The majority of retail businesses all over the country have closed their doors to reduce financial haemorrhaging and significant impact to their people and stock. This COVID-19 crisis is changing our life as we have never known it.

Personally, I have seen and felt the impact on the retail sector firsthand as my partner owns a retail business in the travel sector, especially airports (a double whammy!). People have been stood down in their current roles, stock has been returned to suppliers and the doors are closed until such time that the government allow travel again.

Nothing has quite prepared his business for the emotional, mental, and financial impact that has already been felt and the speed that which it has manifested. I bet you’re in the same boat.

As this tragic story unfolds, some retail businesses are trying to do their best to keep the business alive, operating in survival mode with very few customers to serve. While, the fortunate few, can serve customers online.

Regardless, when you are operating in a society that is chaotic, confused, and devastated, the way you respond to customers requires significant focus and increased level of care.

Panic breeds more panic (toilet paper anyone?) So you need to have employees who serve customers with greater awareness of their own behaviour, a better understanding of how the customer is feeling, and the ability to manage themselves in a world of ambiguity and change.

Now is the time to soften, slow down and be gentler when serving people. For your staff to be less controlling and more convincing, less head and more heart, less outwardly focussed and more inwardly focussed.

Being mindful is the key to high performance in a service role, and this requirement is amplified during chaos and destruction, which I know makes it all the more hard.

Right now, you and your staff need to actively try to understand the changing needs of the customer, and stay present to keep things in perspective, which is crucial when dealing with heightened emotions and upset people.

The only way to do this is to turn the volume down on the negative, chitter chatter that fosters worry and anxiety.

This is probably the toughest for customer service environments like a call centre. When staff are sitting at a desk all day, with a handset to their ear, listening to hundreds of complaints or troubleshooting issues, it’s mentally taxing and draining.

For employees to maintain a good energy state over a long period of time, they need to know how to reset and find ways to quickly ground themselves when they only have a few moments between serving customers.

I’d like to give you an exercise to try to do this.

Ask yourself:

1. What are five things you can see?

Look around and notice five things you hadn’t noticed before.

2. What are four things you can feel?

Pick up an object and notice its texture. Maybe you can feel the pressure of your feet on the floor?

3. What are three things you can hear?

Notice all the background sounds you have been filtering out, such as the air conditioning unit or the birds chirping.

4. What are two things you can smell?

Maybe you can smell flowers, coffee brewing.

5. What’s one thing you can taste?

Sip some water or a hot drink., taste the air, and see how it feels on your tongue.

Sometimes it’s the simplest things that are the most effective. That’s because great customer service is simple, too.

JAQUIE SCAMMELL is a sought-after speaker, facilitator and coach working with some of the largest global workforces in retail, banking and hospitality. Jaquie has managed and advised workforces of all sizes, from small teams to staff of more than 9500, interacting with millions of fans on a daily basis. Service Habits is the second book in her ‘Service’ series, published by Major Street Publishing. Find out more at www.jaquiescammell.com