The COVID-19 health crisis has drastically shifted our shopping habits – and retailers’ responses to the changes. Fair or not, grocery chains and big-box retail have enjoyed an artificial advantage over their smaller, independent counterparts who were forced to close OR WHO HAVE FEWER OPTIONS TO, AS THEY SAID – – PIVOT during nationwide lockdowns.

And, fair or not, some of the same grocery chains and big-box retailers may take for granted the bump in traffic and overlook or cut back on attention to customer service.

How you can win from where you are

Defend and grow customer loyalty.

It may be tempting to divert resources from customer service. BUT, both near- and long-term – – the dollars-and-cents benefits of customer service to you and to your customers will prevail. PERIOD!  The good news is delivery at the point of sale is your starting point today.

Certain retailers may think they’re in a position to sit back and count the money as consumers’ options are temporarily limited, but those gains can only spread so far if Customer Lifetime Value and a Customer Relationship Management contingency – i.e. customer service – are not part of a product bundle and marketing plan.

  • Let’s look at all that’s at stake when customer service fails, courtesy of a 2010 analysis by Greenfield Online and Datamonitor/Ovum.
  • $83 billion: Sales that American firms lose each year from negative customer experiences
  • $50.6 billion: Portion of the $83 billion lost to customer churn and defections within the industry
  • $32.4 billion: Other portion of that same $83 billion in business abandoned and lost to an entire industry
  • 2/3: Proportion of consumers surveyed who said they ended a relationship with a brand because of poor customer service alone
  • 61%: Proportion of dissatisfied customers who took their business to a competitor
  • 71%: Proportion of all U.S. consumers who have ended a relationship due to a poor customer service experience

Do we think “service” will be less important to customers today, during a public health crisis?

We say customer service should not be considered an after-thought driven by the moment, but actually considered an investment- built into the product bundle and adding value on which you can earn incremental revenue and profit.

At your service

Here are a few tips for incorporating customer service into the “product bundle” and your marketing planning:


  • Start with knowing the customer you have now. Set out to stimulate business from a predetermined group of people whose needs your product and service have been engineered to fulfill. Even in the absence of market research, the customers you have more or less fit the description.
  • Know the internal audience (EMPOLYEES). Identify and provide training for the operational functions and personnel responsible for fulfilling the brand promise to deliver the desired user experience.


  • Here is an area where social media and other digital tools can actually facilitate good customer service. A good marketing plan includes identification of the communication channels to customers, and timing for the communication (in other words, how and when). Examples could include pre-purchase social media messages, or a targeted e-mail or text message to mobile devices after purchase.
  • Follow up! Use the communications means available to stay in touch with your customers after purchase.


  • Identify, serve and retain high-value customers better than competitors through customer interactions, tuned to their particular needs.
  • Respond to customer issues at all touch points — pre-purchase experience, purchase experience, use of the product or service, and post-purchase service experience. Doing so not only leaves a good impression with the customer, but provides the opportunity to build rapport, right the wrongs, insulate your customer from competitive offers, and earn additional sales.


  • Why guess when you already possess the marketing tools to develop a controlled system? A simple measurement system need only be diagnostic; meaning it needs to help you determine what to do to correct service shortcomings and improve sales.
  • Keep your team involved in evaluating the system you’ve created. Some CRM experts recommend meeting quarterly at least, and weekly at most, to evaluate market performance and customer feedback, and decide which adjustments are necessary for improvement.
  • If you want to know how you’re doing, just ask. Survey your customers AND customer service staff to measure and gauge how customers perceive your product or service. Follow up by responding to POSITIVES as well as negatives. Again: the idea here is to encourage repeat business or a positive overall experience with your brand. Remember: INSIDE, then OUT.

Remember: bad news baits… 

Not even the COVID-19 distraction can erase a negative experience from a dissatisfied customer’s recollection. One can only wonder what the consequence may be if their experience is aired online. We know that the customer has virtually unlimited channels to vent their bad service experiences.

The good news is the market function has myriad analytical tools, many digitally enhanced, to monitor, measure and react to customer experiences in ways that sustain or improve the customer’s experience, save the brand’s reputation – and, save the bottom line.

When in doubt, one can never go wrong with a simple “please” and “thank you.”