How employees can take lead in serving customers after COVID-19

Wednesday, 5 August 2020 00:05 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

The long lockdown and its aftermath was a first-time experience for many of us. However, lives have to go on along and in the process we all have to learn to ‘let go’ and embrace a new reality over time. Be it a need, adjustment, change, feedback or any other kind of request coming from the customer, they all should be considered with a positive spirit – Pic by Shehan Gunasekara

Every employee has a vital role to play in cultivating a customer service culture in an organisation. During a crisis, employees have to be committed to their assigned tasks more than ever before because human behaviour is such that people always tend to remember how others made them feel amidst a crisis. 

When customers are depressed with ‘uncertainties,’ every act should be performed thoughtfully to create ‘certainties’ in the customer’s mind. As a result, in years to come, customers will remember how their service providers made them feel unique during the time of COVID-19 pandemic. Hence, this article will focus on how employees can serve customers with the right spirit and win their heart share during this crisis. 

1. Positive spirit

The long lockdown and its aftermath was a first-time experience for many of us. However, lives have to go on along and in the process we all have to learn to ‘let go’ and embrace a new reality over time. Be it a need, adjustment, change, feedback or any other kind of request coming from the customer, they all should be considered with a positive spirit.

Discuss and demonstrate possibilities of solving the customer’s requirement rather than saying “no” and making excuses.  Say “let us see how we can sort this out for you,” instead “it is the post COVID era we will have to stay for a while and see” when responding to customer concerns and queries.

2. Adhering to protocol 

Health authorities have set certain guidelines with regard to how employees should take care of themselves at work and protect themselves against COVID-19. These guidelines have to be followed consistently by the staff members at every point of customer interaction. Doing so will make customers feel that they are in a ‘safe space’ and give them the confidence to freely interact with service providers. 

Since ‘behaviour breeds behaviour,’ adhering to protocol will lead to the customers too realising the need to follow health guidelines. In the event of any lapses being observed on the part of the customer it is the responsibility of the staff to give gentle reminders of the procedures customers have to follow during this pandemic.

3. Value creation to the customer

Let the customer feel that you spent quality time to delight him/her. In crisis times when the customer is concerned about cash flow, make him/her feel that they got the best value for money. When performing a task, the customer should also sense that you put in a much higher effort than ever before to look after his/her best interest by promptly providing the necessary solution. 

Always remember the fact that ‘quality’ can be achieved only by ‘paying attention to details’. ‘Check everything twice and do it right once’ is the mentality with which everybody has to work. At the end of the transaction surprise the customer by providing something that ‘wows’ him/her in order to make an impression and get the customer to spread the positive ‘word of mouth’.

4. Teamwork 

In carrying out the job ‘be collectively responsible and individually accountable’. Minimise inconvenience and hassle when solving problems for the stressed-out customer by getting everyone on the team to work with a ‘hand in glove’ kind of a spirit. The customer wants to hear you respond with “It is ‘our’ responsibility, ‘let me’ do everything possible to fulfil your need”. 

Everybody’s contribution matters a lot because often many members in the team have to get involved to fulfil the customer’s requirement. Whether you are working at office or at home, see to it that the team dynamics are working well and making customers happy. Nothing destroys team work faster than putting your own needs above the team. Therefore, make sure you listen and respond to each member of the team positively and promptly in order to bring about the best possible solution accepted by all.

5. Follow-up

In stressful times realising the fact that ‘the end of a transaction is a beginning of a relationship’ is crucial. After an interaction, wherever possible give a call to the customers to assess how they felt about the service experience. Subsequent to the delivery of goods to a customer clarify whether it was received in good shape and during the expected time frame. 

Furthermore, get feedback from the customer on areas that need any further improvements in order to serve the customers better. If there are any lapses profusely apologise and fix it as soon as possible.

Case 1 – Make an impression with a positive spirit

We had been occasionally ordering ‘take away lunch packs’ form ‘Hotel Platinum One Suites’ in Colombo for some time. During the lockdown its Residence Manager Venura Warnakulasooriya notified us that this service will be temporarily closed until the health authorities allow them to function again. With the relaxation of the lockdown we were swiftly informed by him that their services were back, with a skeleton staff that strictly adhered to all the health guidelines. Thereafter, as and when we called for our required lunch packs the response has always been positive.

When we ask about the takeaway menu of the day the Residence Manager, makes it a point to go to the kitchen and let us know of the standard items that are available and to check whether it suits our requirement. Furthermore, he frequently asks the question, “Sir, is there anything else that we could specially make for you?” When we request for an alternate item, his usual response is a positive; “Sure Sir, we will do it for you, if you could give us just 15 minutes more?” After this happened a couple of times, I began wondering, how does a frontliner so willingly give this kind of an assurance all the time? When I asked about their positive spirit, I was informed that their Chef Aruna Nawarathna is always accommodative of any request that will make the guest delightful!

We drove to the hotel and informed the restaurant that we were at the car park to collect our meal packs. Having clarified our mode of payment, in a matter of minutes, the food was delivered to the car through a steward along with the due balance amount or the credit card point of sale terminal to process the transaction. This leaves the customer at ease.

We found the food pack is sealed and hygienically packed with extra care. When we consumed the food, we felt that it was made more from the ‘heart’ than the ‘hands’. Moreover, the following day morning there was a follow-up call from the Residence Manager to clarify about the quality of the previous day’s meal and whether we need any lunch for that day. All these are extra value creations we experienced after the pandemic which were initiated by the employees.

Learning outcome: Each person must develop the spirit of service individually. Then the need to perform a task collectively happens naturally. Be on the lookout for little areas where significant value enrichment to the customer can be created. When everybody is trying to recover from a crisis, they look for fresh inspirational experiences. This is common to both ‘the service recipient’ and ‘the service provider’. In such circumstances the employees must always feel a ‘hunger’ to do something more and a willingness to ‘run’ that extra mile. In the process you are making the customers your brand ambassadors in the new normal.

Case 2 – Develop lasting relationships with the customer

With the relaxation of the lockdown, the Sale Manageress of Gallery Boutique – Gayathri – immediately informed my wife that their outlet was open and safe for customers to visit. Further she had mentioned that all the latest fashion garments they imported for the Sinhala and Tamil New year season are now being placed on display. She also had said that right sizes of some of the dresses which my wife may like, had already been reserved and had requested her to visit the outlet for a ‘fit on’.

At the same time a couple of follow-up calls were given by the Sales Manageress informing my wife about the special offers available to keep the customer interest consistent. When my wife visited the outlet a few days later, the Sales Manageress made it a point to initially ask about our wellbeing and how we managed during the lockdown. Thereafter, she had requested a Sales Assistant to bring the dresses which were reserved.

My wife having tried out the dresses, had realised that the Sales Manageress choices were perfect in terms of both size and style. When she had bought the items, the Sales Manageress had offered a discount despite the fact that the special offers had already expired. Furthermore, my wife was given a gift voucher which can be used for a future purchase.

Learning outcome: To know your customer well in certain businesses you need not have a comprehensive state of the art Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system. Instead, you can gather a lot of information about the choices and buying behaviour of your customers by passionately serving and observing them when they visit your outlets. Maintain contact details of your regular customers so that you may use it when the need arises. Make the customer feel special in crucial times and explore how well you could create more value for them. 


Organisations are built with people. Everybody must understand their roles and goals very well during a crisis. Each employee should look at their superiors, colleagues or juniors within the organisation as Internal Service Partners (ISP). 

Each ISP’s role is to work together to achieve External Customer Delight (ECD). Senior management should give priority to develop and sustain a customer service excellence culture whilst all the ISP’s of the organisation are committed to protect and grow it hand in hand.

(The writer is a sought-after ‘Service Excellence’ specialist in Sri Lanka. Over the last 25 years he has conducted nearly 3,000 inspirational and educational programs for over 750 organisations in eleven countries. His work can be seen at

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