Admit Your Service Faults Instead of Blaming the Pandemic
By Peter Lyle DeHaan, Ph.D.
Different countries around the world and various areas within have had differing responses to the covid pandemic. For some it is but a memory—albeit a painful one. Others, however, are only now beginning to emerge from its grip, with its influence lingering on.
Regardless, it’s impacted our call centers and how we do business. Many are quick to blame it for their staffing shortfalls and service failures. I call this the covid excuse.
Citing the covid excuse for low staffing levels, reduced hours of support, and delayed response times may be truthful, but it’s wearing thin.
Some businesses have successfully responded to the pandemic and rebounded appropriately, returning to their prior levels of service, or even surpassing them.
Yet others continue to struggle. They blame covid for their ongoing issues. And, for the most part, using the covid excuse to justify their shortcomings reached a receptive audience.
But don’t expect the public’s acceptance of covid as the explanation for continued ongoing service problems to last much longer.
Initially, virtually every company was quick to use the covid excuse as justification for everything that went wrong. But as we inched forward, many companies have moved away from blaming the pandemic. And wisely so.
The purpose of call centers is to serve customers and react to prospects. If there’s a service shortfall, regardless of the reason, that’s a bad reflection on the call center and poor customer service. It must be corrected, covid or not.
Many call centers initially struggled as they attempted to deal with lockdown restrictions, work-at-home mandates, and employee concerns. Yet they adjusted and adapted. They persisted in holding high their ideals of providing excellent customer service.
And despite having glitches along the way, they soon stopped using the covid excuse and simply assumed responsibility for their service shortfalls.
Not having enough agents working or seeing key performance indicator slip didn’t matter if it was pandemic related or not. Instead, it was something to fix, and they fixed it.
They focused on providing service excellence, pandemic or not.
Use the Covid Excuse
Other operations, however, took the opposite approach. They used the covid excuse whenever they could, and they continue to do so—even when it’s not true. This occurs for understaffing, offering poor customer service, and failing to meet caller needs.
While the pandemic may have initially caused these problems to surface, it’s disingenuous to continue to use the explanation—even if there remains an element of truth to it. The covid excuse is blamed for price increases, service delays, and supply chain issues.
The public is tired of hearing it; they don’t care. They expect service and expect companies to deliver. It’s that simple.
Every person and every company had to navigate the covid pandemic. While we may never forget it and the long-ranging effects it produced, it is time to move beyond it.
It’s time to focus on serving our clients and not blame circumstances when we failed to deliver.
Read more in Peter’s Sticky series, including Sticky Sales and Marketing and Sticky Customer Service featuring his compelling story-driven insights and tips.
Peter Lyle DeHaan is an entrepreneur and businessman who has managed, owned, and started multiple businesses over his career. Recurring themes included customer service, sales and marketing, and leadership and management.
He shares his lifetime of business experience and personal insights through his books and posts.