The severe impacts that COVID-19 has had on customer service

Last Saturday, a few members of the BMC team decided to have a night out on the town in Sydney. Throughout the night and into the next day, there was an alarming trend that we observed across all venues that we attended. The quality of customer service provided within all venues was extremely poor...

We wanted to write about our experience, as it is an interesting time for the hospitality industry. A number of business owners are likely contemplating whether they need to bring in more staff to cope with demand as COVID-19 restrictions ease, or if they can manage by implementing self-serving solutions that still meet customer needs.

Self-Service VS Customer Service?

The first restaurant that we attended on Sunday cost $220 per person to attend. At this price, customer expectations are extremely high. Unfortunately, the service provided did not meet expectations, for a number of reasons:

  • The waitress was new, and could not answer any questions about the menu

  • We waited no less than 25 minutes to order a drink

  • The drinks order was incorrect, and took another 15 minutes to rectify

The next morning when going to breakfast, we experienced a similar situation:

  • We had to wait 15 minutes to be seated

  • We were advised that food was going to be a 45 minute wait

  • Upon receiving our order, both food and drink was incorrect

Now as you read the above, you probably think that we are being extremely unreasonable with our assessment (and we probably are). The point of this blog post isn't so much to complain about the poor customer service, but is moreso to stimulate some thoughts around whether there is a need for tangible customer service at all anymore...

Since COVID-19 hit, we have seen many businesses adapt to the conditions. QR codes are seemingly everywhere, and the ability to make an order on your phone is extremely easy.

Are waitresses/waiters becoming redundant?

As sad as it is to say, the discussion over dinner was that wait staff are ultimately becoming redundant. Historically, wait staff have acted as an intermediary between customer and chef, as there has not been a seamless way to allow customers to interact directly with the bar / kitchen staff.

This has changed with the evolution of technology and has recently been expedited due to the demands of COVID-19.

As we reflect upon our weekend experiences, the consensus was that the resource that historically has been used to seat people / take orders can now be much better utilised in other areas of the business i.e. making drinks / cooking the food.

Whilst it is unfortunate to admit, a waitress or waiter job is a transactional job which can easily be replaced by digital technology. The technology could arguably do the job better, as there is little risk in completing the order incorrectly, and the use of technology allows the organisation to utilise resources more effectively in areas that can add value - speed of food, quality of food etc.

Is Customer Service still important?

Yes, extremely. Customers' expectations are still higher than ever and it is important that businesses continue to invest into customer service. From our recent observations, it is extremely evident that many businesses are trying to operate extremely lean at the moment and we completely understand why - COVID-19 has created uncertainty.

Customer service is at an extreme cross-roads at the moment. Consumers have become more accepting of digital solutions to replace human interaction and this subsequently means that any human customer service must adequately meet (and ideally exceed) customer expectations. If the level of human service provided does not do this at all times, it's probably worth looking at utilising technological solutions that can provide a lesser, but more consistent experience.

To tie things off, our view in a sentence is below:

Customers are looking for AWESOME experiences. If they can't find these, they just want a consistent one. Businesses soon have to make a decision as to whether they provide an AWESOME experience (via people), or a CONSISTENT one (via technology).


The Bearded Man

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