Is Customer Service a Thing in a Pandemic Environment?
When I was 15 years old, I got my very first real job. I worked in the concession stand at a busy multi-sport facility and I still think it was one of the best first jobs in the world! I would like to say that it was because I loved food services, or that customer service rocked! But those would be lies. Nope – I was a teenage girl and there were a lot of teenaged boys playing sports at that park.
Even though a career in customer service wasn’t my driving reason for working there, I discovered a few things about it that were great:
Customers will be nice to you if you’re nice to them.
It’s easy to be nice to customers if they’re nice.
It’s not so easy to be nice to customers when they’re not nice to you. But, by being nice to cranky customers, you encourage them to be nice in return.
Valuable lessons, all, and this role set me up for a future in which I appreciated the value of customers, and of employees, to the success of the business.
Recently I wrote about demonstrating consideration for the needs of employees in the Return to Work during the COVID-19 pandemic. In this post, I’d like to consider consideration and how it affects customer service.
Consideration can be defined as a thoughtful and sympathetic regard. At this time, we are putting high regard on the physical safety and security of our staff and customers, but what about customer service aspects? Are they getting lost in the shuffle?
Even in a pandemic environment, customer service is very important—for customers and for staff. There have been many stories I’ve heard about customers behaving badly lately, but what we know about providing excellent service can help carry us through even these bad instances.
We must treat encounters with customers as interactions, not transactions. Even though we are separated by a safe distance of 6 feet, we still have the opportunity to make customer encounters moments of happiness. Remember what I learned in my first job—customers will be nice to you if you’re nice to them.
Excellent customer service begins with a smile and a warm greeting. Although we’re wearing masks, we can still convey our smile through our eyes and our attention.
Communicating with customers is key. Asking the right questions and listening carefully to the answers provided will help us put forward the best solution for the customer. At a time like this, there may be different drivers for purchase decisions than we experienced before. Customers will provide the clues we need when they answer the thoughtful questions we ask. We just have to pay attention.
The most important thing to customers is to feel heard and understood. This is likely more important now than ever. By demonstrating we’ve got a good handle on our customers’ needs, we show how nice we are, and they will respond positively. Even if they’ve got a problem and are pretty cranky with us right now, treating them well and being attentive to what they’re saying will fulfil that #1 wish to be understood and will turn even a difficult situation around.
Recently a friend and I talked about how the main principles of being in service to customers, be they end consumers or employees who report to us (make no mistake – your reports are your internal customers), haven’t changed for decades. I argued they were centuries old (if not millennia). It seems to me that the old biblical wisdom of “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” is appropriate to the way we consider our employees and our customers. That may not be new (and is it really normal?), but it’s perfectly applicable in the New Normal.
Those few lessons I learned in my first job provide a simplistic version of serving customers. However, there are a great many things that go into providing excellent customer service. Customer Service training is a core program I offer through my company, C-Change Learning and Development. Understanding customers and providing solutions for them, as well as working on management skills to engage and inspire reports, are key soft skills I teach. According to the World Economic Forum, these are going to be among the most important skills moving business into the future. If you’d like customer service training for your team, reach out to me. You’ll find me at www.cchangelearning.com.
Cover image courtesy of Freepik