Customer Service After COVID-19: The Choice Is Yours

Customer in mask during Covid19 pandemic

How you treat your customers during the COVID pandemic will set the stage for the future. Bryan Horn looks at the way forward after the crisis.

“You have to love its simplicity. It’s one-billionth our size, and it’s beating us”.

These words were uttered by Dustin Hoffman in the 1995 movie Outbreak. As if a prophecy of the current pandemic we face today, the movie focused on an African sourced virus named Motaba crippling a small California town. Martial law was declared, residents were ordered to wear face masks, and no one was allowed to leave their homes.

It is humbling how something so small can cripple the world’s economies and bring the largest corporations to their knees. H.G. Wells said it best in War of the Worlds: “They were undone destroyed…by the tiniest creatures that God in his wisdom put upon this earth.” A microscopic germ has brought the world to a standstill, and has redefined “normal” life for all of us.

There are lessons to be learned here. Companies who thought they were “too big to fail” have been brought to the brink of extinction. They have been forced to take a good look at themselves and re-evaluate how they treat their customers and employees. They have been subjected to a cold dose of reality. It has been needed for a long time, and I for one am thankful it finally has happened.

Working from Home

For too long, companies have viewed their employees as mindless robots who must be micromanaged and controlled. Prior to COVID-19, a work-from-home option was almost unheard of. Now, organizations have been forced to let go of their control and let their employees be human beings. And guess what? Employees have risen to the occasion! Millions of people showed they actually could work from home. They never needed to be micromanaged and controlled like automatons; they can be adults and get their work done! They can successfully balance work and home life.

What will companies do now? Will they be able to give up the control they once so passionately exercised over others? I hope and pray that this new reality will create a fresh corporate culture that recognizes the importance of a healthy work-life balance. I hope it will end the need for micromanagers who control every aspect of their team. Out of the darkness of COVID can come a bright new day for the corporate world. The question is if companies will seize the opportunities given them, or continue the failed practices of the past.

During this crisis, companies have had a chance to set the stage as to how they will emerge from this trial. Sadly, many companies have failed to take this rare opportunity to reflect and look within. In the United States alone, numerous lawsuits are emerging in all fifty states regarding cases of discrimination.

Wear a mask sign

Thousands of people have been turned away from essential services for not wearing masks, despite ADA and constitutional mandates that make exceptions for certain individuals (namely those with health conditions that prevent them from wearing a breathing device). I am one of the millions who has coughed or sneezed in public from an unrelated issue (namely allergies) only to be met with ridicule and even trepidation from those believing me to be infected with COVID-19.

Store owners are telling customers what they can and cannot wear before entering, leading to heated exchanges and even arrests. We have seen companies allow a small minority of consumers to hold the rest of us hostage as selfish customers raid the shelves of all essential items. Thankfully, retailers caught on and put restrictions in place.But the damage was already done. The single mother who was not able to buy diapers, the eldery grandmother who couldn’t buy milk, and the single father who needed baby food will never forgive or forget these retailers who allowed this to happen, if even for a brief amount of time.

Smoking Cinderellas

As I have been quarantined, I have received hundreds of emails from clients and fans of my book, The Customer Service Revolution. I have read countless stories of horrible service rendered during this time. I myself have seen and experienced this same lack of service. Customers have been taking notes as to which companies have gone out of their way to use COVID as an excuse for their unacceptable behaviors. Sadly, the list is piling up. I foresee many companies going out of business as a result of their actions during this time.

The Disney Institute has a wonderful example about appearances and perceptions. Imagine seeing your childhood princess hero, Cinderella, smoking a cigarette. How would that image change your perception about her? How would it adversely affect the image conveyed?

I challenge all business owners and companies to use this time to look at their “smoking Cinderellas”. Use this time to ask yourselves what you have done, and failed to do, to make the customer experience the best it can be. Take an honest step back and evaluate where you can improve. We should and must be cautious, but service should never suffer as a result.How you treat your customers during the COVID pandemic will set the stage for the future. Will you come out on top, or will you close your doors forever?

The choice is yours.

About the Author

Bryan HornBryan Horn is a customer experience trainer and corporate culture development expert. He has 16 years of experience as a financial services manager. He has been homeless, jobless, and everywhere in between. He brings real-world applications and stories that relate to every culture and industry. He is the author of the internationally successful book The Customer Service Revolution: 8 Principles That Will Change the Way Companies Think About the Customer Experience and the Employees Who Work for Them. Bryan is the founder of CS Solutions, a customer experience training consulting firm. He resides in Salt Lake City, UT.

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