As we slowly emerge out of the COVID-19 lockdown, have our needs and expectations as customers changed? I believe they definitely have and in many different ways. The customer care challenge for businesses is now to adapt to the new COVID-19 customer who demands safety and speed as well as courtesy.
Customer care in coffee shops
Most business owners have made a jolly good effort to install signage, social distancing footprints, screens, contactless payments and hand sanitising stations. Even one way systems have been introduced in some shops to ensure customers don’t meet another customer on entry or exit. But unfortunately, tiny details are being overlooked.
I visited a coffee shop recently to get a takeaway cherry scone and coffee. The customer route was clearly signposted and there were impressive screens at the counter. All was looking very positive until I asked for my scone to be buttered as I was going to eat it in the car. The answer was “We don’t butter scones here but here is a portion of butter for you. There are plastic knives on that table.” To my horror, there were plastic knifes, forks and spoons on the table but they were not wrapped up. I reluctantly lifted a knife and thought that anyone could have touched that knife previously to me using it and they could have Coronavirus! I mentioned this to a member of staff and got a shrug of the shoulders. She then walked past me, well within the two metre threshold and in the opposite direction of the one-way system.
Will I return to this coffee shop? Absolutely not. Hygiene levels should be at 110% now and there is no excuse for having unwrapped cutlery for other customers to touch. Staff members did not really care about my customer needs and it would not have been too much of an inconvenience to butter a scone for me.
Customer Care in Shops
How is the retail sector adapting to the new Coronavirus rules? Well again, it is clear that the business owners are doing their best with signage, screens and hand sanitiser as well as limiting the number of people to enter a shop. Many retailers are encouraging their teams to engage in elearning programmes such as WorldHost 2020 which are designed to remind people of the new protocols to follow.
Small shops face the largest challenge as they don’t have much space for staff and customers to adhere to the social distancing rules. But it is not impossible and I had a very positive experience in a local greengrocer’s recently.
This greengrocer’s had clear signage outside stating the number of customers allowed in store at a time. Staff at the till invited customers to enter when it was safe to do so. Before entry, there was a small sink installed for customers to wash their hands. Paper towels and anti-bacterial soap were available too. Then beside the baskets, there was antibacterial spray and paper towels with a notice inviting customers to sanitise the basket handle before picking it up. Finally staff were positioned behind screens at the till but were more than happy to carry purchases out to the car while maintaining the social distancing rules. Ten out of ten for their customer care skills!
Many customers have moved to shopping online for absolutely anything. Amazon delivery drivers have never been busier and the major supermarkets are struggling to get enough delivery slots for customers.
Many smaller businesses have entered the online shopping world for the first time. Even our local butcher now has a facility to order meat online and they make a call to obtain card payment before collection. He is getting more business as I am reluctant to queue outside a busy shop.
Nobody wants to wait for a product once we have ordered it so businesses need to jump when an order is received and get it despatched to a customer within a few hours. A simple message to say that the goods are on the way is essential to keep the customer informed that their order should be with them soon. A personal handwritten message in the parcel is an extra bonus and makes the customer feel valued.
The major supermarkets are excellent at making deliveries while following the new rules. The drivers don’t enter your home and definitely follow the two metre social distancing rule but at the same time, they are polite and chatty as they realise that their face may be the only one the homeowner may see that day especially if they are self-isolating.
For some businesses, deliveries require entering a home eg delivery of a new bed. Keeping the two metre distance is essential as is using hand sanitiser. The customer may feel happier if you wear a mask too.
Customer care on social media
As customers are spending more time on social media, they are expecting quicker and more personalised responses. Businesses cannot afford to ignore Facebook, Twitter and Instagram messages at this time but instead need to respond to all private messages before the customer gets impatient and starts to rant publicly about the dreadful service received. The bottom line is that customer service is still vitally important to businesses, even in the “new normal”.
As many people are furloughed or are working from home, they have more time to check out reviews before making a purchase on your online shop especially if your business is new to them. According to a Trustpilot UK Consumer Survey conducted in March 2020, there was a 22% decrease of trust in companies since Coronavirus. It also showed that 27.5% of consumers are checking more reviews. So it is more important than ever to ask your customers to write a review but once they have written a review, thank them for taking the time to do it.