By Jo Causon, CEO, The Institute of Customer Service
As regional lockdowns continue to come into force up and down the country, it is clear that we are entering the next phase of the Coronavirus crisis. After a brief period of hope, which saw many begin to rebuild and lay plans for the future, we have been hit with a new wave of challenges and uncertainty.
Whilst the initial stages of the pandemic were marked by a collective “war-spirit” mentality of unity and resolve, the effects of many months of restrictions, closures and job losses are clearly affecting the nation’s collective psyche. For many business leaders, and their people, the impact of the difficult decisions they have been forced to make over the course of the crisis, combined with the ongoing hard work to keep the wheels turning, is causing an inevitable level of burn out.
Yet, in the face of ever more challenges to come, strong leadership is more important than ever. As leaders, we must nourish and replenish; and steel ourselves for the battle ahead. Customers and employees alike will remember how they are treated now long into the future – and those who get it right will be rewarded with long-term loyalty. Leaders should take the time to reflect, keep an eye on the bigger picture and ensure the decisions they make now remain true to the long-term values and purpose of their organisation.
In the face of further uncertainty, already tightened purse strings will inevitably become ever more squeezed. But if we are to navigate this crisis effectively, we must not let service standards slip. The pandemic has demonstrated just how valuable excellent service is; with service workers across all sectors working tirelessly to provide us with the basic services we need. We must not lose this momentum, and cannot allow the crisis to become an excuse for poor service. As consumers become ever more discerning with the brands with which they choose to engage, excellent service will be a key differentiator from the competition. And a good customer experience can be the difference between winning and losing not only an immediate transaction, but a long-term loyal customer.
The same principle applies to employees. Those organisations that make efforts to protect and support their people during these challenging times will be the most likely to attract and retain the best talent into the future. With the skills gap across the country growing ever wider, organisations that prioritise staff wellbeing, invest in training and development and encourage up-skilling will be in the strongest position to build the skilled and engaged workforce necessary to rebuild successfully post-pandemic. As our people continue to work tirelessly through challenging times, we must also not forget the basics of promoting staff wellbeing: maintaining regular check-ins, encouraging and embracing new ways of working, and celebrating excellent work.
The crisis is far from over, and it is clear we have a long way to go on the road to recovery. But we will come through this; and when we do, those organisations that have protected and supported their people, maintained their commitment to excellent service and remained rigorously clear on their long-term purpose, will likely be the first to rebound.