Frontline lessons: Providing outstanding customer service amid the COVID-19 crisis

Monday, April 13, 2020 | By Blair S. Williams, Ph.D., Head, SS&C Enterprise Risk and Crisis Management

Frontline lessons: Providing outstanding customer service amid the COVID-19 crisis

As we confront the reality of evolving our personal, professional, and organizational lives in the face of pandemic conditions, we must continue to keep our businesses running and our customers satisfied.  While many organizations have invoked their business continuity procedures, many did not account for the magnitude of the transition to remote conditions over an extended period. Combining a near 100% remote workforce with the physical quarantine of employees, COVID-19 highlights the need to evaluate our collective organizational resilience continuously. 

Can we gracefully modify operations while maintaining full capacity?  At SS&C, the answer to this question guides our actions and informs our organizational goals.

During our journey, we have reaped the benefits of detailed pre-crisis planning, but we have also learned vital lessons.  Here are some things that we have found beneficial:

  1. Show empathy and patience.  The current circumstances can be stressful for some. We kept this in mind as we transitioned our organization for the change to virtual work while asking our teams to serve our customers.   

    To combat stress, our leaders have engaged in dialogue with employees on what they can reasonably achieve. Most employees want to succeed and know what needs to get done for customers. Allowing employees to tell us what they can and cannot get done in these stressful times helps ease their anxiety. Finally, we encourage all employees to leverage our mental wellness resources. Empathy and patience are critical productivity multipliers that enable SS&C’s resilience.

  2. Communicate, Communicate, Communicate.  In a crisis, we know that authentic, transparent, and constant communication from all leaders is an absolute must.  At SS&C, we provide our leadership team with crisis communication tools to reach out to employees at a moment’s notice.  We have crisis communication specialists who support the rapid creation and distribution of employee and customer communications.  Additionally, this group maintains a COVID-19 website for internal communications. This site contains daily situation reports, internal company guidelines and policy, our pandemic continuity of operations plan, periodic messages from our executive leadership team, remote work-life tips and technology assistance, and health resources. This resource significantly lightens the information-sharing load compared to relying on email communication.

    We also leverage a crisis communication notification tool to contact employees immediately via voice, text, and email.  Integrated with our business continuity incident management system and our HR employee database, we can target a message to one of our 150 global locations, or to all 23,000+ employees. These communications reduce workforce stress and enable us to keep pace with rapidly evolving domestic and international situations.

  3. Business Continuity (BC) Professionals on Staff.  At SS&C, we leverage the experience of a team of Certified Business Continuity Professionals (CBCP), who staff our Global Crisis Management team.  These specialists run our day-to-day business continuity program to include planning, managing, exercising, updating, and communicating our 200+ business continuity plans. We update and approve these plans annually, so they continually align with our requirements.  By continuously planning and exercising, we have built organizational muscle memory to react to volatile and uncertain situations with calm, systematic problem-solving and execution.

  4. Increased Vigilance.  During emergencies, bad actors are unrelenting in their attempts to gain access to sensitive data. We maintain vigilance against these efforts, including fending off numerous "COVID-19 cure" phishing and malware attempts.  Additionally, we have increased our employee training and communication of tactics, techniques, and procedures to protect company assets and data while remote. 

While none of us knows how long the COVID-19 crisis will continue and evolve, evaluating whether your continuity plans are aligned with your business model, client requirements, and regulatory expectations are critical.  If you are struggling with the new organizational paradigm brought on by COVID-19, then please reach out.  

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