Customer Service – let’s not let it become another victim of the pandemic!
Covid 19 has truly affected our personal and professional lives in a myriad of ways. But as with so many other adversities we face as humans, it presents opportunities, both as individuals and for our businesses, too. And one of these golden chances to turn a negative into a positive lies in customer service.
In general, customer service in the UK has been, at best, mediocre for a long time. There are exceptions to this, of course, but sadly, not many. The recent pandemic has seen a further polarisation of customer service. Some businesses have stepped up and seen their reputations enhanced but others, sadly, have plundered new depths.
The first signs of this, quite literally, came back in March when many retailers and businesses were forced to close suddenly. Some businesses chose to do their utmost to communicate with their customers, letting them have as much information as they had, taking the trouble to keep them informed, trying to keep the relationship strong. Other businesses simply disappeared, leaving only the badly handwritten “closed until further notice” on the door.
Admittedly, we don’t know the personal circumstances of each business and the ways their individual lives and families have been affected by the virus, but, of course, customers will usually only judge on what they see, and that has differed significantly from business to business.
Since the partial relaxation of the emergency measures, many of us have slowly and tentatively been returning to shops, pubs, visitor attractions, coffee shops and restaurants to both attempt to return to some level of normality and also to try to support businesses, particularly local ones. And what have we seen on our return?
In truth, the good, the bad and the ugly. Again, in fairness to these organisations, they’re under enormous pressure, from every angle, economically, politically, regulatory, health and safety wise, their job is certainly not to be envied. But, while some have seized the opportunity to provide even better service many have not.
A number of people I’ve spoken to recently have talked about the “ordeal” of shopping, being faced with the long queues in the rain, a myriad of signs, arrows and one way systems, being told off for going the wrong way down an aisle, met with a stony face and staccato reply when daring to ask for assistance, you really do get the impression with some organisations that they really would prefer it if you took your business elsewhere.
However, the contrast is incredible with other businesses, especially the ones smaller and local. They have welcomed returning customers with open arms (not literally, of course, as that’s still not allowed!). On display have been warm and friendly assistants, helpful and well displayed signs, courtesy, interest, patience, understanding, reassurance that we’re all, in fact, in it together and can all help and support each other to get through to the other side.
So, as SME owners and leaders working in organisations, how does that play into our business? Well, first, we need to bear in mind that many customers have long memories and how we react, adapt and implement our service to them during this particularly tricky time will have a direct bearing on whether they become (or continue) to be our raving fans or whether they ditch us and tell all their friends why.
There are many great books and articles written on the key elements of great customer service which means I don’t need to repeat these here. However, for me the single most important aspect of customer service lies fair and square in the wording….service. We are here to serve, which the dictionary defines as perform duties or service to another person.
Doing that diligently, faithfully, to the best of our ability and with a smile on our face makes such a difference to the lives of so many people. And outstanding service doesn’t just make someone’s day, it can make their life! That’s why to be in the service of others can be such a privilege and if we don’t consider it as such, perhaps we’re in the wrong job.
Coronavirus has affected us all and so much of what has happened has been outside of our control. However, serving and delighting our customers is firmly within our control. So, take the opportunity, you could be making some new fans and some new friends, and that could be a big positive from this crisis!
Adrian Wales is one half of LPD Associates. Highly experienced in leadership, innovation and change management, they raise the effectiveness of individuals, teams and leaders while also improving the quality and balance in their lives.
“I support, empower and inspire people to succeed.”
Adrian Wales – LPD Associates
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