Impact of COVID-19 on customer service

Impact of COVID-19 on customer service

What your business should do about it

Observer writer

Sunday, September 27, 2020

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COVID-19 is having an extraordinary impact on our personal and business lives. The 'daily grind' of facing long traffic delays to and from work has given way to hours spent standing in queues outside supermarkets, pharmacies, banks and money transfer agencies, to name a few.

All this while we observe the new social distancing protocols with masks donned, in between our curfew hours. When we communicate, we do so guardedly, listening and observing keenly for any signs of tell-tale sniffles, sneezes, watery eyes or coughs!

We watch anxiously while walking in populated spaces, giving persons a wide berth so as to ensure no breach of the six-feet distance (and by the way, have you noticed that we seem to have ditched metres for feet in this new dispensation? When we are in crisis, we revert to the familiar). These are fast becoming our new ways of operating and standard modes of behaviour.

What we are also realising is that this new norm is severely impacting the way in which we now deliver service. Fear and anxiety for our personal health and safety are fast eroding our veneer of politeness and empathy. In face-to-face interactions, communication is limited to eye contact (when it does occur), muffled voices, and a seriously 'arms-length' relationship, making it much more difficult to build and keep rapport. Gone are visible smiles and the warmth of handshakes to demonstrate our caring. New approaches seem to emphasise efficiency and the briefest of encounters to keep contact to a minimum. On the extreme end of the spectrum, anyone who ventures too physically close or sniffles or coughs audibly may incur the wrath of the agent or other customers! We have even witnessed over the past weeks, the dire consequences of the fear of not being sufficiently equipped preventing the provision of life-saving services to those desperately in need. Look what we come to now!


Despite this, is it possible, instead, that this extraordinary time could be the reset button for our relationships, and for the service we deliver to our customers? Could this crisis of connection be a bridge to new beginnings in how we see and treat others, including our clients? As someone who always sees the glass as half-full, I suggest to you that this is indeed possible, but only for those who choose to see it this way and to act on it.

If you own or manage a business at this time, now more than ever your leadership is in the spotlight. How you engage with and manage your staff has always impacted the quality of service delivery, but the strength of that relationship is currently glaringly visible. The caring and empathy with which your staff treat your customers is directly linked to your treatment of them in this crisis, and your actions generally as a leader. Additionally, the adaptation of service standards to deal with the safety and protection of staff and customers, as well as ensuring that courtesy, connection and caring are not simply maintained, but raised to new levels, is a must.

Updating of customer service skills to enable higher levels of emotional intelligence to read facial cues, body language and interpret tone of voice and respond appropriately are all required competencies in the new era. The ability to self-manage and calm raging emotions such as fear, anxiety, and frustration is critical to successfully leading and operating in these unprecedented times.

Arm your staff with techniques that help them reduce customer frustration.

Delivering excellent customer service to not just keep your customers, but to delight them as we traverse these rough seas is not impossible. It can be achieved! But uncharted territory requires a new map or GPS to guide the way. I have always been of the belief that if you are not feeling good on the inside you cannot feel good on the outside, and in all cases what you get from the people you interact with daily in business is merely a projection of inner thoughts, feelings, outlook and beliefs.

Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP), the science of using your mind to achieve the results you want, is a proven system used by organisations worldwide to up-level all aspects of human performance. With specific reference to customer service, one of the most important contributions NLP can make to service improvement is that it tunes the individual into the discovery of inner resources (abilities, talents, qualities, experience) that they didn't know they had! NLP then teaches you how to use these to, firstly, feel good about yourself and then take 100 per cent responsibility for the results you get in your life and career. In other words, it helps you to think, feel and act differently, which is the reason, of course, that NLP is a powerhouse for transforming your customer experience.

COVID-19 will forever change the way we are doing business but it doesn't have to ruin your hard-won relationships with your customers. It just means we have to step-up our game!

Duane Lue-Fung is an award-winning entrepreneur and is the Founder & Chairman of the Caribbean's #1 Sales Development Company, Think Grow Lead. For more insights on sales & customer experience training, sales recruiting and sales outsourcing please visit TGL's website. or email me your comments at

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