Customer Service in Times of Coronavirus

One of the operational processes of supermarkets that have been affected the most by the coronavirus crisis (COVID-19) is customer service, followed by the responsiveness of the supply chain to achieve the minimum inventory level of products for basic consumer goods.

Offering excellent customer service and caring for the image of the supermarket is a critical factor, especially for grocery store chains such as Publix, where cleanliness and order are part of their value proposition, as their slogan says, “where shopping is a pleasure.”

Publix’s efforts include the entire sensory shopping experience. From aroma, colors and lighting and sound, to experiencing flavors at product demonstrations. These kinds of positive experiences create an emotional bond with customers and great loyalty to the brand.

Nowadays, it is no longer enough to have a clean and tidy store. It is the responsibility of management to protect the health of internal-employee and customers.

Due to the high traffic in supermarkets, they must have a coronavirus response plan to mitigate the risk of transmission and therefore take care of the brand’s reputation. This execution of this plan is changing the process of providing customer service.

The traditional definition of customer service, according to some authors, is a philosophy that companies establish to adapt and focus on the dynamism of the market.

Others define it as the ability that organizations have to meet the needs and wants of consumers at the right time, place, and in the right way. For others, it is the only method capable of attracting consumers and gaining their loyalty by establishing a competitive position in the market.

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This definition has changed today. In the current context, customer service is the ability of the company to adapt to the market characterized by panic buying, fear of infection, and a possible drop in purchasing power.

To be successful, we must first have a service strategy that guides efforts such as quick, safe, and available cleaning for everyone throughout the store.

Competitive Commerce offers a “Smart People Safety Plan,” with a high focus on health, customized to the size, traffic rate, and layout of the store.

The plan lays out hygiene control points that are established, through the installation of display and signage on the floor. Hygiene stations at the entrance and exit, control of safety distances, and daily disinfection process of shopping carts and baskets. Cleaning frequency, use of safety masks by personnel, and cleaning and sanitation protocols on high-touch surfaces. Hands-free operation, such as payment systems, doors, handles, and furniture.

The challenge of operations management is to implement the plan and allocate financial resources, responsibilities to staff, new methods to control hygiene, and above all, define a leader who motivates change, measures the effectiveness of the plan, promotes changes with incentives, and recognize the effort of teamwork.

The risk of not having a preventative plan means exposing customers. This would create fear in the community and be a threat to the health of the staff and their clients.

If this were to happen, news on social media would affect the reputation and image of the store, with an impact on the decrease in traffic and sales. Today more than ever, customer service is critical in managing the supermarket to take care of its customers.

If you are interested in learning more about Service Management, service leadership, and our “Smart People Safety” plan, write to us at [email protected]