals have been bracing themselves for an impending recession. While economists have not come to a consensus on just how likely this is, the widespread anticipation of an economic downturn has already had a tangible impact on organizations across the U.S. Throughout the year, many major tech brands have been in the news for laying off anywhere between a handful and thousands of employees. In response, many organizations have announced hiring freezes.

Pausing hiring is a cost containment tactic that most workers would agree is far preferable to layoffs, but it still has a demonstrably negative impact on those employees who are already struggling to maintain their workload. For customer service teams in particular, this is a worrying trend: not only does leaving vacant positions unfilled risk overloading your current team members, but it also threatens the quality of the support each customer service representative is able to provide to customers. 

With an uncertain economic future, losing existing customers because of poor-quality support is the last thing that brands can afford, especially when a slow down in new sales opportunities puts more pressure on those responsible for retaining customers. But if company-wide hiring freezes prevent staffing customer service teams adequately, how can organizations protect their current customer relationships?

Here are some tips.

Get your self-service support in good shape

Consumers are increasingly looking for ways to solve their own problems. This is great news for brands with comprehensive knowledge bases that they regularly update. For organizations with outdated or non-existent self-service materials, however, this is a sign to begin addressing those resources ASAP.

If you find that your customers are repeatedly coming to your agents with the same questions, such as how to reset their password or see billing information, this is an indicator of a great candidate for an FAQ article. Once you have a suite of articles ready for customer consumption, make sure that they are easily accessible and navigable—there’s no point to having a great knowledge base in place if no one knows how to find it.

Having a stellar self-service support presence is critical not only because customers expect it, but because it helps drive support requests away from your agents. If backfilling open positions on the customer support team is on an indefinite hiatus, your reps are likely handling an increased volume of incoming requests, but being able to point customers to an FAQ article helps close out tickets faster—or, ideally, helps steer those questions away from becoming tickets at all.

Have a 24/7 chatbot available

If cost containment measures extend to cutting support hours, such that you can’t have agents available around the clock, then setting up even a basic chatbot is better than radio silence. Chatbots improve the customer experience in a number of key ways; not only are they always online, but they also don’t require customers to wait in a queue for the next available agent.

Deploying a rules-based chatbot that directs users to your self-service articles or resolves issues without involving a live agent can reduce the volume of inquiries requiring a staff member, giving your team more bandwidth. This makes for better customer experiences, as your agents can focus their time and attention on more pressing inquiries while users with easily answered questions get the help they need right away. 

Make your existing team multilingual

When we say “make your existing team multilingual,” we don’t mean buy everyone a subscription to Rosetta Stone or assign them to an hour of Duolingo exercises every day. Instead, if hiring freezes have prevented your team from bringing on multilingual talent to support customers who speak a foreign language, then it’s worth investing in real-time translation technology that enables your current team members to communicate with customers in any language.

While bringing on new technology can represent an additional expense, it is one that represents a massive opportunity for cost savings both in the present day and down the road. With 3 in 4 global consumers stating they are more likely to purchase from a brand again if post-purchase support is offered in their native language, providing multilingual customer support is a must-have for organizations seeking to retain global customers. The value of preserving those relationships far outweighs the cost of the technology.

If hiring freezes have prevented your customer service team from bringing on much-needed personnel to support global customers, then using technology to accomplish the same outcome is a far more budget-friendly solution. 

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Preparing for the Future

It’s impossible to say for sure what to expect in Q4 of this year, let alone what 2023 will bring. That being the case, it’s never a bad time to begin implementing these best practices. Self-service support, chatbots, and multilingual customer service aren’t only trends that speak to what consumers want from brands; they are methods to safeguard your bottom line by preserving customer relationships.

If your organization is looking for a way to protect your customer service team by giving agents the resources they need to provide multilingual support, reach out to Language I/O to learn more about our multilingual customer support solution.