The phrase "in an abundance of caution" has been heard throughout corporate america, restaurants, conferences, meetings, airlines, hotels, and sports stadiums over the past week.
This phrase is meant to preface the terrible cancellation or inconvenience that is to follow with the need for safety first.
In fact, I just opened an email from a conference in Orlando (where I was scheduled to speak in 2 weeks) postponing their event until summer. In case you were wondering, I was delivering my signature keynote STOP IGNORING YOUR CUSTOMER'S JOURNEY.
With the NCAA, NBA, NHL, and MLS all cancelling their seasons, and many gathering spots limited to half maximum occupancy, we are entering uncharted territory when it comes to serving customers.
The Coronavirus pandemic has shaken the country, created anxiety, and resulted in a sharp downturn in the economy. Through it all many organizations will close, while others remain open to varying extents.
For every entertainment venue that closes a hospital will remain open to serve. For every amusement park that locks its gates for the short term, a host of gas stations and grocery stores will continue to provide service.
The following will keep your business centered on the best possible experiences for customers during the Coronavirus outbreak.
TOGETHER WE SERVE
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Don't take chances with safety
Nothing trumps safety on any given day, but during a time like this you have to double down on all the basics. If you feel you must close for general health and safety, then do so - and reopen as soon as you can for your team and your customers. If you remain open then consider how you will invoke technology, lower occupancy, or curbside delivery to serve in new ways, while still helping to support social distancing. Also make sure you have sanitizer stations and hand washing available for your customers and your team.
Protect the customer experience
During times of economic turmoil many organizations cut labor and product quality - which can actually trade away long term growth for short term gains. You must remember throughout this challenge that you will eventually reopen at full capacity and you'll need your customers to support you. If you don't keep your hospitality and consistent execution on point, you'll find that your customers take their business to a competitor.
Take care of yourself and your team
Whether you lead teams or are an individual who serves customers directly, be sure you are taking care of yourself and those around you. As a leader you must ensure that your team is well enough to work and that you are not putting your team or customers at risk. Keep your team calm and centered on the task at hand - they may need to talk or give voice to their concerns as well, so be ready to listen. Your team will naturally be worried during this outbreak and your care will help them stay focused on serving customers and clients. The more at ease they feel, the more authentic and understanding their service will be.
Don't discount your customers' anxiety
When something we count on starts to break down even a little bit, people panic. I was traveling home from a speaking event this week and you could sense the trepidation in the airports as folks tried to make sense of the confusing and rapidly changing situation. Be ready for customers that may be distracted, anxious, easily upset, or impatient. Frame up the situation in a constructively empathetic point of view so that you can help reduce anxiety by not adding to their frustration and friction.
Get ahead with communication
Be honest about what COVID-19 will mean for your business model and your customer's experience. If you are closing or altering your service hours, use all methods to keep customers up to date. If a product isn't available or if you are scaling back production, make sure they are aware. Letting customers find out when they arrive at your location or when a delivery is late will damage your reputation. Customers assign higher stakes to execution during tough times, so don't let them down.
Remember this may continue for some time - but the good news is that we will come out on the other side and grow our economy together again.
This is where you and your organization must reinvigorate the basics and the spirit of empathy so that your customers feel your compassionate and well executed service.
They are counting on you to help them get through this challenging time. Keep them at the center of everything you do and you'll be seen as dependable and a source of normalcy they can count on.
Tony Johnson, CCXP
Customer Experience (CX) Leader | Author | Speaker | Consultant
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Tony Johnson is an international speaker and author on the topics of customer service, leadership, and performance. Tony speaks to thousands annually and has also been featured on ABC News. He is available for custom keynotes, leadership workshops, and employee service training.
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