Customer Care, Coronavirus and a Cherry Scone

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!

Shopping online

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.

Making deliveries

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”.

Customer reviews

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. 

Life in June 2020 is very different to life in June 2019.  Business owners are adapting well but their staff need to be constantly reminded that they need to follow the new rules to the letter otherwise nervous customers will simply visit another business who do care about the new 2020 customer emerging after the COVID-19 lockdown.

For details about the WorldHost 2020 Keeping Customers Safe online course, please click the button below.

How Coronavirus has impacted a Digital Marketing Consultant in Northern Ireland

Digital marketing consultant meetings changed after Coronavirus

In the first six months of 2020, we have all experienced enormous changes in the way we live and work due to the coronavirus pandemic.  Kicking and screaming we have had to embrace the “new normal”. But are there any benefits to the new way of working for a digital marketing consultant?

I’ve been mentoring businesses since 2007 and I have to say that I always find it really enjoyable.  Over the years, I have had the pleasure of meeting many business owners from a very diverse range of organisations. From  drain cleaning companies, artists, cafes, hotels, photographers, florists, fitness instructors, gardeners, b&b owners and many many more.

How Coronavirus has impacted role of digital marketing consultant
How Coronavirus has impacted role of digital marketing consultant

What happened before Coronavirus?

Once a date and time had been agreed with the business, my day started with a drive to the business or a nearby coffee shop.  As I have been working with Mid and East Antrim Borough Council on their Amplify Business Support Programme over the last few years, I could be travelling to Larne, Carrickfergus or Ballymena to see a business. So I could spend an hour travelling from Aghalee while listening to  BBC Radio 2 and enjoying our beautiful County Antrim countryside.  (By the way, I also deliver mentoring for Armagh City Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council as well as Lisburn City and Castlereagh Council.)

Talking is thirsty work so coffee and scones was how the digital marketing mentoring session usually started. Then the challenge was to log on to the wifi so we could have a look at how to help the business with marketing on digital channels.  After the meeting was over and action points agreed upon, I started to drive back home.  Of course there had to be another coffee shop stop to catch up on emails and missed calls as well as writing up my report.

Sometimes the meeting venues were lovely and cosy but other venues were absolutely freezing!  I have very fond memories of mentoring Brendan McKay at the Glensway Tavern in Martinstown (near Ballymena) and sitting at a cosy fire in the corner of the bar (pictured above).  Visiting the premises did allow you to get a very good understanding of the actual business and its products.  Plus sometimes I had the pleasure of chatting to customers too.

Working as a digital marketing consultant after the coronavirus peak

On 23 March 2020, Boris Johnson announced the start of the Coronavirus lockdown . With this announcement, the days of travelling to meet business owners ended and initially I thought it was the end of the mentoring work too. But I was pleasantly surprised in mid April to hear that the councils were introducing online mentoring with the businesses.  

The new normal for a mentor is now meeting the business owner by Zoom but does it actually work?

In a word, yes.  Although you can’t actually shake hands with the business owner, you can still have a very productive meeting by Zoom once they have got to grips with using the technology! As I am helping businesses with making changes to their WordPress websites, helping to set up events on Eventbrite, creating new backlinks  or writing targeted Facebook advertisements, it is very easy to show how to do these things by sharing my screen. 

Online Customer Service Training Courses

What are the pros and cons of digital marketing mentoring by Zoom?

The Pros

With good planning in advance of what you have to cover, time flies.  It is very easy to share information by sharing your screen with the business owner.

No time is spent ordering refreshments so more time is spent on discussing the business needs.

Extra people from the business can join the meeting as the need arises.

No diesel costs or no time spent in travelling to see the business owner.

Sometimes it can be hard to get good wifi at business locations or coffee shops.  It is very hard to demonstrate digital marketing without wifi so the wifi at home is usually good.

It is safer for both the mentor and the business owner as we are not in the same place.

The Cons

As you can’t actually see the business, meet personnel in the flesh, it is harder to get a grasp of  the real issues facing the business.

I have to make my own tea and toast!  But sometimes my husband will pop in with refreshments during the meeting.  

From time to time, I can get interrupted by other family members who forget that mum is on Zoom.

So what do business owners think about talking to a digital marketing consultant by Zoom?

For everyone, the Coronavirus pandemic has led to huge changes to the way in which businesses had previously received mentoring support.  Some business owners were very experienced in using Zoom.  But for others, it was a completely new world to them and they needed some help to get cameras and microphones sorted out. 

We asked two businesses for their thoughts and this is what they had to say.

Although I would probably prefer a face to face meeting, Lynda has more information at her fingerprints.  By sharing her screen, it is easy to see what is being discussed and to bounce ideas off the mentor.

Owner, D & J Drain Services

I found it very strange at the start but I have got used to it now.  It is easier talking to the mentor on a 1: 1 basis rather than in a larger group.

Business Development ManageR

Government guidelines during COVID-19 meant I could not receive business mentoring face to face. Lynda Willis, however, mentored me via Zoom, providing amazing advice as well as sharing readily available resources with me. By pointing me in the right direction and spending time on research specific to my business, Customer Sense Training has magnified the online platform of my business.


If you would like to have some digital marketing mentoring for your business, please click the button below to send us a message.

Back to work after COVID-19 lockdown

On 23 March 2020,  the COVID-19 pandemic was sweeping across the United Kingdom and the death toll was starting to climb.  That evening Boris Johnson, the British Prime Minister, addressed the nation and told us to “Stay at Home, Protect the NHS and Save Lives”.  And so, the coronavirus lockdown started and we all were […]