Double down on sympathy when dealing with customers during the COVID-19 crisis

- March 30, 2020 3 MIN READ

As a funeral director, sensitivity is a skill I’ve honed over the years. The funeral industry always calls for compassion, empathy and emotional intelligence. Our clients, first and foremost, need support, often direction and clear communication in their time of need. Now, because of COVID-19, heightened sensitivity is necessary across every industry, writes Matthew Kwoka, director, Southern Cross Funerals.

Your customers are under additional stress right now due to distancing laws and the plethora of change we are all currently experiencing. In every industry, there is uncertainty and confusion. Cancellations and changes abound, and your customers feel it. So, now it is more important than ever to double down on sensitivity, empathy and kindness in the customer service we deliver 

Make people your first priority

Customer service has always been about people their needs and also their expectation. With the challenges and anxiety surrounding COVID-19, this has never been more important. The motto goes, ‘people over project’. That means, if an issue arises, before you address the issue itself, take the time to connect to that person and listen. When asked a question, answer with compassion.

In the funeral industry, this is a principle we are familiar with. The families whom engage our services are often under enormous stress and emotional pressure. Often When a bereaved family member calls us. They’re confused about something. Their tone is short, even a little aggressive. It would be easy to imitate that attitude and reflect it right back to them. however, we’ve learnt just how far empathy can go. This client is grieving, and every individuals circumstances are different. We have no idea if they haven’t slept much in the last week or are concerned about finances on hoe they are going to pay for your service. Answering their questions slowly and carefully, taking the time to listen and giving them options compassion, is paramount, and people are our priority. As you deal with customers in the current COVID-19 atmosphere, let’s keep this in mind. 

Constant Communication  

Public health restrictions and guidelines are changing every day. Currently, we are telling clients how these amendments will affect the funerals of their loved ones. It’s a tricky conversation to have. And, we’re not the only industry impacted. From hospitality and events to logistics, arts and more, many businesses are currently undergoing major change over recent weeks. This then affects the level and detail delivered with regards to customer service. this challenge is best tackled through constant communication and the ability to be flexible and keep up to date with changes in the market place. As new policies and recommendations are released, communicate them appropriately and quickly to your team and customers. Here are some tips for doing that well:  

1.     Don’t answer questions if you don’t know the answer. It’s important that everyone receives consistent and correct information. It’s okay to say, ‘We’ll let you know the answer as soon as we know’. We don’t want to confuse anyone.

2.     Communicate concisely. Don’t use complicated or technical language. Explain in short sentences and simple format.

3.     Use every platform. If there’s something your customers need to hear, make sure they all hear it at once. Email, social media, phone calls; use whatever mediums you can.  

Keep Your Door and Ears Open 

In light of COVID-19, don’t be surprised if your customers just want a listening ear. We always have an open door policy, for mourners who just want someone to chat to. We’re focusing on that even more in recent days. Your customers might need to process something aloud. If you and your staff are the people they choose to do that with, take it as a compliment. Don’t be so rushed that you can’t offer them the time they need. Keep your door (or your inbox) open. Listen to feedback with empathy and be ready to answer the same question multiple times. COVID-19 is new territory for all of us – whether you work as a funeral director or a cafe manager. What our customers need from us right now is sensitivity. Australia and the world is in a time of need. And, those of us in whom are in an industry where customer service id paramount are here to help.


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