Anyone else asked themselves this? Because I’m curious.

It is no secret that COVID-19 has had a crippling effect on our lives, economy, the education of our children and so much more. Despite the hardship we have all faced this year, the sense of community and unity as a country has never felt stronger (from where we’re standing anyway!).

That said, and without hugely contradicting my opening statement, does anyone else feel that customer service feels less important than it did a year ago? Back in March I understood it, I thought ok this is new, the world has just plunged into a pandemic, and businesses are suddenly expected to move at an unimaginable pace to service their customers with continued quality and care, and if that wasn’t enough to handle we were expected to do it FROM HOME. Fast forward to December, having had to make several strategic plans myself in order to help drive a business forward, I would have assumed businesses and especially customer service experience professionals would have responded to the ever-changing landscape slightly differently.

So, it got me thinking and making lists (I love a list!) about why this might be…

Now maybe you are one of the lucky ones and you haven’t felt hard hit by customer service, which means you’re thinking that this all feels a bit harsh. In fact, by writing this blog I am hoping to help others understand why customer service may not be tip, top and shiny and let customer service professionals know that we understand this is hard.

Did you dream about rolling out of bed in the morning and stepping into your office without the stress of the rat race and getting out of the door on time? Us too, but enforced and indefinite working from home is far less appealing.

So, could it be that some customer service professionals feel demoralised,  are missing their teams, and just generally not feeling the buzz of a job well done without their colleagues to tap them on the back and applaud them for handling a situation well?

Did you know it takes approximately 18 months for people to adapt to change? I would say this year we’ve all faced some pretty big changes, wouldn’t you? If we consider we were first properly exposed to our new normal in June / July with non-essential retail and so on opening around then, we had three months to adapt before BOOM Lockdown 2.0 was upon us and now here we are, adapting once more. We have all faced a challenging year, it has been challenging financially, emotionally, and both personally and professionally. Has that made us, the consumer, less patient, and tolerable? More than likely! Our expectations of customer service are still the same, but how can we expect the same in a changing world? The simple answer, we can’t. Consumers must learn to be clearer about their requirements, ask direct questions, be patient, and accept answers and responses that might take longer than they would have a year ago. We are also faced with an increased number of service robots, as customer service departments respond to increasing demand and potentially fewer employees. This is an unusual and challenging situation for consumers, whilst we’ve all become accustomed to Alexa and Siri many consumers seek “human touch”, therefore increasing the use of automation does not please everyone, ergo added frustration on the part of the consumer.

Now, Rome wasn’t built in a day and none of us have lived through something quite like this, which is why businesses should continue to fine-tune and gradually introduce new ideas, aimed at supporting staff through an unprecedented and great period of change. Daily tasks should still look something like this; sharing the latest information, virtual meetings where staff can share experiences everyone can learn from, and most importantly to congratulate people on their effort and hard work.

Consider how you could bond with the person on the other end of the phone? This applies to both the service user and the professional. It’s been a lonely year for many, so let’s cut everyone some slack! Do your best to treat every phone call, text, and email as a unique scenario, this is applicable to both the customer service professional, and the service user. Strike up a conversation with the person you’re talking to, we live in Britain, and what better way to bond than discussing the weather?! It’s a guaranteed conversation starter, we’ve also just been through a turbulent year so the question ‘how are you today?’ should never be missed.

As we move into a new year, I implore, not only customer service professionals but everyone – when it comes to the service we’re offering – stop using COVID-19 as an excuse. Continue working hard, be proud of the brand you work for, and the adaptations they have made this year. Come forward about things you think your company would benefit from, especially those things that will make your life easier. It’s never too late to ask, as I said we are only six months into this adaptation, and currently muddling our way through a year that will go down in history, whilst continuing to ride the wave of change.

People respect honesty, people respect I am trying my best, people respect I am working from home and I don’t have all the tools I need to do my job right now. People respect I am a human, not a machine.  It is ok to not be doing this perfectly but we must stop using COVID-19  as an excuse, we must learn to cope in this new normal and that includes adapting our customer service style, but also accepting customer service looks different too – kindness is a gift everyone can afford to give, and we should all give it a little more freely.